Glory Hope Mountain

November 25th, 2007

Glory Hope Mountain

The Acorn
Paper Bag Records (2007)

I don’t live in Montreal anymore, however I am continually curious as to what’s happening there. I don’t listen to much Canadian music form day to day either, its not all-around me as it used to be, but I write about it. And this removal from the context in which a lot of the music I write about, is coming from, has really pushed me to try to imagine these albums magically popping up out of nowhere, as opposed to being predicted, anticipated or appearing as the undeniable next-step in an artists’ career. Now, this is already starting to sound like the self-indulgent ramblings of an mp3 blogger, unfortunately it only gets worse.

The Acorn’s Glory Hope Mountain is an album that confidently and maturely removes itself from much of its inevitable contexts, which might hold back the magic within it; Montreal/Ottawa, indie-folk, related music or close friends’ bands that create unnecessary associations. And thus, this is a truly important album to any music fan, and not just to those of us who cling onto the snowy needles of broken phonographs, which sew the streets of Montreal on some lonely nights.

I love The Acorn. I always have. I’ve always considered their four-song EP Blankets! to be one of the most beautifully concise musical statements in Montreal-related indie music since the ‘90s. And Tin Fist kept me content while I eagerly waited for them to release something longer, more substantial. And it’s finally arrived, Glory Hope Mountain is serious substance! The back-story alone is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and when you hear the music blossoming with more ideas then you can catch with a shark net, it all comes together.

An artful and intimate project that retells the childhood stories of singer Rolf Klausener’s mother Gloria Esperanza Montoya, growing up in Honduras. This concept album combines the indie-folk sound that The Acorn is known for and the musical folk traditions of the Garifuna and Miskito people of Honduras and Nicaragua, which Klausener researched. The lyrics cover highly personal stories of the death of Montoya’s own mother during childbirth, a near-escape from a flash flood and the migration to a new life in Canada.

Klausener‘s voice deeply croons like Eric Bachmann of the Crooked Fingers on “Glory” when he repeats, with subtle backing harmony, “I’ve know glory all my life”. He’s channeling the unheard words of an incredible woman looking back, while making a simple pun on her translated Spanish name, which gives the album it’s title. This delicate weaving of the words of a mother, spoken and sung by her son, perhaps blurs the lines between biography and autobiography, especially when it is set to the music of two different cultures.

I must admit that when I listened to “Flood Pt. 1” for the first time, it sounded like an Akron/Family cop-out (group growling, tribal rhythmic cacophony, a Afro-jazz barrage of staccato electric guitar notes) but the song moves forward in a direction that only The Acorn could take. From the bridge, Klausener and company throw hints back at doubtful listeners, that this is not a band searching for masks to hide behind, but a band who has a signature, and even if they digress for the sake of experimentation, they are loyal. Hence, the revitalizing beauty of Glory Hope Mountain is that it showcases a band who had the courage to take on the risk of bending away from their woodsy folk-origins, when their definable qualities were still at stake. In doing so, I think they’ve successfully proved their comfortability with balancing the tightrope jeopardy of the concept album and the certainty of their musical strengths.

So finally, I take back my comment about The Acorn removing themselves from their contexts. They’ve clearly grown into this realization of their sound, and it fits them well. I hope they wear it for a long time. In fact, sometimes context can move backwards in time. When a band releases an incredible testament of work which defines their place in a scene, such as this hectic Canadian playground of indie-music, it can recontextualize their previous releases as appropriate steps to finding a strong enough landing. I don’t even feel comfortable using the word “potential” here. The Acorn had it, now they’ve got momentum.

ps: Ethan, if you could track down some mp3s and post them, that’d be really nice.

