Canadians look to prove noise rock is in rude health
Words John Doran
You’ve heard the news that the independent record industry is in critical condition? That they’ve taken the feeding pipe out and pinned a DNR sign on the patient’s chest? Perhaps it’s best to take this with a pinch of salt for the time being because it feels to us like more interesting noise rock, for example, is being released now than at any point since the early-nineties (albeit as runs of 500 copies or less). From Comanechi to Castrovalva and $hit & $hine to Dope Body, drunk guys in Dopethrone t-shirts are playing weird chords that don’t make any sense with metal picks through Orange amps and are marshalling feedback, while screaming through bullhorns in order to destroy what’s left of your hearing.
And if you talk to Toronto’s loudest (and currently finest) live noise rock overlords Metz, getting your harsh, angular, maximum R’n’F’n’R out to the masses doesn’t even need to be that difficult. The group, who are now three-years-old, simply recorded a demo tape and sent it to seminal grunge label Sub Pop in Seattle, who then agreed to release it as their self-titled debut in October. Alex Edkins who fronts the trio says, simply: “They were the only people we sent music to. They were our first choice.”
But even though there is a hint of grunge to what they do, they hark back to a time three decades earlier — the late-eighties — when bands like Mission Of Burma, NOMEANSNO, Rapeman, Cows and Rites Of Spring still weren’t known. It would be easy to state (as suggested by their Sub Pop bio page) that their stripped-down, abrasive style is a direct response to the ornate chamber indie that we’ve come to relate to Toronto outfits such as Broken Social Scene, Stars and Arcade Fire, but that would be reductive.
“I don’t know if there is any kind of scene in Toronto, but there’s a lot of amazing music coming out of this city, says Edkins. “If you name a style of music, there’ll be a band doing it really well, but there is no scene you can put your finger on. I think it’s safe to say we’re a bit like Baltimore — it’s very eclectic, a lot of basement shows. It’s a strong DIY scene with everyone supporting each other.”
He adds: “At first when we started we had a more massive, sprawling sound. It had electronics and was psychedelic, but it naturally started to strip down to guitars, drums and bass.”
Edkins, a man of few words who presumably likes to let his angular post hardcore do the talking, compares the process to Werner Herzog’s classic film Fitzcarraldo: “Making the album was like dragging a boat over a hill in that we’re all so anal and we had a very clear idea of what we wanted it to sound like. So, even though it might sound messy to some people, it was pretty painstaking.”
He enthuses about recording with Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck: “It was exactly because they don’t sound anything like us that got us excited about working with him.”
He pauses and adds: “I don’t know, it’s more exciting to us than working with some curmudgeon in Chicago…”
Whatever can he mean, readers?