// push it

The coverage of the Gregory Alan Elliott trial is more than a little disheartening.  

(The resulting targeting of feminist activists online was pretty predictable tho.)

I’ve thought a lot about this particular case outcome the past few days – and while I’ve been running around Ottawa doing all sorts of amazing things and having powerful conversations, it has followed me. I feel it sitting in the back of my mind. I have seen it shared, discussed and I know it is now “old news” but it feels like a weight on my head.

As a feminist using online spaces to organize and advocate for equality, the outcome of the case has only reinforced my disassociation from traditional paths of justice when it comes to gender based violence.

Despite my cynicism, I had hoped that there could be a leap forward – instead of the well known and well work inch-by-inch fight forward. Increasingly, online platforms are treated as public spaces. They are not counter-culture or underground, they are mainstream spaces used by dominate groups. The discussions and comments shared on Facebook and Twitter have an increasing sway on what news is, and how it is reported. Threats, harassment, violent assertions made on these platforms are no less oppressive than those made by a stranger passing by in a car as I walk down the street.

Imagine this scene:

It’s a street. Bright daylight. Woman walking alone, on her way to anywhere.

Group of dudes drive past, slow down, unroll the windows and start yelling out various descriptions of non-consensual sex acts.

Woman keeps walking. Headphones in.

Dudes become increasingly irate she isn’t charmed and/or at least interested in such acts. So now they yell out what a terrible person she must be, and laugh as they threaten to follow her home to carry out aforementioned non-consensual sex acts.

End scene.

New scene:

It’s Twitter. Woman online, handle is her real name.

Group of users slowly start to target her, posting various descriptions of non-consensual sex acts with her user name.

Woman doesn’t respond. Blocks them all.

Users become increasingly irate she isn’t charmed and/or at least interested in such acts. So now they make new user names, and post her handles on a reddit sub-threat, telling their local MRA chapter what a terrible person she must be, and encourage their MRA bros to threaten to publish her home address so other’s can threaten to carry out aforementioned non-consensual sex acts.

These two scenes happen every.god.damn.day. And they happen to the same people. And they can both be really scary.

This case is being reported as setting precedent, for both online free speech and online harassment. Clearly, our justice system isn’t equipped to deal with the individual and community fall out of online harassment, but the reality is that the perpetuation of harassment is designed to diminishes voices and push specific groups out of public spaces. It’s not just scary and traumatizing, it is actively making it unsafe for some people to be online.

Oppressing voices through harassment and fear is a systemic tool used by a dominant group that is unwilling to share their own privilege, or recognize their own privilege. It is the same tool of oppression that makes it unsafe for some to be in public spaces, in “real life”. It has been used to diminish the rights and freedoms of groups for centuries. This kind of gas lighting relies on our system reinforcing itself – ensuring the language of the oppressor is the dominate force.

So, how do we change it? How can we ensure the regular lady holding it down is safe when the Premier of Alberta is getting public death threats over Facebook? I don’t know. I only know I’m not going to stop talking about it and thinking about. I am going to keep active in online spaces, and will continue posting about gender equality.

It also reinforces how critical it is for platforms themselves to be better at limiting the opportunity to spread hate speech and to target people. Within the criminal code or not, platforms have a responsibility to not be a bystander. And so do we.

Side note: “legal” harassment being supported by The Rebel should get termed, ya know, like Godwin’s Law. Suggestions?



Up For Debate?

In 2011, the then Conservative candidate for Lethbridge federal was asked about his knowledge and support of Womanspace, a local women’s rights advocacy and service centre that had lost all federal funding a few years ago (and was frankly held together by a shoestring, and the sweat, blood and tears of the board). His response was, “I love women! My wife is a woman, my mother is a woman and my daughters will be women!!”. I am only slightly paraphrasing.

That was the only debate the soon-to-be Conservative MP participated in, and it was no wonder why his campaign cut him off from all further public speaking opportunities. While all his responses were patronizing and ill informed, that debate clearly did not change the outcome. He still won the election.

Debates matter in the most ideal of ways. That it means something when ordinary people discuss great ideas. There is nothing stopping us all from making this entire campaign a debate on women’s rights, or from examining party platforms with a inclusive equality lens.