Who doesn’t like Don Caballero? I mean, yeah, there are the losers who don’t like them, but we shouldn’t really include them, because they suck. Don is infamous for their spastic, free form math rock and apparently thrilling live performances. Throughout the years the band pulled a Massive Attack and varied both members and styles between albums and touring. Finally, in 2000, after touring for their last studio album “American Don”, Don Caballero died. It was sad; everybody cried. Then in 2003, one of Don Caballero’s founding fathers (and most consistent member) Damon Che formed a pentagram out of a thirteen year-old boy’s blood and with the help of 3/4’s of Philly’s pseudo-mathrock wannabees Creta Bourzia chanted and hummed Don back to life! This really happened, except for the part with the pentagram formed from children’s blood and the ceremonial chanting. For the next few years, the new Don Caballero toured and wrote new songs for the 2006 release “World Class Listening Problem.” Now we all know when the dead is resurrected, the rebirth can be horrific and scarring, and the undead ultimately becomes a demonic creature that succumbs to unrestrained violence and unquenchable bloodlust. Now if this creature also played music, the guitars would get louder, the chords would turn from starlight to lightning, and the drums would be replaced with the sound of shattering femurs and caving skulls.

Being the band’s first release on renowned hardcore/metal label Relapse, “World Class Listening Problem” expectedly has a very heavy influence from metal. Che’s frantic double kick drumming has never seemed more appropriate–or is it a little too appropriate? With the addition and (over-)abundance of hard-hitting metal chords comes the partial disintegration of Don Caballero’s initial mystique and complexity. When Caballero consisted of guitarists like Ian Williams (of Battles) and Mike Banfield (Knot Feeder) there was an allure to their spastic yet flagrant use of their fx pedals and uncanny ability to play all over the place, hitting notes indiscriminately, yet ultimately, the sounds would always meld into a beautiful mosaic of sound. The band’s replacements (Jeff Elsworth, Gene Doyle, and Jason Janover) fall short of completely filling the old band’s shoes. Their monotonous guitar twanging doesn’t create and/or maintain the pomp and flare that the old group could wield as they destroyed your expectations and hopes and dreams.

With Che being the only original member left, the music tends to focus on him for most of the album. Che’s drumming has always been a focal point for the band’s brash, hard-hitting mathiness, but it was never showcased in such pontification. The first track on the album, “Mmmmm Acting, I Love Me Some Acting” is essentially a killer five-minute drum solo, decorated with a few heavy metal power chords. But what this new DC lacks in spunk and unpredictability, they make up for in power and ferocity.

For this album, Che has been transformed into a vicious warlord, leading his bloodthirsty Mongelesque warrior into battle, and while he pounds out each song into a pulpy slop, the rest of the band stomps their way through the corpses and devastation by way of metal power chords, repetitive twangs, and fairly simple but effective progressions. The songs are not nearly as epic as past Caballero odysseys, but they carry their own wake of destruction, and are not to be taken lightly.

Now don’t get me wrong, this album kicks ass. You should go out and buy it if you like this band, and even if you don’t you’ll probably like it. But I guess it’s just tough love that I have for ol’ Donny. I want the old Don Caballero back but you can’t always get what you want, when it comes to necromancing. So I get what I get, and it’s much, much better than not having them back at all. All in all, Don Caballero died a god, and came back a drooling, murderous psychopath that will stop at nothing to tear out your heart and feast upon your unborn children–not a terrible change.

buy this album?:

fj Introducing the Hylozoists. Show of hands: who’s heard of/heard the one-off record by post-rock conglomerate super-combo Valley Of The Giants? Okay, think less Monument Valley and more Everglade microbiological love story, but keep thinking sick Canadian line-up. Before I try to expound on the new sound of the summer, let me introduce the band. Between two records and a shape-shifting touring group, here are the contributors to the Hylozoist collective:

Paul Aucoin (The Sadies), Patrick Conan (Cuff the Duke, Tricky Woo), Jason Tait (Weakerthans, FemBots), Jason Ball (The Hopeful Monster), Owen Pallet (Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire, Les Mouches, Hidden Cameras…), Paul Lowman (Cuff the Duke), Wayne Petti (Cuff the Duke), Dale Murray (Cuff the Duke, Hopeful Monster), Matthew Faris (Cuff the Duke), Julie Penner (Broken Social Scene, Deadly Snakes, FemBots), Jeremy Strachan (Sea Snakes, Hopeful Monster), Monica Guenter (Christine Fellows), Nathan Lawr (Royal City, The Constantines, FemBots), Rob Gordon (Les Mouches), Dave Christensen (Hopeful Monster, Heavy Blinkers), Bryden Baird (Blue Rodeo), Dave Mackinnon (FemBots), Damian Moynihan (Hopeful Monster), Lukas Pearse (Rebecca West, Dusty Keeler), Michael Olsen (Arcade Fire, K-OS), Jonina Gibson (Hopeful Monster).

