#festivalseason - Atmosphere Gathering - Eclectic grooves and community vibes.

Nestled right in the middle of beautiful, tiny Cumberland, BC in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is one of BC's music festival gems, The Atmosphere Gathering. It's a place where community can flourish, a family-friendly camping festival that's quickly established itself as one of the most sonically diverse musical events this side of the Rockies. It seems like an oxymoron, but the Atmosphere Gathering is a laid-back rager – perfect for those who wanna dance in the day and get to bed at a reasonable hour, or those who wanna dance their faces off late into the night. If you're looking for the perfect cap for the summer festival season in BC, there aren't too many better choices than Atmosphere. Last week the festival released its first line-up announcement, featuring 20 acts, live and electronic, crossing genres but keeping its roots in rhythm and groove. There's a lot for a music-lover to get excited about but here are the first four acts that jumped out to my groove-seeking soul.

Atmosphere Gathering takes places Aug. 18-20 in Cumberland. Tickets and more lineup details HERE.

Applecat

I had heard and seen the name Applecat popping up at events all over the West Coast, until I finally got the chance to see her incredible set at Rifflandia 2016, here in Victoria. I hadn't heard anything like it and I don't think I have since. It was an enthralling set of dense, earthy bass music that at the time I couldn't describe. Frankly, I still don't think I can do her music justice. It needs to be experienced. All the Soundcloud tags say “dubstep” but her music is more atmospheric, theatrical and sexy than any dubstep I've ever heard. It's impossibly deep and shadowy sounding music – I imagine that if smoke pouring through a keyhole could make music, it would sound like Applecat. The worldbeat flourishes she uses to pepper her music help her beats stand out, leap out of the speakers with an intensely unique flavour.

Slynk

I've lost count of how many times I've seen Slynk. I've also lost count of the number of times I've been utterly impressed with Slynk. (Take this, for example, from the first ever time I saw him rock the party.) Over the last few years he's evolved from his Ghetto Funk roots, adding more and more influences and weapons into his arsenal. Just stroll through and sample his already ridiculous output from 2017 – a hard hitting drum 'n' bass track “People Get Up” (w/ Granular Sumo), a straight-up old-school hip-hop track “So Cool” (w/ Illvis Freshly), the ultra-slick nu-disco groover “Disco Operator,” to name just a few – and you'll get a glimpse of the scope of the good homie's many talents. On any given night a Slynk set will traverse a staggering array of genres, but it'll always be funky and bouncier than a trampoline. There's a strong possibility of this being the most straight-up fun set at Atmosphere this year. Do not miss this.

CloZee

Hands down, CloZee is the most exciting glitch-hop producer on planet Earth right now. Her tracks and mixes are sure-fire body-movers, across the board. The French producer is an expert at mining for the deepest of grooves. There are few DJ sets I've seen that have engaged me so quickly and easily. Watching her engage with the music as she moves and sways behind her midi-board, pounding out those groovy, thumping, tribal beats is something indescribably special. Her debut performance at the legendary electronic-Mecca Shambhala was the most captivating thing I saw at the festival last year, a set that I've been sending to anyone who will listen. Pick an EP, a single, a mix...it doesn't matter. If it's got CloZee's name on it, either your body is swaying or your head is bobbing. If you listen to CloZee, you will move.

Astrocolor

In life and in music, I am a big supporter aggressive weirdness. Hence, I'm a big supporter of Astrocolor. I mean, how many times do you become aware of a band because they put out an album of all-original Christmas music? A Christmas album that sounds great at any time of year? What even is that? The Victoria outfit makes live, vibrant yet atmospheric dance music, perfect for those of us who enjoy the rhythms of electronic music but the engagement that comes from watching a live band. This is an enormously talented group of cats together making utterly unique, completely enthralling and ridiculously slick dance music.

Hello people of Earth! Meet K+Lab, your reigning Intergalactic Funk Champion!

In the few years I've been listening to K+Lab, I just plainly assumed that he was an alien – an intergalatic traveller with the funky secrets of the universe, merely stopping by Earth to enrich the funkless lives of our planets inhabitants.. His brand of sonic electronic goodness is impossibly heavy, thoroughly disorienting and frankly sounds like it came from another bloody dimension. But no, he's just a normal, albeit super-funky, dude from New Zealand. His performances are impossibly heavy forays into deep space funk, as he's up on the stage, funkifying unsuspecting crowds with his producer/DJ rig and the keytar that's become something of a signature.

“People really get excited when they see the keytar,” notes K+Lab. It was the same excitement that immediately gripped him when he first discovered this powerful part of his arsenal. “I was just walking down the street one day and I saw the keytar in a shop window. I walked past it then turned around and walked back and thought, 'Well, that's gotta be mine, now.' It chose me.” It was as simple as that. A warrior found his weapon and the rest, as they say, is history.