It is no secret that I am a New Democrat, and proudly support the well documented work the NDP have done to advance equal rights.

I am proud to be support the re-election of an MP that brought forward the PMB to create a National Action plan to end VAW and take action on MMIW. I am proud that I am a member of a party that supported legislation to include gender as a marker of discrimination (with the trans rights bill). A caucus of MPs that supported Women’s Forum des femmes. A leader who has promised to hold an inquiry within 100 days. A campaign that has made food security and affordable housing key platform planks. A political party can both lift up smart, good legislation or push really bad legislation through (cough cough, C-51).

Poverty intersects inequality, and often ensures the most vulnerable are defenceless.

I don’t get to vote for Mulcair (or Harper, or Trudeau or May for that matter) but I do get to vote for my local candidate. So I encourage all who are taking the considerable time to attack folks online get themselves to a debate, line up at the mic, and ask a question about gender equality. Contact your local women’s rights group and ask them what issues they would like to see local candidates field. Hold them all accountable. That debate watching party you were gonna host with your feminist grrl gang? Do it. Locally.

Last thing, if you have a wikked great candidate that is holding it down on intersectional feminism, get yourself to their campaign office and do something to get them elected. If you believe in women’s rights, if you care so much about this, make it a thing. Women did not get the right to vote, or access to birth control, or the legal freedom to walk down a street without a chaperone by sitting at home and leaving angry messages for City Hall.

They organized. They marched. They took it to the public spaces they were not supposed to be in. 

Because unless you live in the riding a leader is running in, one of those local candidates will become an MP – your representation in Parliament.

Making a List and Leaving the Women Off

Alberta Venture put out their “Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People” list today, and while I scanned the list of those considered the “Movers, The Shakers & The Difference-Makers” I saw a lot of men.

Of 50 people, Alberta Venture choose 10 women*. 20 per cent of a list of those that Venture consider’s the most influential Albertans. Including, of course, the Premier.

(*I am using the visibly identifying as women as my gender marker. I certainly do not know enough about each individual to ascertain other equality markers around less visible discrimination).

I am not a feminist all that preoccupied with the number of women on corporate boards, but this is the kind of glaring unbalanced gender representation that reminds young women of the odds stacked against them. That even if they are doing great work and making significant changes – they will still pale in comparison to their male counterparts.

It isn’t surprising a business magazine chose to not challenge themselves to work towards gender parity but 10 out of 50 isn’t even close. It is particularly obvious as this is coming after an election where the governing party is almost at gender parity, and the folks that got them there were largely of the female persuasion.

I am sure the usual arguments of “we chose the best candidates” and “there were not that many women in the waiting” will no doubt be used, or were used, to respond to this kind of criticism. But, we all know that isn’t the reality in Alberta.

There are many, many women who are leading organizations, businesses, culture, journalism – and the many other fields that this list honoured. For the first time there is a Minister for Status of Women – if that isn’t considered moving, shaking and difference-making in Alberta, what is? Or perhaps women like Janice Makokis – an Indigenous scholar working to uphold treaty rights across Canada. Or Jan Reimer, former Mayor and the current Executive Director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) – working to end VAW in a province with the greatest gender wage gap and the highest rates of VAW in Canada. I could go on and on. There are some amazing women doing some incredible work in every sector.

When publications like Venture continually leave women off lists like this they perpetuate that women can’t make it there. That they need to work that much harder, be that much greater, to measure up. And while I do not aspire to make it on Venture’s top 50 there are thousands of women that do. Women that are working hard to achieve in their field, and still watching opportunities go to their male counterparts. A culture of misogyny is a difficult things to battle, and we need all parties to recognize their part in it. And recognize that even subtle acts like this one uphold the culture and send the same message: If you’re a woman and you want to be recognized, you must be better than the best man to be considered equal.

It upholds a culture that is unhealthy and distrusting. For all genders.

On the problems of Identification contained in the (Un)Fair Elections Act

The following is a guest post from Keith Gardner, a M.A. student at Carleton University studying political parties and democratic structure. 

