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North of the US border, the heritage of Canadian electronic music is as storied as the big geography that spawned it, equal parts industrial salvage, laboratory experimentation, dancefloor dynamics and cracked software. In the first installment of our two-part history, tobias c. van Veen solders the Montréal/Detroit connection, reboots the arcane devices of Winnipeg, and exposes the new sonic engineers making mountains out of molehills.
Routing the motherboard
Canada stretches 7000 kilometers from the rainforested west coast to the eastern seaboard. Gazing north, Canuck territory extends from the 49th parallel through the highest reaches of the frozen Arctic. Despite enclosing over nine million square kilometers, most of Canada is permafrost and tundra, mountains and forest — there are only 30 million Canadians, 90 percent of whom live within 160 kilometers of the US border. Classical conceptions of Canada have focused on its size: Canada, a nation of distance. Yet the experience of contemporary Canadian ‘culture’, irrevocably tied to technology, is one of the city, of a scenic compactness that often betrays the real isolation experienced from one metropolis to the other. While touring across Canada in a rundown van has long been the mark of the Canadian indie band, the aviation-prone DJ (and recent rise of the laptrician) has primarily been contained to east and west divisions. Vancouver has developed stronger artistic ties down through Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles than to its easterly neighbor of Calgary; Winnipeg is linked with the US Midwest; and central Canada — Toronto/Montréal/ Windsor — operates as a northern hub to the US triumvirate of Detroit/Chicago/NYC, while the eastern port of Halifax functions on the periphery. It is of no surprise that the increasing communication of electronic musicians in Canada has arisen concordant with the internet, and that festivals such as Montréal’s Mutek and Elektra, Victoriaville, Vancouver’s New Forms, and Winnipeg’s Send + Receive have served as physical nodes in an increasingly virtual conception of ‘Canada’. If distance is the geophysical necessity, and virtuality the common experience, then Canada is a contradictory country of the future. In attempting to inscribe Canada’s vast electronic heritage — the primary bastion of electroacoustic music outside of France; pioneer in radio.art, field recordings, and sound-art; implicated directly in the histories of Detroit techno, West Coast dub, and industrial music — the shards of distance crystallize the lattice of history. Left hearing the scratches that rift the actual territory, Canada falls to bits — a quantum nation. Is it any wonder that Canada is home to a new breed of laptricians embracing the granular synthesis techniques developed by electroacoustic composer Barry Truax in 1986? Granular synthesis, the hallmark of Tim Hecker (aka Jetone), Ben Nevile and Mitchell Akiyama, prevalently incorporated into the ‘clicks and cuts’ sound that has dominated the Force Inc. empire — the North American base of which is in Montréal — was implemented by Vancouver’s Truax for his electroacoustic piece, “Riverrun”, based upon ideas suggested by Iannis Xenakis and Curtis Roads in the ‘70s. Granulation allows tiny particles of sound to be slowed down with no change in pitch, rendering them reversible and prolific; a ‘quantum of sound’, as proposed by physicist Dennis Gabor in 1947. If Canada’s contemporary electronic laptricians owe a debt to the country’s often understated electroacoustic innovators, it is only par for the course that this history is as fragmented as its sonic achievements. Here’s another fragment: composer Murray Schafer accepted Truax into Simon Fraser University’s newly-minted Communications Department to work on the World Soundscape Project in 1973. Unlike other electroacoustic composers, the SFU clan was dedicated to a social ecology of sound, studying the impacts of noise and the relation between computer music and the sociopolitical. Later, in 1991, Truax remarked: “The great irony is that society is in desperate need
of the kind of aural sensibility associated with music, particularly in the soundscape and the humane use of technology, but the composers are busy with their esoteric concerns that answer neither society’s practical needs nor its search for meaning. Of course to change that, we’d have to broaden the notion of what being a composer means and what constitutes serious music. That’s not likely to happen within the traditional music schools.” From these concerns Hildegard Westerkamp went on to develop the process of “Soundwalks”, fomenting the politics of Acoustic Ecology, from which the tangents are numerous: the sonic suspense narratives of Janet Cardiff, the performative MIDI installations of Ken Gregory, the radio.art instigated by Vancouver’s The Western Front and CiTR 101.9FM, and the architectural and technological concept-works of Montréal’s [The User], including Silophone.net and Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers. These shards have cut a complex web through electroacoustic formalism, electronic experimentation and socio-sonic practice — and, as Truax noted, outside of the institution: today’s foremost experimental electronic