Soh Yung – Coastal Winter

If you’re like me, you’re studying and writing papers for the next two-three weeks and your mind is on full melt. You need that cool. Soh Yung, I’ve discovered, is an artist working out of Edmonton in the familiar and endlessly interesting space opened up by the whole witch house crowd a few years ago, and I have in mind particularly artists like Holy Other, oOoOO, and DROPXLIFE right now. Coastal Winter is a windy record soaked in heavy rain and empty spaces (especially on “Dreams VIP”). It has a consciousness of its own, which you are more than welcome to adopt for the 27 minutes this album envelops you. Crack those books. Close all other internet pages. Soh Yung; repeat.

Good luck.

Duns Broccoli – Creatio Ex Nihilo

Some people like Yung Lean. They should stop. They should like Duns Broccoli instead, cause he does something similar but with so much more substance and ingenuity. It is the entropic apathetic stream of consciousness rap that so befits our age. “I wish Obama never ruined hope [...] the lights are getting darker, the darks are getting lighter, whites are getting blacker, blacks are getting whiter, grey first lady, grey president beside her.” You’ll find this instance of culture entropy in “Smoke Pit,” a jam for which the hyper-minimalist beat is in and of itself deserving of merit and careful analysis. If you can dig “Smoke Pit” you will love the beat Duns deploys for “James Bonjas” where he starts “I’m sick of licking sledgehammer heads.” The stream of consciousness continues: “My thoughts glistening, bitumen, picture him, he’s so different, spit dope, distill it [...] barf, gargling scraps of burnt cartilage, in my car parked, carving nautical stars into my cardigan, _____, I stop then I start again.” This style of lyricism is the bane of weaker rappers with less interesting thoughts, but Duns Broccoli is more than equal to the task.

Duns has a swagger that doesn’t come from chest puffing but from a deep seated alienation marked by postmodern apathy and fragmentation, a Jamesonian fragmentation reflected in the seeming disconnection between one line and the next. It is a point Lukács and Benjamin have both made: in an industrialized (post-industrialized) mode of being, every moment is disconnected from its last by the utter repetition. Adorno and Horkheimer argue that this has entered into culture through the constant repetition of commodified formulas for entertainment production. But, as many theorists have argued in their various ways (Witkin, Adorno, Bourdieu, Lukács), art has this ability to reveal the contradictions, whether or not the artist is conscious of it or simply embodying the spirit of their time. In the case of Creatio Ex Nihilo, we are shown the repetition and dispossessed candour of modern rap and modern life, playing off raps formulas but inventing a whole new form ex nihilo for Duns to occupy on his own. He thus breaks with expectation and narrows our focus to encapsulate the whole of the genre and all its sad contradictions. This is when art stops being palliative and starts ripping bandaids off.

A moment of revelation: this is what life sounds like for the young of the 21st century. As Jameson describes it, the decentered subject no longer feels the anxiety of high-modernism—but that means they don’t feel anything in and of themself, just the ‘intensities’ of emotion that come from everywhere and nowhere, a host of itinerant zeitgeists that visit themselves on us like a curse. Youth in the 21st century is a decentered space of bitterness, overwhelmed by entertainment, constantly told to buy shit we can’t afford, told to get a job when no one is hiring, told to go to school just to keep us off the labour market. We occupy an age-class that has been attributed (and expected to manifest) a surface physical beauty (“sexiness”) in the death rattles of a 2400 year old epoch where the seen is the true. We are the age-class that is to vicariously fulfill all the repressed wishes of our parents: go wild, drink too much, take our shirts off, fuck around, stay out impossibly late, get into the right kinds of trouble, supply stories for the news, HBO, hollywood, the tired imagination of our parents. We are the age-class that is converted into the symbolic target of mass marketing, the ones who wear what you should be wearing, the ones who drink what you should be drinking, and yelp and board greyhounds and make up words and have tumblrs. But in reality this age-class is occupied by real people with real needs who confront a multitude of doors we are told to enter, each one resolutely closed by the generations that have preceded us with their fucked economics, their fucked politique, and their fucked ideals. Lucky are the few who don’t feel this. Cursed are the ones who feel it most strongly. If anyone wonders why so many young rap artists are starting to sound like Duns Broccoli, (though often not as interesting), just look around. Tolkien passed down this dictum from his throne of privilege: “Not all those who wander are lost”—it’s hard to be lost if no one is trying to find you. “Pretty nice guy; just wear black so you don’t talk to me.”