I want to first regale you with a personal story. I’m white. I’m male. I’m straight. I’m protestant. I have a very anglo last name. I have had the great fortune of pursuing multiple academic degrees. All of this is to say that I am a person who lives his life in a highly privileged body. 

However, growing up in a small southern Alberta town, I wasn’t always a member of a hegemonic group – my family was a religious minority in our town, and we weren’t rich or well-connected. Often, this left me (and my family) feeling as though we didn’t have too much of a say in the way our community, country, or province was governed. Except for on Election Day. 

On Election Day, my parents would take me and my sisters to the polling station with them as they cast their ballots. Those days, we were just like every other family in our small town – mormon kids, poor kids, farm kids – all of their parents would go to the polling station and cast their ballot. What was most special about Election Day, though, was that on that day, the x that my parents marked (and those of the mormon kids, the poor kids and the farm kids) was just as important as anyone else’s. So was the x my grandfather marked, a man who had immigrated from the Netherlands in the immediate aftermath of the Second World Warwho had laboured manually his entire life, and had a fifth grade education (despite being one of the most clever men I’ve ever met). That day, regardless of our privileges or lack thereof, everyone’s voice was equal.

Forgive the personal anecdote and my proselytizing on the egalitarian power of the polling station, but I think it serves to highlight the most fundamental element of democracy: everyone’s voice is equal, and there are no barriers to expressing that other than membership in the community.

Now, on the count of vouching: on paper getting rid of it seems like a good and fair thing. The argument that you should be able to provide identification to show that you are eligible to vote seems simple enough to most of us. Canada has some of the most liberal suffrage laws in the world as it stands currently (incarcerated citizens, those without permanent addresses and others are allowed to vote here that would not be able to vote in other liberal democracies) so we should ensure that those very minimal requirements are being enforced. Our parameters for basic political community membership are very open in this country, which is a very good thing. 

It should be noted that many of the voter ID previsions in the FEA are a response to a problem of voter fraud, which there is simply no empirically sound evidence to suggest exists. Many have argued that declining voter turnout is more of a risk to the health of our democracy than voter fraud is (political science luminaries like Lijphart, 1997 and Pateman, 1970 have made this argument – more on this later). 

Requiring a certain “something” to be able to vote is powerfully anti-democratic. In a democracy, every member of the community (defined in Canada as a citizen) has the right to vote, not merely the privilege. By requiring something that costs money or at the very least social capital to attain (which various forms of ID do), the FEA is effectively asking for an admission cost to partake in something that should be fundamentally free and open to all comers. 

Thinking back to the Election Day experiences of my small town childhood, I’m forced to think about what those experiences would be like if my parents weren’t able to pay to get a proper ID to vote, either because they couldn’t afford it or didn’t know the proper channels to go through. We wouldn’t have been the same as other families on Election Day: I would have instead felt more powerless and excluded from the community than usual. 

There are two ways in which the proposed FEA puts up barriers to participation in elections, effectively introducing costs and threatening that all-important equality of voice: 

1) It removes the use of Voter Identification cards to prove residence. This means that if you moved recently and don’t have any other way of proving your current residence you are effectively disenfranchised. So, if I’m a student with a driver’s license that has my parents’ address on it (got my photo ID!), and I go to the polling station, I have no way of proving that I live in the constituency. This is especially interesting given the fact that some of the most common ways of proving residency outside of the VICs are bills – which are increasingly issued in digital form and thus easy to forge. 
2) It removes the use of vouching. This is the big one, and it goes beyond proving residency to proving eligibility, and cuts to the core of your parents’ questions. Many folks have difficulty getting photo id for a number of reasons: 

  • It costs money (you shouldn’t have to pay anything to vote)
  • If you don’t drive, you’re less likely to have one (again, this is a socio-economic class thing)
  • If you live in a remote community, far away from issuing agencies, you are less likely to be able to get one (a region thing)
  • Indigenous folks and other marginalized groups often don’t have ID for a number of reasons, many of them occurring in the intersections of the three above

Vouching has historically been the “safety valve” that we have used in Canada to ensure that even in these situations, people are able to vote without paying a cost of admission to do so. 