music, intricately tied to the lifespan of social movements and transient artist’s enclaves, beckons at the edges of genres and pedagogies, placing it at the very limits of history. The rise of the ‘festival’ in Canada has captured this milieu. Perhaps tuning in to Truax’s resonance, these gatherings have opened audience’s ears to sounds from the beyond. While Send + Receive (unfortunately in its last year) has welcomed the new breed of laptricians and composers with open arms — including Toronto’s phonographer Mike Hansen, the Substractif trio of Akiyama, Hecker and Tomas Jirku, and Winnipeg’s own duul_drv and 3x3is9 — Victoriaville and Elektra have created venues for electroacoustic, improv and noise that criss-cross electronica. It took Alain Mongeau and Eric Mattson’s Mutek festival, however, to finally connect the dots in 2003, with a lineup including the return of Richie Hawtin Live — the Windsor mutant of Detroit techno minimalism — alongside Montréal’s No Type artists, with their fiercely independent, improvisational, noise-based electronics and avantgarde electroacoustics. Meanwhile, the New Forms Festival stepped outside of sound completely to create node-jumping art-events, integrating performance, digital art, video, and music. Today, Canadian artists are beginning to communicate and collaborate through physical portals — Montréal, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax — in the bytescape of post-digital music. But what did it take to get here? What digital detritus floats in the analogue bubblebath of electronic refuse? And how do we rewrite this save as a remix, a fluid process of splicing sound to the refrains of history?
C’est quoi le glitch esti? (what the fuck is a glitch?)
Montréal is a somewhat unique city in North America; a bilingual metropolis, replete with French and English media, in a predominantly French province on a predominantly English continent. The city’s cultural and economic connections with Europe, particularly France, have had as large an influence on local culture as that of the American neighbors. “The location of the city is very strategic because the influence comes as much from the American side as the European,” says Marc Leclair, better known by his nom de disc, Akufen. “And the fact that it’s a multicultural city, means we have influences from all over the globe.” Montréal’s experimental electronic music output can’t be compartmentalized into a handy little niche like ‘glitch’, and the
artistic community resists being categorized as such. Montréal has benefited from globalism and also a dogged belief in the value of supporting its own artists. The increasing critical and practical success of local artists and labels has much to do with balancing out global ambitions and connections to a larger international community — taking care of the macrocosm as well as the microcosm. And in some ways — the emphasis on the ‘small’ details as well as the larger compositional picture — this can be felt in the music. These beliefs have helped to create an infrastructure of labels and festivals that have brought Montréal a certain amount of international attention. The rise of Montréal’s creative nexus has much to do with local investment in its community by individuals and the government, a DIY aesthetic, and local artists’ willingness to share contacts and resources with both locals and foreign artists on an international level. It’s always tempting to place the creative output of a geographical community into a neat little consumable package or ‘scene’ ready for consumption. Dancing to architecture can seem easier when you develop a routine or adapt the moves you already know to fit a recognizable blueprint. And, while ‘scenes’ might be easy to impose theory upon posthumously, while in motion human interactions and creativity are really more fluid and abstract — even though creative synergy can make itself felt in the ‘objects’ or ‘events’ produced. Montréal’s music community is formed of pockets of interests that sometimes overlap and artists who indulge in multiple approaches to musicmaking and work in a number of different ‘scenes’ — someone who makes ‘dance’ music is just as likely to make ‘experimental’ music. When talking about scenes it helps to examine the actual locations that form epicenters of action. The experimental house and techno mix revolves around the Société des Arts Technologiques, or SAT (a performance/art space and media-arts collective), Mutek, Bily Kun (bar/performance space) and chic café Läika (hosting DJs like Mike Shannon, Colin the Mole, and up to 2002, Akufen). “I believe the city does possess more of a ‘scene’ than a ‘sound’”, says Martin Dumais, head of Montréal-based tech-house labels Haute Couture and Hautec, and who is one-half of house duo Les Jardiniers. “The truly interesting musicians in Montréal don’t do just one thing. Most people in our entourage call it techno or house. Minimal is something you will hear but not micro-glitch-bionic-whatever.” As is probably true of musicians across the globe, local artists would rather leave the terminology semantics to journalists, publicists and fans. As Akufen, Leclair is one of Montréal’s more established producers; his release My Way on Force Inc. has helped escalate the music of Montréal nightclubbing — the title of his album on the Perlon label — to global prominence. “The technology I see as more of a tool than an issue,” he says. “We’re talking about electronic music but more and more I tend to just talk about ‘music.’ Only the tools are electronic.” Many artists in Montréal feel the same way. Mitchell Akiyama, Intr_version labelhead, trucks in both audio and visual mediums, straddling post-digital, electroacoustic, post-rock and glitch-ambient aesthetics. He sees himself equally — if not more — aligned with
