DJ Garbage Body surfs her roots

In this edition, DJ Garbage Body is surfing her deepest roots to reminisce, recall, reflect and remind when/where she comes from. It’s important to remember, to pay respect, and to never lose sight. Friends are important influences, and bonds shape us.

From what I can recall, the underground noise boom I knew sprung up after 2004. Obviously a lot of things were happening before that time, but Garbage Body was not yet infused. This scene got seriously awesome between 2007-2009. Many bands emerged and small underground venues in Toronto such as the Tranzac, the Boat and Teranga African Bar let everyone have shows. I specifically remember being at some of the shows in the videos I’m about to post below, and if you look carefully, you’ll see faces in the audience who are now involved with better known projects. Do you remember too? Cheers and creds to Ayal Senior for capturing many shows on video.

Kevin Crump (Disguises, Thrashed Genes, Roman Pilates, Tranz DeFonce) and his wife Andrea (VAJJ) played a huge role keeping this scene alive, putting on many shows, getting people excited, putting out weird noise tapes, and fronting some sweet bands included below. Check out Crump’s Wintage Records and Tapes.

Vanessa Hanson-Benoit also deserves the spotlight when it comes to girls in the improv, experimental + noise scene in Toronto. She had many projects and is a great mentor. Her later project Vanessa’s Entire Heart featured more accessible and eerie noise-folk songs. She is now in a band called Deciduous with Stacey Sproule and Jason Benoit.

At first, there were not many girls within this noise community. Vanessa Hanson-Benoit, Andrea Crump, Jill Aston and I eventually became VAJJ (initials acronym) after gathering from what we initially referred to as the Toronto Women’s Noise Collective. There is no trace of this collective unless you were around at the time and knew. A girl named Poornima helped start that… whatever happened to her?

Until VAJJ, I was mostly a show-goer rather than a performer, having been an avid fan of my friends’ avant-noise duo Gravitons (Mani Mazinani – drums, Jill Aston – guitar shredding) and label Free Market Records.

From what I recall, this thriving scene started to die after Teranga Bar in Kensington Market closed, and Mark Mclean (Induced Labour, Sick Lipstick, etc etc) stopped throwing his epic Doritos-laden shows there. At the same time, some of the core peeps from the band Disguises seemed to be splitting. Many friends shaped and influenced each other in music during a special, thriving time in Toronto (and Montreal + beyond). If you were around, you know what I’m talking about.

Thrashed Genes (Kevin Crump, Jill Aston, Mark McLean) @ Tranzac. Check out how packed it was… and I definitely remember being at this show. Jill Aston is the bomb!! I think I see Wolfgang of HVY WTR and Healing Power Records, Mani Mazinani of Gravitons and Free Market Records, Mark Sauner of Pink Noise, Kevin Hainey of Inyrdisk, Disguises, Cave Dudes, Kapali Carsi and many more.

More Thrashed Genes action. This happened at Bread & Circus in Kensington Market. It was an epic night. Gravitons and Cave Dudes (Bob McCully who is now Wizard Of, Randy Gagne who is now Man Made Hill, Toblerone Boys etc., and Kevin Hainey) also played that bill.

Mark Sauner of the Pink Noise now has a full band in Montreal. They are really damn good. Sauner used to make experimental lo-fi bedroom music and emerged from a small movement of musically inclined weirdos out of Newmarket, Ontario. Back in Toronto, I used to love chilling with Sauner at shows. This is what the Pink Noise used to be before he recruited his current line-up of musicians.

Thames is Blake Hargreaves (Cousins of Reggae, Clinton Machine, Dreamcatcher, etc) + Alex Moskos (Drainolith, AIDS Wolf etc). Live @ Teranga.

Here’s some more Drainolith. The video was made by the very talented Josh Bastien (Tired, Father Dust, Wasted Nymph, etc) a forward-thinking Montreal avant-guard noise beast.

Doom Tickler is Leslie Predy (lead singer of the famed Induced Labour). Leslie is extremely talented and has always been ahead of things in my opinion. Here’s a bonus music video.

Here’s another new vid from my friend Alex’s project Petra Glynt. I remember seeing her around at some shows back in the day, when girls were so much more sparse.

John Shapiro is somewhat of a legend among people that know him. He now abides in Montreal, and plays in the band Tired. In Toronto, he was in the bands Disguises and Induced Labour among other projects, including recording many bands and providing the sound engineering for many live shows. He’s a major cool dude. Here another bonus video from a sweet project of his called Almost Blue Sunshine.

When it comes to DJ Garbage Body’s musical upbringing, she can’t forget where she came from. These people all emerged relatively around the same time within the deep yet fruitful Toronto music swamps. Many of us met at these shows, and most of us come from there. Some of these venues played major unforgettable roles. If you were around, you know what I’m talking about. This community shares a bonded collective unconscious, memories of serious thriving (although I don’t know if we knew it at the time). It was pure reality breakdown, no trend for lyfe!