OK. So this tells us at a personal level why ID laws as they have been written here are not defensible on democratic grounds. It’s not so much that you shouldn’t have to produce ID to vote, but that if it is a requirement to vote that the state should provide ID to you in a cost-free manner (a system that they use in India). Of course, because of how large and disparate our country is, this itself presents many obstacles, but is a possibility.

Because it’s me, and I like to think about electoral implications of everything, we can also think of this in terms of governmental outcomes. Because those that are impacted the most by changes to the law (ie: removal of VICs and vouching) will tend to be among the most-disadvantaged people in the country, their voices will be excised more than they already are from the collective decision making process that is a general election. This means that politicians will not need to listen to the needs of those people when making making public decisions (Lutz and Marsh, 2007), which in turn augments the power of the already-privileged group (Lijphart, 1997). While some scholars have debated the empirical veracity of such claims (Rosema, 2007 as well as Pettersen and Rose, 2007), the fact remains that there would be serious and disproportionately distributed democratic silences, which in Canada would likely mean the replication of power by certain parties and interests (cough). 

In any case, the FEA puts up meaningful barriers to participation, which is anti-democratic by nature, but it also has other provisions with pernicious implications for Canada’s democratic health. In terms of an aggregation of resources the topic, UBC has a pretty good one going at: http://www.democracy.arts.ubc.ca/fairelectionsact/ 

Lijphart, Arend. 1997. “Unequal Participation: Democracy’s Unresolved Dilemma.” American
Political Science Review 91(1): 1-14.

Lutz, George and Michael Marsh. 2007. “Introduction: Consequences of Low Turnout.”
Electoral Studies 
26(3): 539-547.

Pateman, Carole. 1970. Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Pettersen, Per Arnt and Lawrence E. Rose. 2007. “The dog that didn’t bark: Would increased
electoral turnout make a difference?” Electoral Studies 26(3): 574-588.

Rosema, Martin. 2007. “Low Turnout: Threat to Democracy or Blessing in Disguise?
Consequences of Citizens’ varying tendencies to vote.” Electoral Studies 26(3): 612-623.

Artistic Practises of Fourth Wave Feminism: Expressions on and off stage

Despite the rise of prominent feminist media: Bitch and Ms., online sites such as Jezebel and Gender Focus, fourth wave ‘zines, radio programs, and other alt media sources—the conversation about everyday sexism, misogyny and harassment has stayed out of mainstream media in a real way for years. Certain events – those that shock “us” into taking a hard look at how prominent slut-shaming, harassment, sexual assault, and other tactics used to silence women are, break that barrier so often imposed by editors of major media sources in North America.

That self-imposed silence is beginning to crack; evidence of the burgeoning desire to have a conversation about feminism in a way that is inclusive and genuine is demonstrated by the increased number of mainstream and alternative media who are giving column space to those conversations. A cry for stronger feminist icons by Guardian writer Daisy Buchanan runs only days after the same news outlet runs an op-ed by Chvrches front woman about the misogyny she faces daily from her “fans” and haters alike.

Internationally loved Canadian based signer and young fashion icon Grimes wrote an intense and bluntly honest blog post in April of 2013. She unleashed a lot in her short post—her hatred for mansplaining, the feeling of fear and concern for her safety, the infantilization she deals with, and the constant judgement that because she is young and a woman she must need guidance. Bluntly she says, “I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if I did this by accident and i’m gonna flounder without them,” and illustrating the sexual harassment she faces as a female musician, “I’m tired of creeps on message boards discussing whether or not they’d ‘f—’ me.”

In a conversation with Brittany Griffiths of Lethbridge based Fist City she identified challenges of being in male dominated spaces and playing on bills where she is one of few self identified women. While Fist City explores ideas of gender, sexuality, and privilege in their music—it is not explicitly their core purpose. They are, like most artists, making music they love. And like many artists Brittany works through various outlets to confront misogyny. “I recently contributed an article to a local queer and feminist zine on white male privilege and my experience growing up as a woman of colour in the predominantly white-male dominated punk scene. A lot of people aren’t even aware, or refuse to recognize that white privilege and male privilege exist in society and by extension within the music scene.” While artists like Brittany use these outlets to speak out against oppression, there remains a discomfort when confronting actions in their present time and place. She notes, “I would like to feel more comfortable in male dominated spaces but sometimes it can be difficult to penetrate the ‘boys club’ mentality.”

