DEADBEAT , CRACKHAUS , DENISE BENSON and ANDREW ALLSGOOD at Andy Poolhall (489 College), Friday (March 26). $5 before 11 pm, $7 after. www.denisebenson.com Rating: NNNNN
Scott Monteith may be widely known as part of the much-hyped Montreal minimal scene, but he wouldn't be making this music if it weren't for his upbringing in Kitchener and its proximity to Toronto's rapidly expanding mid-90s party scene. "When I was a kid, I used to be really into video games and the Internet and computers in general. Through that interest, I accidentally discovered some of the early music programs like Trackers. It wasn't until later that the rave scene got me into electronic dance music," he explains from a hotel in Spain.
Reminiscing about that time brings back a lot of memories that are shared by many who made the transition from fan to producer. The rave scene here got started much earlier than in Montreal, which meant that it didn't take as long for a more serious and artistic underground to develop, and that opened minds to the idea that electronic dance music could be taken as seriously as academic experimental compositions.
As Deadbeat, Monteith reworks the digital dub formula established by Pole into a flavour particular to him. His last album, Wildlife Documentaries, sounds almost like authentic Jamaican dub, but made with found sound instead of guitars and organs.
His most recent album, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, elevates that mission statement beyond tribute into something much more personal.
"The first album was inspired by a show I saw with Tikiman and Scion. There was always a dubby element to the work I was doing, but that gave me the idea to try a much more rootsy style. I guess the first album is simpler in terms of sound design, because I was still learning the melodic and rhythmic structures."
This time around he's gone deeper into subtle but complex textures. There's a recurring use of something that sounds like crickets over much of the album, and the sparingly used melodies are starting to reveal more of his personality. It's not trying too hard to be original, but the sounds and details keep it out of the expected glitch-dub formula.
Aside from the Deadbeat project, Monteith is also becoming known for his work with Stephen Beaupré as Crackhaus. As you might expect from the name, Crackhaus's sound is playful and sometimes humorous, but still rooted in the principles of house and techno.
Shamelessly quoting Akufen and Herbert's micro-sampling cut-up funk, Crackhaus also tread the thin line between derivative and honest. When it comes down to it, though, you're not going to mistake one of Crackhaus's tracks for any of its inspirations.
Until last year, Monteith held down a day job at Applied Acoustics (makers of the Tassman software synthesizer), making use of his computer geek background. Part of techno has always been about pushing technology forward, and Monteith definitely holds that value dear. Last year he performed in a collaboration with Robert Henke (of Monolake) in which they jammed together in two different cities over the Internet, projecting their laptop screens behind them so the audience could see what they were doing.
This might seem a bit silly to those used to seeing live bands, but breaking down these barriers is important in a genre whose audiences are still heard complaining that the artist might just as well have been checking his e-mail onstage.