Review: LAPS (ep release) w Cellarghost, nightbummerz & WHOOP-Szo

Category: music 450

April 1, 2016 | The Capital Complex | Fredericton

By sophia bartholomew
nightbummerz. Photo: Penelope Stevens @penelopaaay
nightbummerz. Photo: Penelope Stevens @penelopaaay

As I’m walking down to The Capital, the grit on the sidewalks is making me think of the sand and the stones left behind by retreating glaciers. The air has turned warm today, and all of the snow is melting. The clock at Fredericton’s City Hall starts to chime: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… eleven. I’m definitely late for the show. When I walk into the bar, the whole front part of the room is empty because every single person is crowded up in the front of the stage, basking in the music, totally enraptured.

WHOOP-Szo is playing, and this marks the start their month-long residency with Flourish festival, here in Fredericton. Adam tells us that WHOOP-Szo translates to ‘the noisy mountain’, and during the low parts of the next song I am thinking about valleys and meadows, about open spaces and the feeling of tall grasses touching my limbs. Cavernous air and lilting melodies opening up between heavy walls of sound. All of their noises are so carefully crafted. They are solid and certain, like stones, they are stones, mountains of noise.

“My cousin Gerry was shot by a cop.” Adam’s earnest anger colours this simple phrase, opening and closing the next song. He tells us how his cousin was shot and killed in his own home by a police officer, how nothing was ever done about it, and I wonder what justice is. Whose interests are these systems serving?

I’m thinking about how different it was to hear these same songs played in August last year, for the Shifty Bits Circus: first at Wilser’s Room, and then at the ShiftWork studio. I’m thinking about how songs are living things, and so are the bodies that make them. I’m thinking that everything is always shifting and changing. Moons and suns and stars, passing through the sky.

At some point, Kirsten from WHOOP-Szo is sending her voice out through a vocoder, and there’s something about this type of distortion that connects with the music that nightbummerz are making. Their drum line is holding down something steady, but everything else is moving erratically inside of those lines. The bass and guitar sounds are all tangled up, converging and diverging, building up layered sounds and discordant melodies. There’s something light and relaxed about it, but I think that’s just their physical demeanour. Cameron has a low and floating voice… It’s spooky. These sounds are spooky.

I’m thinking about a conversation I had with a friend about illegibility. About the impossibility of ever knowing each other. About how disguises might be used as protection, but how they might also be about truth. Because sometimes it’s better to speak beside the facts than it is to speak about them. You know, I know it’s not their kick drum, but there’s something about the drum’s gold-hued glitter that helps me understand what nightbummerz are doing.

Wait, aren’t we all just doing the same thing? I haven’t ever thought of Cellarghost’s songs as conventional, but now that I’m listening to them alongside these other bands, there is something structured about their music that is striking and consistent. The songs aren’t formulaic, but still, I can easily follow along with the ordering of the sounds. Things build up, speed up, slow down, but I am always well prepared for the changes. You know, their set feels like a real oasis, in amongst all the other structural irregularity and experimentation.

“I’ll fall in line, I’ll fall in line,” Carter sings, and it feels as though I am walking, falling in step with an old friend. He shares a strange anecdote. “This next one goes out to a friend of mine from high school who has amnesia now. He was riding around in a bus, playing for a hockey team, when a cooler fell down and knocked him on the head. He doesn’t remember anyone anymore,” Carter describes. “I just hope he’s gonna be alright.”

Hold on. Cognitive dissonance. Is that what that’s called? The discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory ideas or values at the same time? The theory is that humans strive for internal consistency, but (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance) I don’t know if I buy it.

LAPS are so smooth. LAPS are also a good image. Running laps, swimming laps, turning in circles, one stroke at a time. The light refracting through the water, and the rhythms of waves lapping on the shore. Each of their instruments is circling through complicated patterns, around and around. Then abruptly, all together, they take a step into something else: something heavier, lighter, faster, slower. There are changes in density. There is a guitar, a guitar, a bass guitar, drums. Tonight is the release for their EP “eyelet/islet.” Four shiny new tracks for purchase as a cassette tape, or as a postcard, a download code.

“Next day, you’ll say, let’s go, this way…” The effects running through Heather’s microphone are making her voice sound ethereal. At times it sounds pressing and charged, sometimes it sounds dreamy, other times it is eerie and tormented. Painful. Polished and intricate – I don’t know how else to describe what they do.

We all have different reasons.

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