Space is still the place

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I don’t know if it’s the grey days, frigid temperatures or being thrust into darkness for 18-hour stretches, but I tend to reach for my drone and experimental music at this time of year. Luckily, two perfect soundtracks to these dark and dreary days just arrived in my mailbox.

First up is yet another great release from prolific experimental label Utech: VagusNerve’s Go Back to the Sirius. Given Utech’s recent output from droned-out psychonauts like Owwl, Oikos Ecotono and Sky Burial, anticipation ran high, and thankfully VagusNerve’s quest for deep space does the mighty Utech proud. With vocals, guitar and electronics, the duo proudly launch into their space ritual on the opener “The Memory of Light,” which is guaranteed to transfix any fan of drone, avant garde, experimental electronic music and psych. Over the three tracks, which clock in at a weighty hour, VagusNerve commandeer our travels with alternately heavy hands and savvy restraint, and the minutes fly by. While the laptop-generated electronics beam through the stratosphere with high frequency sweeps and bleeps, it’s the squelch-filled guitar that keeps things nicely grounded. A perfect soundtrack for the headphone heads out there. Download chumps will be bummed, as this comes with absolutely gorgeous artwork, which has become standard for Utech releases.

Up next is the pairing of Cluster/Harmonia’s Dieter Moebius with musique concrete/experimental artist Asmus Tietchens on European label Bureau-B. On their self-titled debut release, it sounds as though these two legends of electronic experimental music have been playing together their whole lives. Things are kept short and sweet throughout the 13 tracks, some of them bearing little relation to each other; it’s as if the band reinvents itself repeatedly. Moods can change abruptly within pieces as well, jamming gears from plodding beats to ethereal soundscapes in a heartbeat. If you’re a fan of Moebius’s work with Cluster, Harmonia and Eno, you will have a hard time picking him out here as his signature is pushed into the background as he lets a new side emerge.

If you’re feeling the chill and looking for the perfect mid-winter soundtrack, these two releases are just perfect.

For those of you who aren’t down with clamping on the headphones for the drones, blips and bleeps, there’s a variety of shows happening this week to chase away your winter blues:

Tuesday – My pick of the week happens tonight at Il Motore with the dark, brooding and haunting voice of Chelsea Wolfe. This could be the perfect January gig. King Dude will be warming up Ms. Wolfe’s stage.

Wednesday – If you’re missing some serious twang, you better dig yer shit-kickers out for the Sonny Best Band with Laurel Jackson at l’Esco.

Also happening is the improv piano of Charity Chan with her quartet that features free music legend and no wave lecturer Weasel Walter with Peter Evans and Tom Blancarte at Casa.

Thursday – If you’re down with disjointed skronk rock repetition you can catch the Beefheartian jams of Arrington de Dionyso with Pon De Replay and Orchestra the Shiny Tiger at Casa.

For the progressive metalheads out there, you can be the first to hear the new Voivod record Target Earth at Café Chaos between 8 and 10 p.m.

Friday – Friday’s best bet would be catch a night of electronic, prog, krautrock, soundtrack music and other psych gems when DJ Nao Identificado mans the turntables at Casa.

Saturday – At l’Esco, you can catch the fucked up punk of Crabe when they open for Videoville.

Sunday – The ongoing series Sake of the Songs picks up its stakes from its regular digs at le Cagibi and sets them down on new ground at la Gruta Centre Culturel Mile End. This Sunday night, Jackie Gallant, Allan Lento, Patrick Hutchinson and others perform material from the Canadian folk songbook.

Monday – Probably the biggest news this week would be the reunion of Hot Water Music. See them prove they haven’t lost their teeth at the Olympia Theatre with la Dispute and the Menzingers. ■

Current obsession: Owwl, Dark Places
jonathan.cummins@gmail.com

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