Sexism is no new thing in the music industry. Many bands have made their bread and butter by treating women like sexual props, and treating themselves like examples of virility. Reducing male and female relationships in a hyper-sexualized, objectified context that always maintains male privilege above all else. The Riot Grrrl movement of the late eighties/early nineties, fought back—fighting in the punk/garage rock scenes—public spaces that are still very male dominated. Feminist and Queer icons like Kathleen Hanna, Don Pyle, Fifth Column, Peaches, Patti Smith and the many more loud and proud persons set the stage and inspired young men and women to become rock stars in their own right.

While these icons have moved into new expressions (perhaps less radical expressions), they have not been forgotten or left behind. Clearly the current movements in public artistic space are not out to re-create past action or do again what has been done. It is necessary for this recent wave of anti-oppression expression to take a different context. Building on the work from these past artistic movements, artists are making statements outside of their predominant art forms. Chvrches doesn’t explicitly write and perform for the sake of gendered art—they exists in a broader context of music and art – but that didn’t stop Lauren Mayberry from writing her post about her experiences. Not to say radical feminist art isn’t happening. It is. Alive, well and kicking, but there are also radical feminists taking back back space in other venues and platforms.

There are those artists that do openly define themselves are radical feminists, like Martiné Menard from Calgary’s Hag Face and The Slabs. A well known and respected member of the Alberta music scene, she has played in a number of notable bands—some explicitly feminist and some not. The struggle though is that in order to be seen as a feminist band or musician there is an assumption women will only play with other women. She notes, “I don’t want to feel like in order to be supported as a woman in music that I have to play lead or always be in an all-girl band.”

The understanding that misogyny is all too present is the core of what seems to be driving these strong artists to speak out. Not only through their music but also in ways that reach wider, and different audiences. Taking back the front stage is still a struggle, but it is a struggle that extends off stage as well. The solidarity shown by bandmates and fellow artists is always noted and well appreciated. It is that solidarity and it is this wave of activism that will continue to struggle for gender equality—on stage and off.

Originally published on National Music Centre blog October 29th, 2013. 

A new face for Elect Lethbridge

It is time for me to publicly hand over Elect Lethbridge to its current main contributor: Kim Siever.

It was 2010 when I first started Elect Lethbridge. I was freelancing, and the managing editor of a small paper in town and went looking for a site that could give the quick and dirty of what was happening with municipal politics. And, since there was none, need beget creation.

The aim was two-fold: to provide local, thorough, and critical coverage of the municipal election race, and to create a citizen driven medium to encourage discourse about local politics. It was as simple as a bulletin board – a bulletin board that hosted live blogs of every major forum the city had to offer.

The 2010 municipal election gave plenty of content to the site, and soon the site was receiving thousands of visitors. After the municipal election, myself and other contributors covered the provincial and the federal elections – illustrating how truly all politics is local. Since 2010, it has remained an important place to access information about Lethbridge’s politics and during campaign cycles the site continues to get thousands of visits a day.

I enjoyed many opportunities through founding and managing Elect Lethbridge. I quickly networked into a slew of local politicians, media and the many brilliant people who work behind the scenes. I was able to provide a medium, a bulletin board, about local politics to the community. I found a way to share my passion for local politics, and saw quickly that I wasn’t alone.

However, as the 2013 municipal race heats up – if I am going to stay true to the principles of Elect Lethbridge, it is time for me to formally step away. I no longer live in the city, and can no longer dedicate the time and detail to covering Lethbridge politics in the way that Lethbridge deserves.

Since the beginning of the 2013 municipal race, coverage content creation and management of the site has been handled by Kim Siever, and since I am no longer local, Kim Siever will be taking over the management of the site full time from here on out.

Thank you Lethbridge for showing me that I wasn’t yelling into the wind. Keep on asking questions, and expect nothing but the most passionate and dedicated people to represent you.

Cope’ing with it

Tonight, a community of amazing people are gathering to remember Adam Cope. There are innumerable ways to describe him, none of them seem good enough. I cannot be in Edmonton tonight but I send all my love and strength there – where once again Adam will bring together a group of passionate, caring and inspiring people. That was only one of his gifts.