I hope your surf will continue from here. Watch live shows from your city, past and present. Surf youtube by venue. Type ‘Tranzac – Toronto’ in your search bar and see what you find. Check out other videos by the bands posted above. Scroll to the right of your screen, and see what kind of waves you’ll surf!!

X marks the spot

Toronto’s X Avant new music festival gives praise to generations of experimental sounds

Words: Jesse Locke // Photos and Video: Jesse Locke and Landon Speers

The legendary Nihilist Spasm Band (photo: Jesse Locke)

For his sixth annual X Avant as exiting artistic director of Toronto’s famed Music Gallery, festival founder Jonathan Bunce (a.k.a. Jonny Dovercourt) aimed to go out with a blowout. From high-profile opener Lee Ranaldo to composers-in-residence Tim Brady, Markus Popp and Michael Gordon plus a riotous closing performance by Canadian noise legends the Nihilist Spasm Band, 2011’s proceedings pulled out all the stops.

If Brian Wilson’s Smile is a teenage symphony to God, Ranaldo’s “Contre Jour” could be described as a radical adult’s concerto to the netherworld. Reprising the guitar swinging action he previously showed off at this summer’s Sled Island, the famed Sonic Youth axe-man strung his weathered Jazzmaster from a steel-wire noose, gleefully flinging it around the performance space at the Polish Combatants Hall. Creating a dreamlike wash of effects from a daisy chain of pedals, drumsticks and bow, the result was akin to the most ear-pleasing instrumental moments of Daydream Nation, ringing out like ecstatic church bells in purgatory. Combined with the gorgeous visuals of Leah Singer’s video projections on a massive wall-sized screen and a clattering mid-set pow wow from volunteer percussionists, Ranaldo provided a killer kick-off to the fest.

Back at the Music Gallery, Montreal’s Tim Brady took the stage for a solo performance of his own. Though his rapid-fire fretwork and metallic tonal explorations undoubtedly showed off some virtuosic skills (with several awe-inspiring moments) the slightly overlong set couldn’t help but pale in comparison to Ranaldo. Brady’s Branca-esque “20 Quarter Inch Jacks”, on the other hand, was a ton of fun, as he conducted (you guessed it) 20 electric guitar players through 30 swelling, squealing minutes. To give an example of the overall “tone” of the piece, one passage found Brady’s guitarmada chanting an alphabetical list of inspirations from B.B. King to James Blood Ulmer, with Jimi Hendrix filling in for X.

Glitch technocrat Oval (photo: Landon Speers)

The menacing Tim Hecker (photo: Landon Speers)

Night number two promised a powerful 1-2 punch with glitch pioneer Markus Popp (a.k.a. Oval) teamed with Montreal’s bad boy of drone, Tim Hecker. Local hip-hop/fusion quartet the Global Cities Ensemble started the show, yet the less said about them, the better. Popp’s performance marked his first in Canada in more than 15 years, with an excited, sold-out crowd gathered for the occasion. The abilities on display here were undeniable as the German technocrat cut and spliced sputtering samples through a countless array of rapid-paced permutations. Wailing guitars and crashing rock drums twitched alongside synthetic saw blades in a lengthy set as exhausting as it was exhaustive. From here, Hecker was perfectly set up to liquidate the room with his cortex-rumbling low end, processing sounds from the church’s pipe organ into a menacing wave of auditory magma.

Contact perform Michael Gordon's "Trance" (photo: Jesse Locke)

The Music Gallery’s pews were once again the place to be on Sunday night as the Contact ensemble swelled to 22 members for an epic rendering of Michael Gordon’s “Trance.” The Bang On A Can founder has produced a massively impressive body of work in the past quarter century, but this hour-long piece from 1995 might just take the cake in terms of breathless, mind-splitting sonic stimulation. Anchored by a herky jerky five-string bass heartbeat, the symphonic squadron added layer upon layer of off-kilter notes to a complex web of keyboards, accordion drone and eerily disembodied vocal samples, drifting from passages of sparse, pastoral beauty into rapturous intensity at the drop of a hat. Listen to an excerpt to experience it for yourself.

Disguises' damaged noise (photo: Jesse Locke)

The NSB get cooking (photo: Jesse Locke)

Toronto’s Disguises stormed the stage for a chaotic assault of skin-peeling noise damage, not slowing for a second even when animalistic stick-man Randy Gagne’s drumkit tumbled into disarray. The unrelenting trio represent the new generation of circuit-overloading ear torture and were canny programming on the festival’s part, providing an ideal lead-in for London, Ontario’s legendary Nihilist Spasm Band.

Since 1965, the NSB has mirthfully dismantled the notions of what music is supposed to sound like with a buzzing beehive of homebrewed instruments, noise-makers and vocalist Bill Exley’s booming foghorn monologues. Here at X Avant, the elder statesmen and permanently adopted member Aya Onishi sounded as spastic as ever, plowing through a selection of crowd favourites plus a cut from their upcoming album (!) on Wintage Records, closing it all off with the classic “No Canada”. Truly a national treasure if there ever was one, and a glorious finale for the fest.