Marlaena Moore – Beginner

Marlaena Moore is a north star. Her voice cuts like the wind. Her songs are brutal. Each song has the heft of a large stone, teetering on the precipice of a Sisyphean pinnacle. These are heartbreak songs—the kind you expect from a Beginner in love. But they are by no means a beginner’s effort in their straight faced execution. This debut exceeds Moore’s years. Many of these joints remind one of certain nineties K Recs releases. “Sleepless in a Summer’s Sky” is the summer love-lost jam par excellence. It could easily find a home on a John Cusack film soundtrack. It is strange to know that Moore’s backing band is none other than Desiderata, Edmonton’s absolute in mathy virtuosity. Hearing what those three are capable of makes the control of the instrumentation on Beginner stand out in sharp relief. They compliment the swells and flushes of Moore’s massive voice with a honed sensibility only time and dedication can accrue. The record is a solid stone from first to last, completely coherent and begging repeat as “What You Need” closes out the record as if it was only starting the record all over again. It’s a gift.

Fog Lake – Virgo Indigo

From the distant rocky shores of billowing St. John’s Newfoundland comes the delicate yet orotund songcraft of Fog Lake. Fog Lake affirms that St. John’s is more than tourism and cod. Two parts Youth Lagoon, one part Perfume Genius, and a dash of Sad Souls, if you enjoy a single one of these artists, Fog Lake will be your repeat for the next few weeks. Virgo Indigo treats us to gorgeous instrumentals that uncurl like cigarette breaks between a panoply of fragile cavernous pop songs. If you enjoy resonant patient poppy items, you can lay down and let these jams lay soft as a poultice over your wounds.

Diamond Mind – Fake Tape

At last.

Liam Trimble is among Edmonton’s most praiseworthy songwriters, a man whose praises are sung loudly in this town but desperately in need of and most ready for export. His first cassette since Ultra Rare EP in the spring of 2011, we find Trimble reformulated as Diamond Mind with close collaborators Ian Waddell, Aidan Lucas-Buckland, and Matthew Cardinal (and I do believe Doug Hoyer recorded bass on some of these tracks). This cassette is meant to foreshadow a full length in the very near future. It features four bedroom tracks that defy reason. The kaleidoscopic layers of shimmering sound approximate a recording texture more akin to some offbeat 70s film soundtrack. Trimble’s uniquely honed guitar centered writing is obscured by a constantly surprising fabric of violin, cello, and skuttling percussives.The result is instantiated much differently than the live shows, but the essence remains the same. Comparisons are always inadequate with Trimble, but, dare I say, that when you see Diamond Mind live they are something like a more rambunctious and dramatic Kinks. The record, however, can claim kinship with the most erudite and baroque of pop masters like Andrew Bird twinned with the folk genius of a Nick Drake.

We see this best in “Closed Circuit,” a track that twists and turns like a rube goldberg machine. It tinkers and inflates with the controlled gusts of Trimble’s vocals. It lifts and dives like our boreal magpies, lighting on your window sill with all the prophetic import of Poe’s Raven. “Swimsuit Scene” captures a high-strung romance coupled with a modern apathy befitting the jetset imaginary of a Fitzgerald novel. It is a retooled version of the summer break up song par excellence. I will not try and do justice to “Dragon Egg,” but let the video Liam produced speak for itself (below).

This cassette is a down payment on a game changing LP we will hopefully see in no time. Don’t take your eyes off this outfit. And be sure to see them live at your earliest convenience.