There are many things I want to say, but tonight all I have is this: A Love poem.

There is no readiness for the end, when the finale is only after the first act.

Still “is” and “here” and “can” and “will” and …

16, meeting you suddenly and under innocently false pretences. Then, again, in a different space and a different time.Then, again, new and old worlds colliding.

My friends have excellent taste. They chose both of us. From equal worlds of love and support, they chose both of us.

I pretended to be someone exciting, and you chose to see that I was exciting

Years of friendship drifting through different cities, different times and places.

You remind me of favourite stories and poems – some I know, some I knew and some I will. Yarns and tales whispered and shouted. Imaginations unbound by convention. Dark and light, happy and twisted, powerful and shallow…

Contradictions defined happily by delight at everyone else’s amusement.

Creator of smiles and laughter and tears and arguments and second guesses and first glances and second thoughts and deeper meanings and play and longing and desire and frustration. Perfectly human. Perfectly fallible. Perfect in every contradiction.

There are many crystalized moments. Like the last. A ferris wheel overlooking a kingdom you were secretly the king of. A secret only to you – everyone else already saw it in their glass balls. Lights blurred and you sat there with a true love of us both.

You played every part so well, you must have lived a thousand lives. Maybe that is why you had to leave. So very tired of being here and now and there and then.

Perhaps your spirit is living anew. Perhaps you are finally resting. Perhaps the run is truly over – a last bow to your faithful, loving audience. But you don’t owe me any explanation.

Thank you. I love you. I will and I can and I do.

NMC Review: Born Ruffians – ‘Birthmarks’

FTWL: The Dudes, Wolf Parade, Hidden Cameras, Fleet Foxes, Peter, Bjorn and John, Paul Simon

I was on a bus heading to Montreal from Ottawa. My train had been cancelled because of a rogue tree branch and it was nothing but grey skies and a mid-April snow to look at for the next three hours while we trundled down the highway. I was bummed. I slipped on headphones, and pressed play on Born Ruffians‘ Birthmarks while sliding into my seat – ready to fall asleep not looking forward to reaching my destination. Then, this Toronto foursome threw a little love in my direction.

Maximizing catchy, poppy hooks that roll around pleasantly and sunny synths that give off so much mellow, Birthmarks is Born Ruffians third album and this one has had fans on the hook for a good while. In a style that Born Ruffians is making very much their own, this record is all about slinky pop rhythms that encourage lazy, long drives and slow sways. Rife with indecision and forbidden loves, tracks like “Cold Pop” and “6-5000” are reminiscent of school dances – or at the very least, reminiscent of the school dances teenagers lived vicariously through while watching Degrassi Junior High alone on Saturday nights.

Since releasing their first EP on Warp Records in 2005, Born Ruffians have had no shortage of positive expectations. Embraced into the Canadian family of small record labels and just-scraping-by label mates, these four Toronto gents have moved their way into the Canadian indie pop scene with shimmery sounds, muted beats and the backdrop to day dreaming.

Birthmarks recalls a bit of the mid-2000s when new indie pop reigned supreme and each new act challenged what could constitute a catchy hook, or a danceable beat. “Rage Flows” and “With Her Shadow”borrow from influences like Paul Simon and Hidden Cameras. Like all good pop albums,Birthmarks isn’t without darkness and the lyrics of improbable love and sadness mellow on top of the blended instrumentation. It moves slowly and casually from one track to the next, without rush or care. A pretty perfect companion to walking home at 4:00 a.m. in the coolness of early summer mornings, or on a solo drive to somewhere or something promising – sometimes an album doesn’t need to stop you in its tracks to leave a mark on you. Born Ruffians achieve that slow release with Birthmarks. It catches you, and reminds you of gentler times but above all it provides that perfect moment when you can close your eyes and just let life wash over you.

With the album out today on Paper Bag Records, Born Ruffians are hitting the road for their pre-festival album release tour, and while there are no Canadian dates there are plenty of cities close enough to the border to make the drive. Luckily, this Saturday is Record Store Day so if you can wait a few more days you can purchase this new release AND support your local, independent record store. Everyone wins!

