Music Review: Groupoem – “Dirt Church”

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GROUPOEM POSTER FInal

In recent years, it hasn’t been uncommon to hear of long disbanded bands regrouping to create new music together. Although in many instances the most successful comeback stories belong to well known bands such as Guns N’ Roses, or even Spice Girls, Groupoem has made an exception for themselves through an interesting story full of coincidences and inspiration.

Through a number of coincidences, the formerly disbanded Groupoem found all of their native Toronto members in Vancouver, BC. Being drawn by each other’s fondness and admiration for Terry Robinson’s music, the band decided to regroup. Having first starting to record as far back as 1983, the band has recently released their brand new album DIRT CHURCH, a 19-song album that include never released songs recorded in 1987. Having gone through a 25-year hiatus, one would expect to be able to hear a significant difference in style and character, however the 19 songs meld with one another well enough for the differences to be nearly negligible. Having completed their album, Groupoem has begun preparing for their live tour.

The band Groupoem, first known as Mr. Science in 1983, include band members Terry Robinson as the songwriter, guitarist, and lyricist; Marph (aka Mr. Science) as the lyricist and vocalist; Christopher “Flea” Lee as the drummer; and Darren Katamay as the bass guitarist. The band is known for their punk/progressive rock music, and has performed with a variety of other Canadian bands like No Means No, SNFU, and Psychich TV.

When first listening to the album, you are struck by the upbeat rhythm and melody of the electric guitar. The contrast between the instrumental introduction and the introduction of Marph’s vocals creates a very unique atmosphere that grows on the listener. On one hand, the atmosphere resembles that of an opening gig of a punk rock concert. While on the other hand, Marph’s belting of the lyrics resembles atmosphere you would potential find during a punk rock poetry slam performance.

The band’s album, which was recorded at Farm Studios and Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver, was recorded and mixed by Tim Crich and mastered by Craig Waddell. Having worked with artists such as David Bowie, Gene Simmons, Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, and many other rock musicians, Tim Crich as well as Craig Waddell’s expertise has excelled in pushing Groupoem’s music to even greater heights. The different elements of the album’s songs are balanced delicately so that each part works in harmony. While Marph’s vocals are on the forefront, the electric guitar, which is arguably just as important as the vocals, is never hindered.

Although Groupoem’s style and music is unique and often interests the listener, there are times when the distinctiveness works against them. Marph’s style of delivery is sometimes unconvincing. There are sections where he attempts to add vocal harmonies to his delivery, however it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the song. An example of this can be heard in the song “Flat Earth,” where I personally found it off putting. Disregarding this fact however, Groupoem has successfully created a great album.

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Music Review: Only A Visitor – “Lines”

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Only A Visitor is an upcoming Vancouver based avant-pop group that is known for their experimental music. The band consists of Robyn Jacob, Emma Postl, Celina Kurz, Jeff Gammon, and Kevin Romain. Having performed in a number of festivals including the Artswells festival, Campbell Bay Music Festival, The Field, and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the band’s debut of their new full-length album “Lines” aims to explore the possibilities that vocal harmonies posses in breaking the traditional roles of instrumentation in pop music. Their music is influenced by musicians like Bjork, Philip Glass, and The Dirty Projectors.

For all of the songs in their new album, the instrumentation was kept dry to foster a sense of intimacy. The listener feels as though they are sitting in the audience listening to a live performance. The sustain and decay of the instrument sounds and voice were also kept very short to make it sound punctual. These effects make a nice contrast to the bass, and occasionally the xylophone, which had a more sustained sound. The vocals were often kept plain without much vibrato, which helped with making harmonizing the different vocals easier. However, I found that this made it harder for me to enjoy the songs.

Listening through the entire album, I found it interesting not knowing where the next song would lead you. Every song had different harmonies and very different stories to tell. Because every song was different, it also made me think that a lot of the songs and melodies were quite random.

The musical elements in Only a Visitor’s single and title track “Lines” proves to be an interesting listen. The track begins with a haunting piano line that piques interest from the audience. It is at once noticeable that the piano plays a key role in the song as the vocals that join in a short while later seems to take more of a supporting role to the piano. The vocal line definitely has an avant-garde style to it, as the melody is quite unique.

Overall, I found that the arrangement of the song actually subtracted from the vocals and the message the lyrics were trying to express. I found that I was more preoccupied with listening to the instrumentation and unique vocal harmony to pay much attention to the lyrics. The enunciation of the lyrics with the melodic line also made it difficult to understand the message during the first listen as well.

Watching the music video, I thought some of the illustration was a little random. For example, during the chorus “brother, it will come together,” and Asian family dressed in traditional wear is shown. It is not clear as to why this image was chosen for this chorus.  However, although there was some confusion with the video, it did help with understanding the lyrics better as some parts of the video reflected the message clearly.

Only A Visitor’s new full album was release to audiences on June 16, 2017 and is available on their iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and their website.

Further Listening: Bjork, the Dirty Projectors

Websites:
onlyavisitor.com, onlyavisitor.bandcamp.com, facebook.com/onlyavisitor, twitter.com/only_a_visitor, instagram.com/only.a.visitor/

Only A Visitor high res trio cred Mayan Vered

Review: Daemon & Airdrie – China Shop

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The first time I listened to this song I thought Airdrie had such smooth vocals. Daemon complements Airdrie’s voice immensely in China Shop. The duo’s vocals work well together and produce a contrast which balances the song throughout. This single is an interesting introduction to the duo because of its seductive, moody tones.

Daemon & Airdrie is a trip hop, electronica, and dream hop duo who originated from Victoria, British Columbia. The band consists of Marley Daemon and Jesse Thom and they have toured UK and Canada in the folk trio Dirty Grace. The new single and music video China Shop is the duo’s latest creation of a uniquely stripped down performance and song. Furthermore, the production of China Shop was mastered by Manj Benning while the song was recorded and mixed by Jesse. China Shop has an unexplainable haunting beauty to it which entices its listeners. 

The title of the EP China Shop comes off as a little confusing because the lyrics state “make me a China Shop” and I don’t understand the reference. However, I understand that the artifacts of Chinese culture are often referred to as delicate, sensual, and mysterious. Both Airdrie and Daemon’s vocals balance each other out perfectly.

The duo definitely played with the balance of the stereo because the keyboard is barely audible with only the left earbud in. There was an extremely cool guitar sequence in the EP, however, it was muffled by the distracting noise of the keyboard. If the keyboard was more centred in the single then the sounds would be more balanced. I could definitely tell that they were going for a climax near the end. Despite these minor details, China Shop is a dynamic and interesting single.

The vocals of Daemon and Airdrie were balanced gracefully. At the 0:40 mark Airdrie doubles her vocals, which is a nice, detailed touch to the already spectacular single. It is undeniable that their vocals are quite breath-taking and it’s great that the duo centred their vocals so that the sound became more focused for the listener. Furthermore, they mixed in a lot of reverb which resulted in a really cool sound effect.

Overall, Daemon & Airdrie is a duo to look out for and their new single China Shop is a breath of fresh air.

Further Listening: Distant Grand, Intragalactic Omnivortex

Listen to Daemon & Airdrie’s EP China Shop at Daemon & Airdrie’s SoundCloud page. If you like their music, check out Daemon & Airdrie’s official website + the group’s Facebook, BandCamp and Twitter pages.