the experimental post-rock scene. “What I do can definitely be considered electronic music but its function, the way it’s made and its purpose, is a little bit more organic.” “I find it ironic that the term ‘glitch’ has become a genre within itself,” says Jon Berry of Force Inc., who moved the label’s North American office over from NYC. Force Inc. serves as catalyst to standout releases not only from Akufen but Jetone (aka Tim Hecker), as well as the Montréal Smoked Meat compilation featuring Leclar and Hecker alongside Steve Beaupré, Mike Shannon and the Mole, Deadbeat, Mateo Murphy, Jeff Milligan, Eloi Brunelle, and Crackhaus. Admittedly Force Inc.’s release of the influential Clicks and Cuts compilations has established the concept — if not the genre — of ‘glitch’. Yet ‘glitch’ was never meant to be a genre, according to ‘clicks and cuts’ theorizer Achim Szepanski, aka Force Inc. mastermind. Berry elaborates: “What we tried to do with the Clicks and Cuts series was encourage people to use unessentialist sounds — whether it be the whir of a fan or the sound of someone tapping their plate on the table, you’re incorporating that into so-called genres. And out of that some people seem to think a genre of its own has been made. “Maybe it’s the Quebecer’s way of looking for identity. It seems that many musicians in this city try to find a way to make their sound very unique. A lot of people I know in the community are very bent on coming up with something new or ‘out’ in an attempt to push some new variable. They’re never seemingly satisfied with staying in one area; they’re really trying to push the notions of whatever they’re working in. I don’t find it very trendy — it’s almost like anti-trend.” Regardless, Montréal’s cut-and-paste ‘glitch’ aesthetic has branded itself as a global phenomenon. The very concept of the ‘anti-trend’ is nothing less than Dada remixed as the classic sampling of the historical avant-garde. And today, when the ‘avant-garde’ is history, wherever the avant-garde claims the edge, it historicizes itself — as a trend. But maybe it’s not trends we’re hearing but the refrains of rhythm, the successful spread of the ‘glitch’ into both dance and experimental realms. Akufen’s agenda bridges the tension wrought by pushing at the seams: “I want them to shake their ass and think at the same time — you’ve got to stimulate both ends.” Ghislain Poirier, who has traced a minimal aesthetic in breakbeat, political hip-hop and dub composition through releases on both 12K and Intr_version, agrees. “Experimental music and music for dancefloors can go together. You always have to pay attention to [the] purist who wants to block bridges and stop us from making new experiments. Music must stay music…it’s a free-floating thing and we each immortalize it in our own fashion.” Stitching together the old high-art/low-art concepts of ‘experimental’ and ‘dance’ music is what marks Montréal as a city of dualities and multiplicity. With both French and English universities sporting strong experimental music and digital art departments, the intellectual aspects of audio exploration are well-represented. Conversely, Montréal is also a disco denizen. During the ’70s, the city was part of he Studio 54 circuit (Regine opened a disco here) and still boasts a
tstrong connection to house music’s lineage through labels like Bombay (home to Fred Everything and Miguel Graça) and, in the present retro-reversal to electroclash, Turbo (run by “Sunglasses at Night” remixer Tiga). The sustained involvement of electroacoustic music, however, has come to define Montréal’s edge. The No Type collective’s involvement in the 2003 Rien à Voir (Nothing To See) electroacoustic festival, which featured a performance by Vancouver’s soundscape duo Coin Gutter, has led the way in conjoining experimental electronics to the institution. And while the aforementioned Elektra and Victoriaville festivals provide an environment for cross-fertilization, attempts to bridge the gap through labels and collaborations are leaving their mark. Composers such as Robert Normandeau of the Université de Montréal have long held crossover influences, and the outsider experimentalism of Diane Labrosse, Martin Tétreault and the No Type collective are often to be found side-by-side established academic composers such as Alain Thibault, Gilles Tremblay and Yves Daoust. Electroacoustic and experimental music labels Ambiences Magnétiques, Victo and empreintes DIGITALes serve as a comprehensive historical document of electroacoustic, experimental electronic, musique actuelle and improvisational electronic music in Canada. But highbrow frequency hums are not all that flange the fringe. The turntable and the street recombinate in volatile and often radical hip-hop, be it politically orientated as Quebecois independence