(Originally published April 16th, 2013 on the National Music Centre weekly feature, “New Release Tuesday”)

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NMC Review: Apparat Organ Quartet – ‘Pólýfónía’

FTWL: Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Shout Out Out Out Out

Organ quartets are few and far between in our modern age of synth boards and the many incredible things one can do with a laptop. But since 1999, Iceland-based Apparat Organ Quartet have created incredible, intense and ever shifting musical arrangements by pounding out on an organ. They brings the depth, richness and tonal sincerity that so many gear heads strive to reach in their endless looping and adjusting. The key lies in their not-so-secret weapon: honest to goodness analog keyboards. Drawing comparisons to Kraftwerk and Motörhead, they are once again dropping jaws with the complex arrangements, rich instrumentation and range presented in Pólýfónía. 

Incredibly, every note on Pólýfónía – as in their previous releases – is played by hand, no sequencers or computers. Self-described as “mechanical rock and roll”, Apparat Organ Quartet exclusively uses keyboards from their vast collection of analog musical equipment. While knowing what happens behind the music creates a stronger sense of awe for Pólýfónía, the range they manage to fit into one album is truly amazing.

Glitchy (mechanically so), poppy vocoders, robot like vocals and complex instrumental melodies all lead into a head banging crescendo before fading into a moment of calm only to ramp back up faster and harder than before. It’s a smashed-together electronica dance party with a metal band playing over each track. It sounds like it couldn’t work in theory, but in practice, it is fast and fun. It gives meat to the thin sounds expected out of synths – no looping required.

“Cargo Frakt” employs funky robotic sounding vocals, simple melodies and pounding intervals of intensity – almost preparing the listener for something unexpected. Not only is it incredible to hear this dancy, electronic style being filled out with true organ tones and pounding hard-rock influenced drums, but each track goes to a different place, sometimes more than one. “Songur Geimunglingsins” channels Phillip Glass, Stereolab, David Bowie and Frank Zappa. It isn’t often that those artists all come to mind in a single track. Apparat Organ Quartet is an incredible gem and the creations that have emerged are strangely beautiful and quite certainly hypnotizing.

Apparat Organ Quartet will be bringing all their glory to Canadian Music Festival, playing three different showcases March 20, 22 and 23 in Toronto. Not a show to miss. Even if it is just to witness these artists play their way through a maze of Russian analog synths, semi-working Hammond organs and any number of altered Casios.

NMC Review: Nadja “Dagdrøm”

A perfect winter album, Dagdrøm is dark, ominous and fuzzy. Nadja releases a true to form ambient sludge-rock album as their first full length LP since the 2010  Autopergamene. Aidan Baker  and Leah Buckareff – originally from Toronto and now based in Berlin, combine talents with The Jesus Lizard’s Mac McNeilly. Dagdrøm features McNeilly to his full potential, easing away from the drum machine in favour of his well suited percussion styles.

Not unlike a long, cold walk in the late darkness of a January morning, Dagdrøm pushes the listener into the darkness – encouraging imagined dangers. The beauty of this fuzzy, drone esque sludge-rock album is the technicality and instrumentation, holding the listener spell bound. It moves through each track as if they are movements. The album itself is suspenseful. “One Sense Alone”is heavy, until those last few minutes when it softens and lulls you into a sense of security – the kind of security you imagine you might have after defeating some adrenaline causing spook . Only to know that it won’t be long before another one floats into your radar.

There is a lot of deep dark something-ness to Nadja usually, and the more structured nature of this release only amplifies that. You feel something is coming. It excites you as much as it concerns you. There is a somewhat dangerous feeling to Dagdrøm. Like when it is gets very cold and very dark all too early. The title track is a heavy mix of almost over bearing layers of noise and fuzz. “Space Time and Absence” finishes the album – a warm light after the long walk. Yellow and burning in a space not so distant.

Nadja makes sense for Berlin – or at least for the romanticized visuals of living in punk squats and writing drone-rock. Dagdrøm makes just as much sense for these dark Canadian winters. Where temperatures get equally unbearable and exhilarating. A really interesting album that rockets the listener away from those shiny summer tunes into a darkly beautiful reality.

Order it for yourself here.

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