We are a week away from MoSoFest and the air is already electric with palpable tension. The streets are quivering with anticipation, and lips are being licked because why not, it’s music festival season, and summer magic can happen almost anywhere.
In addition to this year’s headliners, this year’s MoSo Festival showcases some amazing local musicians and their amazing local music. As per usual, right? Anyway, here are some of the most recent releases from some very sparkly Saskatoon noise-makers who you should totally go see this June 16-18.
Minor Matter have always presented themselves as something of a musical anomaly in Saskatoon. Possessing a penchant for busting out an array of unconventional instruments – bassoon and clarinet to glockenspiel and ukulele, according to their press bio – the multi-member group nonetheless manage to draw the gaze of those willing to sit under the city’s vastly diverse indie rock umbrella.
That double draw between those with an innate curiosity for chamber music and those just looking for something to swing and sway with will no doubt be delighted by the group’s self-titled debut full-length album. Playful, immediate and engaging, Minor Matter craft taut songs that unravel like spools of orchestral wiliness. But it’s the group’s cathedral-sized patience that is the ultimate payoff. Brooding without wallowing, the group’s musical muscle comes from the subtleties and intermittent nuances that balance classical head-scratchers with pure pop gems.
Opening track “Hypnotisant” begins hesitantly with a spritely loop that slowly, and eventually, ushers in tapestries of instrumentation and percussion. But some of the best parts of the album come when the band lets loose to cut a little rug, particularly on “Those Stars” when the volume gets cranked a little. Meanwhile, stand out track “Sacred Harmless” could be the band’s own ode to folk, an ambling shuffle that listens like a love ditty and repeats repeats like Sunday afternoon poetry. It may or may not be the album’s pop hit – depending on who you ask – but it adds a nice bit of contrast. And while the vocals are used sparingly throughout the ten-track LP, Minor Matter never seem to flounder in instrumental limbo because of it.
Returning with a slightly darker sound on their second full-length album LOSING OUR SHADOWS, the Young Benjamins also seem a fair bit more relaxed and comfortable as well. This newest batch of songs seem to showcase the group’s melancholia alongside a slow-grower richness that lends a certain amount of tautness and texture to the oft-minimal arrangements and stormy storm cloud moods. The dance party moments are a little more few and far-between, but that just means you’re going to have to go a little harder to the hi-hat beat. And also, it’s summer so why not take off those shoes and let those toes air out and graze a little, right?
Opening with a volley of stuttering fuzz and squelchy-squally-noize, the Young Benjamins’ songwriting has grown to include a nice, steady wave of tunefulness and elegance throughout – no small feat for sure. Check out the exquisite balance of instrumentation on the string-soaring “PAWN” or the chill snap-happy single “FROM THE SOUTH”. But while the album is decidedly far less jubilant their previous offerings, the group’s vocal dynamics are still ever-present – especially on the upbeat album highlight “PUT YOU BACK”. Meanwhile, the band occasionally dips into the adult side of the pool on songs like “NO LOVE”, which opens with a sensual guitar lead that could live comfortably on an ‘80s movie soundtrack. Or in my head when I ride a motorcycle down by the beach after a commanding game of volleyball with my air force buddies.
Rock and roll indie feel-good beach party anyone? On the single “Dream Pops” Hattie aka Jason Hattie comes out with guns out and blows through bounding hooks, neon guitar riffs and a dance line reminiscent of an adult bouncy castle filled with giggles and string cheese. With the full album set to drop on Canada Day, Hattie may have just penned the soundtrack for mouthfuls of Palm Bay pit parties and chlorine from your unsuspecting neighbours “off-limits” pool.
If you remember playing Wave Race 64, the ultra-chill mesmerism of 3 Ninjasks could easily replace the game’s engaging soundtrack. Remember barrel-rolling over buoys to soothing synthesizers? Remember your soul leaving your body? It’s like that.
Employing a more recent gaming system, the handheld Nintendo 3DS, the clandestine trio use sound effects and music bytes from popular games to create ethereal aural portraits. It’s soothing and hypnotic. You could meditate to this shit if you really wanted. Pulsing tones eek in and out of range and bounce off bleeps, bloops, and crushed percussion. Sometimes subtle and dulled, and other times distinctly melodic, the music of 3 Ninjasks is simple shimmering majesty.
Toronto label Adhesive Sounds recently compiled a collection of digital singles from 3 Ninjasks, as well as some unreleased compositions and remixes by the individual members of the group (Side note: what’s the point in remixing your own songs? I mean, they sound awesome, but why not just use that time and energy to write a new song?). A crazily limited edition of thirty tapes make this release a coveted item for cassette collectors and lovers of whatever this music is. Post-vaporwave? Jesus Christ, with the subgenres and sub-subgenres…
Opening with shimmering waves of noise, Close Talker’s latest single eventually dissolves into a bass-driven pop-heavy song that skitters with snare winks and hi-hat flourishes and stop-and-start measures. And oh that croon, those harmonies, and that crooooooon. Following their previous full-length Flux, this short-n-sweet pop sermon blast showcases this band’s immense progression over a relatively short few years.