All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

Primavera Sound is an overwhelming and vastly stimulating music pilgrimage made each year to Barcelona, Spain. Over two hundred bands across eleven stages and timetables that schedule sets well past five in the morning make the musical mecca a monstrous undertaking. Fortunately, 140,000 music lovers joined me over the course of the three main days and two satellite events to dance, sing, and even swim at the Parc del Fòrum and Poble Espanyol. The eclectic line-up saw everything from unabashed hip-hop to captivating folk ballads and electronic DJ sets. Though the scheduling and sheer volume of music can make it difficult, somehow we found time to sleep amid the madness.

Getting any rest was a predicament owing to the tension of anti-government protests consuming Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya over the course of the week. Demonstrators voiced their concerns over the political and economic situation in Spain emphasizing the growing problem of unemployment amongst youth in the country. Primavera Sound also overlapped with the UEFA Cup Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United. As a result, the Saturday night schedule saw a two-hour gap in music as fans flooded the Llevant stage to watch the match on enormous screens. Whether or not you were a football fan, Barcelona’s victory was instantly apparent as celebrations ripped through the streets and onto La Rambla well past the closing sets at Primavera that night.

Outside its musical aspects, Primavera held an array of meanings. The festival had its transformative qualities, for instance, the colour and amount of wristbands one donned was the founding rule of social hierarchies over the duration of the week. Wrist apparel, stickers, and swipe cards, clung, stuck, and hung off fans as they hustled across the festival grounds. The photo areas provided amusement by way of disgruntled Spanish photographers who complained of poor lighting throughout various sets. Ultimately, the true meaning dawned as I watched a communal dance break out during ‘Summertime Clothes’ by Animal Collective as they closed out the festival at 2AM on the San Miguel Stage. It is my hope that the following images, sounds, and commentary will help convey the innumerable untellable sentiments of Primavera Sound 2011 with you.

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— , June 20, 2011    Comments Off on Primavera Sound Festival 2011

Photograph by Brian DeRan

Eye Contact wakes with an utterance, “I can hear everything. It’s everything time.” The Manhattan five-piece Gang Gang Dance then proceed unabashedly into their impressive eleven-minute opener ‘Glass Jar’. If “everything time” has an associated sound, Gang Gang Dance have captured it on Eye Contact, the record emerges fully formed combining ten tracks into a single panoptic composition. Eye Contact is tribal without turning primitive, exotic without growing unfamiliar, grandiose without becoming pastiche. The blend of tracks is striking and constantly kept in check with a myriad of unifying elements ranging from a taught rhythm section and meticulously orchestrated instrumentals to sonic overloads and percussive bombasts. Eye Contact comes nearly three years after the bands previous release Saint Dympha and offers Gang Gang’s most infectious, confident, and memorable experimental freak-out yet. Where Saint Dympha felt inaccessible and disjoint Eye Contact improves with cohesion, clarity, and conviction.  Slated for release this week on 4AD, Eye Contact is ambitiously rewarding, thematically dense, and brazenly hi-fi.

Gang Gang Dance continue to drive African rhythms and Middle Eastern melodies through analogue keyboards and droning organs. Eye Contact is no exception to the bands emblematic style as the record is awash in fidgety arrangements, restless glitch, and innumerable combinations of delays and distort. Liz Burgatsos’ piercing wails tear through ever-present drums and clattering cymbals to provoke relaxed harmonies into maelstroms of chaotic crescendos. Gang Gang weave a mesh of reverb and thumping bass on ‘Adult Goth’ to keep pace with Burgatsos’ thundering growls and shattering cries. The production on Eye Contact is unapologetically polished, manically cheerful, and ardently unwavering. This is nowhere more evident than on the celestial psych trips of ‘MindKilla’. The track is dripping with dub-aesthetics driven to collapse by wrenching snares, leaving things to devolve into an intoxicating Bollywood meets Star Trek stereo assault.

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— , May 17, 2011    Comments Off on Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact

Photograph by Jordan Blackmon

Toro Y Moi, the moniker of South Carolina’s Chazwick Bundick, released his sophomore album Underneath the Pine on Carpark Records early last week. While his previous effort Causers of This found a contented spot between Washed Out’s Life of Leisure and Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, Underneath the Pine is an unmistakable departure from past practices. Underneath the Pine still develops using ethereal electronics and blasé basslines, but the foundation of Bundick’s work is more urgent and spacious. The record is flush with instrumentation that is a marked transition from sequencing tracks with a blanket-aesthetic of heavy processing to live recording. The result is a cleaner presentation that radiates the subtleties and sonic textures of Toro Y Moi’s earlier works in an environment of organic rhythms and nostalgic flair.