Since 2004, the band is pretty much Cuff the Duke + three vibraphones and the vision of writer (ex. Sadies) Paul Aucoin, but in no way does that describe the harmony of this exceptional group. Aucoin recruited a Halifax-centric assemblage of musicians to manifest his musical ideas in 2001 with La Nouvelle Gauche, but was forced to keep this project at bay when The Sadies asked him to join the band. When the Hylozoists returned in 2004, the group had changed almost entirely, and Aucoin had instead chosen Toronto for his inspiration. Thus, members of Cuff the Duke, the Weakerthans and the FemBots were invited along, but the result (La Fin Du Monde, to be released in the US next week) is not like anything these groups have composed before.

Their sound has been likened to vibraphone and glockenspiel-heavy post-rockers Tortoise and the Sea and Cake, which I guess I agree with, for that reason. And to say that “if you like Tortoise, you’d like the Hylozoists” is probably accurate, but the two evoke very different sides of rock music’s multiple personalities. I’d rather compare the Hylozoists’ composition tendencies with that of Do Make Say Think or Valley of the Giants, who mask inherent complexity with the energy of the pop-rock orchestra. Though, certain songs like, “The Fifty Minute Hour” and “If Only Your Heart Was A Major Sixth” tend to nod towards Tortoise’s brilliant TNT. Then again, the string section begins “Man Who Almost Was” like A Silver Mt. Zion and builds on a classical guitar theme until braided male and female vocals ride the song out on a chariot of clouds.

As I mentioned before, the Hylozoists are centered (both conceptually and spatially in their live set-up) around the sustained bell tones of the vibraphones, and the strings steer the vessel into daylight. Each song on La Fin Du Monde is evocatively powerful and emotionally encapsulating. Occasionally, the alt-country swing of Cuff the Duke’s drummer Matt Faris rears its goofy head out of the orchestral madness and lets you rest assured that this is still only a rock band, and not really ‘la fin du monde. Between the recent release of Final Fantasy’s He Poos Clouds, a song-cycle performed by a string quartet, and La Fin Du Monde, I think I’m falling for this merge between trained classical composition and the unpredictable sensibility of popular music.

Strait Is The Gate (mp3)

a perfect childrens album?

March 7th, 2006

Call me cheesy, but I am going to buy this album anyway. “See You On The Moon”, soon to be released by Paper Bag Records is an album that will transform your child into an instant hipster. Ok, I kid, it might not be an instant transformation, but none-the-less, the kid will rock out. With covers of Puff the Magic Dragon by Broken Social Scene and Be Nice to People With Lice by Alan Sparhawk, this shall be an interesting fun album. If one of my friends gets a girl pregnant in the upcomming month, I already have my gift picked out.

24 Robbers - Apostle of Hustle & The Huskies (MP3)

See you on the Moon!

Well, the Mineau twins are back again. Julien and Francis and the other two guys who look like they should be brothers, are Malajube. In their young existence they’ve become quite epic; really the only French-singing band in Montreal that any of us English-only losers pay attention to.