or overlaid with surrealist influences. While Montréal is well-known as home to Kid Koala and 1997 DMC champion A-Trak, Montréal’s experimental hip-hop scene — which found its own voice at Mutek this year with performances from Sixtoo, among others — is primarily supported through Ninja Tune, which, like Force Inc., has based its North American office in la belle province. Crossfade turntablism to the avant-garde, and one also finds the growing improvisational turntable scene centered around Tétreault, who has been mining the outer extremes of turntable experimentalism and improvisation since 1985. Tétreault’s prowess in deconstructing phonographic aesthetics has led him to world tours with Philip Jeck and Janek Schaefer. Somewhere in the venue of Casa del Popolo — and on the label Alien8 and its sublabel Substractif — this mix begins to blend with the post-rock spectrum centered around Constellation Records and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Located in the artist-infused Mile End district, Casa (to locals) hosts everything from evenings of free jazz to bizarro electro and laptop experiments. On any given night, Akiyama, electronic veteran and jack-of-all-genres David Kristian, and the Cocosolidciti crew — among many, many others — test new material out on the bar’s critical patrons. The ways in which turntables are ripped apart mirrors the mangling of guitars in the post-rock scene, as well as the pervading dominance of the thrash guitar. To a large extent, Montréal never left the ’80s, stylistically or economically, and the city may be the last home to trashy metal. It also accounts for the stylistic popularity of electroclash, for ’Tréalers never stopped dressing like extras from Liquid Sky. This cockrawk timewarp also accounts for Tim Hecker’s dirty ode to Van Halen on Substractif’s My Love Is Rotten to the Core — which (apparently?) proves that humor is alive and well in the heart of the avant-garde (either that, or a rotten sincerity: Hecker comments that he hears something melancholic in this corporate rock). Industrial music, then, has always been at the dark edge of all these scenes, for its influence persisted through the ’90s. “We loved Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Chris and Cosey,
who were always beat-oriented,” Dumais reminisces. “I think when people figured out you could make experimental music and get people to dance at the same time, instead of them sitting down in awe or bored out of their skulls, sort of shaped the sound. Montréal’s always been a big dance city. I think that still prevails, even in the more experimental music by older musicians like Akufen, whose music is partly experimental but if you remove the samples it’s basically Todd Terry — though Marc knows how to construct a good groove by adding layers that make it more interesting than just your basic house.”
(Musique) concrète dancefloors to Mutek mash-ups
The laptop jetset and post-rock cabals owe much to the city’s long history of experimental music. The Festival International ue Musique Actuel de Victoriaville (FIVA), which takes place a few hours outside of Montréal and is in its 20th year, helped establish the region as a hive for North American experimental and, specifically, electroacoustic music. In the past few years, FIVA has embraced currents of post-digitalism, noise, and experimental phonography, with an increasingly diverse line-up exposing the historical subtexts of numerous crossover artists — 2003 saw Montréalers Hecker and Martin Tétreault alongside not only Pan Sonic and Kid606 but John Zorn. While electronic music was news to ’90s music journalists, those versed in the genealogies of the adventurous know that intrepid electron explorers have been working with tapeloops, recording devices, phonographs, synthesizers — and, when they became available in universities, computers — since the nascent 1900s. While ’80s new wave is plundered for electroclash, a slate of early computer music reissues has revitalized the academe-popular electronic mix; and internationally, not only Victoriaville but Mutek, the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) and ACREQ (L’Association pour la Création et la Recherche Électroacoustiques du Québec) have reflected upon this convergence. Likewise, the National New Music Coalition (NNMC) has recently formed with a mandate to support all aspects of electronic creation. It is in the festivals where the bleeds are brokered: Mutek 2002 featured a live Max/MSP performance by composer Alexandre Burton from the Université de Montréal, while ACREQ’s Elektra festival broadened their protocol to include digital experimentation in an attempt to weave the work of electroacoustic experimentation — which has provided the very technological backbone of digital assemblage — with the often off-the-cuff exploration of the digerati. The aforementioned electroacoustic and experimental labels have achieved crossover popularity in this respect, although to what end electroacoustic will embrace techniques of rhythm and melody, and as to whether the pseudo-pop veneer of laptronics will accept the historical precedents of the university tradition, remains to be seen. Throughout the ’90s, crossover between academe and club was established through the FCMM’s (now defunct) Media Lounge, which arose in part — like the SAT — from the 1994 ISEA (Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts) international symposium held in Montréal. Patching together these ports is due in part to the manic vitriol of one ex-New Media Ph.D — Alain Mongeau. Although the Media Lounge ended in 2000, it freed Mongeau (and Oral mainman Eric Mattson) to devote time to Mutek’s increasingly international momentum. “Mutek created a context for something to happen and that context kind of provided a convergence point for some artists to get their act together to start with,” says Mongeau, who sees international festivals that support local artists — and bring together international artists with converging aesthetics — as a form of positive globalism that