The most noticeable divergence from Causers of This is Bundick’s emergent emphasis on funk and disco. Underneath the Pine illustrates the expansive spectrum of soul and seventies-tinged pop as the record blossoms with arpeggiated piano swathed in synthesizers on tracks such as ‘Divina’. The two minute mesmeriser begins with a slow burning interlude spread with sparse hints of percussion and atmospheric loops until a medley of keyboards and a muted guitar kick in and drive the piece. Underneath the Pine‘s use of instrumentation instead of relying on the sample-based tendencies of its predecessor results in a dynamic record that expounds richness in a cleaner, less distorted and more assertive environment. Toro Y Moi proves his brilliant knack for arrangement and production on standouts ‘New Beat’ and album-closer ‘Elise’.

While sitting in direct contrast to Causers of This, Underneath the Pine is a more convincing and refined effort as a standalone album. The record’s strongest feature comes from the diversity of sources it taps. The variance on Underneath the Pine is a mosaic of soul-pop and retro R&B, all meticulously composed into a cohesive whole. Toro Y Moi avoids filtering gimmicks and kitsch use of distort while still building closely around themes of funk, disco, and jazz. Bundick’s voice drifts amid clouds and rings across the horizon on the falsetto peaks of ‘Still Sound’. The track evolves against a living backdrop of bass, percussion, and piano that sound more consistent with a well-versed band than an analog solo project. Bundick is at his best on ‘Still Sound’ as he pines longingly, “There was a finer life when I was with my friends and I could always see my family, that’s what I still want now even if I’m here and I know they won’t be waiting, ’cause I don’t want to be alone.”

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— , February 28, 2011    Comments Off on Toro Y Moi: Underneath the Pine

All Photographs by Marc Rimmer

Braids make sticky, tangled, and impossibly charming indie pop. Much like shampooing with maple syrup, the Calgary quartet shows a penchant for experimentation outside of defined boundaries – be they social or musical. Their debut album, Native Speaker, out this week on Flemish Eye in Canada and Kanine Records in the States, combines tribal delirium with living soundscapes. Like mixing stimulants and depressants, Braids are your morning cup of coffee spiked with codeine. Infused with an undeniable sense of life, Native Speaker trickles from your headphones and burrows into the abyss of your eardrums.

Ca Va Cool recently had an opportunity to speak with Austin Tufts and Raphaelle Standell-Preston of Braids where we discussed high school friendships, climbing trees in the Rockies, and the healing power of grouphugs.

Braids – Lemonade
Braids – Plath Heart

Jan: Another band I really enjoy is from Calgary as well – The Rural Alberta Advantage. But Nils, the lone Calgarian in the trio moved to Toronto to continue with the band there, much like Braids has moved to Montreal. Why do you feel these bands are making the move from Calgary?

Austin Tufts: Well, I’d say it’s 50-50. Some of the larger acts from Calgary do stay – like Women up until recently. Chad VanGaalen is very much rooted in Calgary. It really depends on what you want to get out of music. Living in Calgary can totally achieve a different thing than moving away. I think living in Calgary you get to maintain a sense of community – everyone here knows each other, you’re constantly going to shows with the same people. It’s really comfortable. I think bands that make it to the point where they’re able to travel all the time, like Women and Woodpigeon, it doesn’t really matter that they’re living in Calgary because when they’re at home they’re with their family and their friends which is inspiring to them. Then there are other bands like us and the Rural Alberta Advantage that feel they need to get out and explore things and realize that Calgary isn’t the be-all-end-all of cities for a music scene. Every band has their own reason for moving, a big one of ours was for university.

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— , January 19, 2011    Comments Off on Braids

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

Halifax Pop Explosion is a marked change from the summer festival scene. While there are no beer gardens, Keith’s is never in short supply. The festival swaps the colossal stage of Toronto Island for the warmth of packed bars. Rather than tents, picnic blankets, and sunscreen, festivalgoers arm themselves with scarves, mittens, and umbrellas. Music-lovers inherit a mosaic of stamps connected with permanent marker that forms an impromptu tattoo to symbolise their nights of barhopping. The festival is a mere secret whispered between bus stops as fans travel from one venue to the next. Scheduling is made more complicated by coat-checks, ID checks, and checking out that girl from your ecology class dancing next to Dan Boeckner. Halifax Pop Explosion did not provide the scenic beauty of Sasquatch, the free American Apparel underwear of Osheaga, or even the toddlers sporting oversized ear protection of Toronto Island. What it did provide however, was an unadulterated intimacy. An intimacy only felt in the Pack A.D.’s spittle as they belt out songs no less than two feet away from you or the Handsome Furs spiritual cleansing and confessional at St. Matthew’s Church. The following is a record of those intimacies at HPX2010.

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— , November 5, 2010    1 Comment