Winnipeg's Departures make music that reflects the terrain where they live (cold, windswept) and speaks of long hours spent locked up honing their sound until it emerged pure and diamond sharp. Their first album, Still and Moving Lines, is out this week and it's as fine an amalgamation of gloomy, intense U.K. post-punk and knotted, intense 1990's North American indie rock as you're likely to hear anytime soon. It's an album that is suffocating and expansive, dark and somehow hopeful, all at once. Certainly worth checking out! We asked the band's Nick Liang what inspired the band and the creation of the album...
This Heat - "SPQR"
This Heat made propulsive, minimalist, intellectually engaging music. They did all of that plus while stimulating our darkest sensibilities with both wit and humour. They had a singular worldview that they exactingly exposited with an uncomfortable and claustrophobic sound. Charles Hayward has only grown in his abilities. Alone, in one performance, he translates the intensity that many groups fail to achieve in a lifetime.
Lou Reed - "Heavenly Arms"
Very few artists go for shit broke as often as Lou Reed. We discussed Lulu at length upon its release and concluded that although many stretches are unlistenable, it is far more challenging than the glut of "major" releases that year. Much of Lou Reed's music does not meet its listeners half way, but that is one of its many charms. Often the aural stimuli are the least interesting and sometimes least important aspects of the music. The Blue Mask is an example of Lou Reed focusing his strongest impulses while also singing his ass off.
Slow Dancers are probably one of Winnipeg's greatest bands, an example of three people who inject their own personality into each part they play. What we respond to the most when seeing a live performance is the display of a dynamic relationship between musicians, not the performance of a song by rote. Slow Dancers cultivate a unique vocabulary that clearly shows that each musician is integral to the final result. There is zero affect in this enterprise; another example of how the music hardly matters, the manner in which they exposit their ideas and make choices resonates deeply. Sincere as fuck.
Alvin Lucier - "I Am Sitting in a Room"
From time to time we find ourselves discussing how a particular strata of music affects us. We tend to agree that there is a spectrum of affect when we engage with a piece of music. This spectrum ranges between intellectual stimulation and emotional stimulation. Intellectual stimulation being a less immediate type of engagement in which the value is generally wrought through thinking about the piece, whereas emotional stimulation is much more immediate and the value is wrought through the function of listening to the piece. For example, the enjoyment of much pop music comes from the act of hearing the actual music as it can conjure feelings of nostalgia, like how it soundtracked your first blow job, or can stimulate your appreciation for catchy melodies. This enjoyment, again, tends only to arrive when actually listening to the piece, for if you were to think about "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure, it would likely leave you cold. The other end of this spectrum, intellectual stimulation, is much more cerebral and less likely to have a resonant emotional quality. Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting in a Room is a great example of this extreme. This piece is a recording experiment performed by Alvin Lucier in which he states the purpose and function of the experiment, then replays this recording into a room and records the playback. He repeats this process until only the resonant frequencies in his speech are left, highlighting the natural melodic quality within his speech. To enjoy this piece we only need to hear it once, maybe twice. Subsequent enjoyment comes from thinking about the audio-acoustic phenomenon, the physics of the recording, and the intent of Mr. Lucier. In the same way that "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure would leave you cold upon reflection, "I Am Sitting in a Room" is unlikely to be used as an emotional crutch. This comes back to the aforementioned notion that in some music the actual music is not that important. Context, personality and history are all things that enrich music and can be just as important as melody.
The Ex with Brass Unbound
Rob has been fortunate enough to see The Ex play in Germany. His summation is that one could be wholly unfamiliar with the vocabulary that they are using and still be astounded by their performance. Each member injects their own vital personality into every note played. The Ex performs with absolute commitment.