What makes Malajube albums ultimately worth their purchases (or in this case, their being stolen from Le Délit), is the fact that they always stay in some way true to their concepts. In 2004, their debut, Le Compte Complet came out and offered Quebec the cute, “love me love me” side of Malajube’s songwriting. Most of the songs on the album were hardly anything more than synthy-pop vignettes, but their multiple voices and episodic buoyancy was also bookended with “L’introduction” and “Le Conclusion”. So if they hadn’t constructed “the full account” of anything in particular, they at least got the chance to sing about Sexy Robots.
Trompe-L’oeil is a step back and two steps forward in the other direction. The first time I listened to this record, I thought, “Wow, that sounds a lot like their last one.” The next time, I thought, “that doesn’t sound anything like their last one.” The third time, I fell asleep and woke up with a tummy ache.
Eerily enough, with Trompe-L’oeil, Malajube has created a concept album all about maladies (just like mine!). Every song corresponds either formally or by its content to a specific medical condition, and it adds a dark complexity to the seemingly simple and optimistic pop tunes. This, I gather, is Malajube’s “trompe-l’oeil”, their trick of the eye (because their cute, pastel artwork certainly is not). This collection of songs is mystical and deep and should not be taken at face value.
“Casse-Cou” is musically schizophrenic as it jumps around from a sombre, contemplative tone to apocolyptic metal and then to a Clashy punk-reggae character. Rightfully so, as it is lyrically accompanied by a one-sided conversation between Satan and Jesus. “Étienne D’aout” on the other hand, is a heartfelt ballad about the death of a loved one. They play all over the place in Quebec, hehe check out their tour dates page, they play towns I don’t think exist. And check out their hair.

Le Metronome (MP3)
Montreal -40c (MP3)
Buy Trompe-L’oeil:

Test Icicles…not testicles

February 6th, 2006

“For Screening Purposes Only” is what the obnoxiously lethargic hipster crowd has been missing: a good skull fucking. Its a pretty graphic way to begin a review but the crudely named Test Icicles do just that. For three lanky dudes from the UK, they make a fuck load of noise. Not since the Blood Brothers‘ “Burn Piano Island, Burn” have i heard an album i liked with enough shreiking and exploding that is shockingly palatable (to others). Ranging from low-fi rap to throat-scraping screams trapped in a tunnel of mutilated guitar riffs, these guys know how to make your ears bleed and your feet move. Although their tactics are a bit unconventional, they turn these sounds of terror into infectious punky-spazzy-hardcore-gameboy whatever. They will make you jump up and down, thrash around like a dying fish, and then make you slump over in ecstacy. The album opens with a song called “Your Biggest Mistake”, a howling spazrock bitchfest, in a good way. It’s a good tune. Some of the better songs on the album are the half-rap half-hardcore beast “Catch It!”, the dancy anthems “Scene Damage” & “Circle Square Triangle” and also (no clever introducing pseudoadjectives) “Boa Vs. Python”. There are a few moments on the album that exhibit less testicular fortitude than others but it doesn’t stop me from really enjoying this album. (If my rating system matters at all) I would totally give this album a 4 out of 5…just so they have room for improvement. Definitly give this album a listen and try to avoid:
1) murdering everyone in your vacinity and dancing on their corpses, or 2) just flipping out and writhing on the floor like an epileptic. But seriously, enjoy it while you are still young enough to appreciate a bunch of Britts screaming their heads off, rapping over a shitty drumkit, and tearing up a soundscape with tweaked distortion. (Play this shit really loud.)

hold hands and fight.

January 31st, 2006

I stumbled upon the Rosebuds somehow, wasting time and basically avoiding do any work possible. At first glance I had little interest in them. A band that is made up of simply a married couple seemed, well, cliche. Of course, it was a jump to logic, and I gave them a listen and was very surprised.

The song “Hold Hands and Fight” off their new album “Birds Make Good Neighbors” has become one of my favorite songs of the year. Granted, its 2006, but if we were back in the old 2005, I would venture to make this statement as well. The song starts off simple, and just builds into a very intricate piece of work. The drums in the beginning just seems to make everything stand still, and the background vocals just add to its beauty. When the song actually kicks it, you shiver, well, I did. But then again, I’ve been getting too sentimental recently.

Anyway, give it a listen, you might like, you might not. But as one review stated, “if this is the music they write when they are together, I can’t wait until they break up”.

Hold Hands and Fight (MP3)
Leaves Do Fall (MP3)