strengthens local creative communities and international exchange. Mutek recently expanded international events to Germany and Chile. “I do believe that for an art form as marginal as, say, the electronic music we promote, globalization is a way out instead of dealing only with a very small niche market here. Mutek, for instance, addresses the public across continents, so there is a sense of hope that is linked to the easiness of communications today.” As to whether Montréal has a ‘sound’, Mongeau feels it’s a bit too soon to say. “I think within a few years we are going to see something that will be associated directly with Montréal but I’m far from certain that it’s going to be glitch. On the contrary, I think it’s going to be much closer to an evolved form of tech-house because of the sensibilities that exist here. Everything’s pointing in that direction and not just in Montréal but in a more global way.” Current local tendencies indicate that increasing cross-pollination between digital and acoustic mediums and scenes will guide Montréal’s future. The SAT, which recently reopened in a massive downtown space, is also hoping to feed this energy by constructing a local ‘artist’s village’ in the area as well as by embracing New Media projects along with VJs and live performances, acting as a global node for the digital arts in a web of organizations including Rotterdamn’s V-2. As Akiyama says, “I get the feeling that the whole lone producer/DJ thing won’t hold up because it seems like everyone I know has started to collaborate or at least preach the values of collaboration.” Jon Berry thinks there’s an international trend afoot as well as a
local one. “I think everyone in electronic music is looking for the next change, the next big thing. Who knows what will happen. The reality is there’s a lot of great music that hasn’t been tapped into yet. I think a big part of how those elements come into place will be through the aspect of melody, looking at songs rather than tracks. Everyone’s talking about humanity and bitching about the laptop ‘live’ show — realistically maybe everyone’s looking for something to identify with.” Identity, as any Quebecer who grew up on local politics and cultural debate knows, is constantly mutating. Not surprisingly the identities of Montréal’s electronic music community are as polysonic as the diverse range of people and machines that compose the city itself.
Wasted in Winnipeg
Scrawled across the Send + Receive Festival website is an understated factoid of Winnipeg: “Here in the remote heartland of Canada,” reads the HTML, “we are intensely aware of our isolation from other producing artists and organizations around the globe.” Indeed the case, Winnipeg has never cared to resent its singularity, which has, in fact, established its bars and pubs as the rock capital of Canada. Every Canadian tour stops through the heartland — Canadian rock legends Neil Young and Randy Bachman grew up in the ’Peg. But if rock has grown legends, then electronica has birthed monsters — beasts which remain obscure and in the shadows. Welcome to the inbred history of Winnipeg. The remote heartland is a creative breadbasket, but only if — like
Vancouver — the artist can break free from the vicious politics of smalltown syndrome. Winnipeg’s most well-known electronic producers today — Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares, duul_drv, Fishead, vitaminsforyou, Blunderspublik, Fanny, Not 1/2, and sound/ performance artist Ken Gregory — have all performed variations on this maneuver, often by cutting at the periphery of various scenic enclaves. In the case of vitaminsforyou, it was through a glitched oneman synth-pop army who broke down rock’s authentic qualifications via digital parameters; with Venetian Snares, Fishead, Fanny et al, the break tears through breakcore itself. In the history of non-academic electronic music, the central pivot is one of rave culture; in Winnipeg, the introduction of acid-house, house and techno was rifted from its origin with a perverse violence: the rash experimental fuckery of the Midwest. In the late ’80s, a few members of the existing industrial scene got together with Roman Panchyshyn from Impulse Records and produced the underground dance hit “Bite The Bullet” under the name They Never Sleep. The project ended up being a one-off, but it spawned careers for two of the collaborators: Al Conroy (aka Not 1/2) and Joe Silva (of Purespace and X-Nation fame). During the summer of 1991 Roman opened an all ages dance club called The Lovebomb. Al Conroy and John “Morpheus” Kalauz were the DJs, and the diverse crowd that it drew included many of the people that would go on to shape the rave scene over the next half a decade — DJ Fishead played his first gig in November 1991, and ran into a tall kid with a mohawk and pierced septum named Aaron Funk. By 1993, the rave scene was hitting high gear, and people were beginning to make music themselves. Richard “Industrial” Martin and Chris “Frontman” Bond quickly proved that they had enough talent to headline shows with their industrialized sound, and it was Martin’s influence at the University of Manitoba that prompted them to bring Drop Bass Network’s roster of artists up from the midwest United States for a show in early ’94. That event, bRave New Assembly, caused a shockwave in the fledgling underground and it was only a couple of months later that the first of the outlaw warehouse parties in the Exchange District began (now a World Heritage site for its historic architecture). Those parties would continue, at a variety of locations known only by street number, for the next four years. As Fishead recanted over a six-hour cup of coffee, bRave was advertised as a jungle and house party — but what arrived from the South was a head-first plunge into the manic howl of techno’s hardest existential crises, a culmination of Midwest angst projected into the pounding 909, a minimalist, percussion-patterned and aggressive acid-techno. In 1995 Joe Silva’s X-Nation project released the “Love You More” single on his own PureSpace Recordings label. A remix by DJ Cheney Lansard turned the track on its head and shifted it from a club piece to a minimal mindbender. PureSpace would eventually move away from releasing records themselves, but Silva continues to produce for a number of labels, including Vancouver’s Nordic Trax label. As the second half of the ’90s began, the seeds of the rougher sound that Drop Bass Network had introduced to Winnipeg began to bear strange fruit. Aaron Funk passed on a copy of his three-track demo cassette Fake Impossible to Fishead. In 1998, Venetian Snares
and Fishead put out a pair of cassette releases, and the second one (Eat Shit and Die) caught the ear of Jace from History of the futurE in Minneapolis. Six cuts from Aaron’s Die side of the cassette were selected for his debut 12-inch, “Greg Hates Car Culture”, which came out in late 1999. Shortly after its release, Mike Paradinas stumbled across a copy and quickly signed Venetian Snares to his Planet µ imprint — a move that instantly legitimized the breakcore scene in Winnipeg (if not North America) and opened the door for artists like Fanny (releases on Zod, Mirex, Hymen), AeA (a split 12-inch released on Kougai) and Not 1/2. Unlike hardcore, breakcore ran aggressively rampant through all genres, mangling hardcore, jungle, techno, industrial, noise and metal, which is also an apt description of the typical turntablist Fishead set. 1999 also marked the emergence of a less aggressive, but equally experimental direction in Winnipeg’s electronic music scene: the glitched-out ambience and post-pop of the laptrician, in a move that would advance the steps taken by Ken Gregory’s MIDI experiments and various sound-art projects hosted by the Send + Receive festival and the multimedia-embracing Plug-In Gallery. The Sfeericle label reared its head and introduced Blunderspublik, duul_drv and vitaminsforyou (who has since moved to Montréal). While Venetian Snares was beginning to enjoy success in the midwest US and Europe, Sfeericle’s roster was making inroads in eastern Canada, leading to both duul_drv and vitaminsforyou playing the 2002 Mutek festival. 2003 saw the migration of Fishead, who is now preparing his own album material after remaining one of Canada’s best, yet perhaps least-known, turntablists.
The little known
It is this paradox — “best but least-known” — which eloquently describes Canada. While Montréal contains a wealth of artists due to its replication of a North American bohemia, cities like Winnipeg remain the content-providers of the larger metropolises. Vancouver, however, narrates an entirely different story, remaining largely ignored on the international circuit — despite its place as a pivotal home of ’80s industrial and ambient, electroacoustic, and today, of inventive minimal house producers and experimental soundscape artists. Toronto, meanwhile, contains an entire underground techno history that has all but dissipated and dispersed since the turn of the millennium. And the historical connections between Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver — which will also come to brush Halifax — are that of an older electronic history, one which will require another deep listening session to those long-forgotten cassette tapes and dusty vinyl from the ’80s. I
In next issue’s conclusion: Vancouver’s industrial, dub and techno lineages, sonic eruptions from the eastern extreme of Halifax and the influential Toronto/Windsor nexus, and a discographical critique of the country’s foremost labels and their releases. For a large listing of Canadian artists, labels, live events and other archival information, see The 2003-2004 Canadian Electronic Music Directory; ordering info and more can be had at their website at www.aemusic.com
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