Read More

5 Questions with Rags #49 - The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer (Shawn Hall, The Harpoonist)

The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer have been the most exciting, innovative west coast blues act for awhile now. The need to have my face blasted off overtakes me fairly often, and these two cats have been a go-to since I first got the stellar A Real Fine Mess into my ears a few years ago. A few months ago I caught the video for “Forever Fool,” (Which is amazing and you watch it now) the first single from their latest album, Apocalipstick. That's also when I found out the title for the their new album, Apocalipstick. What was that title?! What was happening to this bad-ass blues band that I loved so much?! Then I listened to the album and sweet Jesus, it's the most perfect title for maybe the duo's most bad-ass record yet.

“I used to fool around with this line that said, 'She kept me up all night in a post-apocalipstick, she held me in her fingers like a chicken in a chopstick.'” says Shawn Hall, the Harpoonist, talking to me from Regina, a brief stop in the band's current tour. “Matt [Rogers, The Axe Murderer] came up with the name for the record. It's like the inescapable grip of road life, the grip of that style of relationship people can have – the toxicity, the skin-deepness of that kind of allure,” explains Hall. “It's open to a lot of interpretation but that was where Apocalipstick stemmed from. You think about what's going on what whores we are for attention on such a minute level of detail, then moving on to the next thing. This vast, vacant consumption of everything.” Apocalipstick is a goddamned burner, their finest album yet. And that's saying a lot.

“We've been working on it forever. It's not a dinner party record. We don't fucking care. I hadn't listened to it for a bit until we got it on vinyl and I was like, 'Holy shit, that sounds wild!' I totally forgot.” With the release of a new record comes a new tour, and this one is unlike anything the band has done. “We're just making sure we can really bring it. Being able to bring these new songs on the road with a second drummer is unreal. People are just used to hearing Matt play the drums with feet and now they can hear Matt with his feet plus the drummer behind him who's also playing bass synth with his left hand, and singing backups. You can't join our band and just play one instrument. You gotta be able to do the whole thing!”

1. What's your best memory of an elementary or high school teacher?

The best memory I have is when I was 19, my grade 8 school teacher sat down next to me at the Alma Combo in Toronto. I was watching Albert Collins, the blues guitar legend. Right after my teacher sat down next to me, the Black Crowes, the fucking Black Crowes at the peek of their heyday, sat down next to me at an empty table. That wasn't a teaching moment, but it was a pretty unique experience.

2. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

The first album I bought with my own money was the soundtrack to Stayin' Alive. Stayin' Alive was not Saturday Night Fever, but it was the sequel. And it was horrible.

Read More

5 Questions with Rags #48 - Steve Raskin of Fort Knox Five

I've written extensively about the effect Fort Knox Five has had on my listening habits. (Here and here and here and here.) One of my entry points into electronic music, FK5 remains a staple of my listening diet to this day. Their Funk the World series is an endless stream of funky greatness. Their albums and remixes are always relentlessly funky and instantly accessible. When I start to get sucked into the world of ultra-heavy, mostly-dark bass music, Fort Knox Five is right there to lighten things, splash some colour into my ears and get me back to the roots of Funk. In all this time pouring their music into my ears, writing about and even interview FK5, Steve Raskin has escaped me. I finally managed to catch up with him at home in DC during a brief break before he's back out into the world, back to my beloved Canadian West Coast - Including two HUGE shows in Vancouver on 4/14 with Shambhala vets Spiltmilk and Hoola at FIVESIXTY, then a funky-skunky 4/20 party in Victoria at Distrikt.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

The fist album I bought with my own money was the soundtrack to The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. I remember being fascinated with all the psychedelic imagery and singable songs that I still listen to.

2. If you could spend the day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

I would have killed to have been able to spend a day with David Bowie. Pretty sure I would have just nodded my head and not said a word no matter what we were doing!

3. What's your most positive memory of a school teacher growing up?

My grandmother was an art teacher and convinced me at an early age that you can do art for a living… Blew my little mind!

Photo by Oberto Photography. 

Photo by Oberto Photography

4. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

This year I tried Yoga for the first time. For real...

5. I always get a guest question from the last answerer, but today you get two! The first one is from Dan aka FxFarmer of Funkanomics... What means LOVE to you?

Love the wording of this question from one of the funkiest Germans I know….

LOVE - colours everything you do - the good and the bad - taking you to high highs and low lows - and always worth the journey

6. The second guest question is from the actual last answerer of the questions...Singer/songwriter/ruffian B.A. Johnston asks.... Which 80s wrestler best describes your sound?

Andre the Giant - because he’s larger than life!

Upon doing a bit more reading after his interview, I realized that Raskin is also part of THUNDERBALL! Don't know how that one slipped by me, but either way, listen to this fresh Thunderball track!

#festivalseason - Shambhala dropped the lineup for Year 20. I am immediately discombobulated with excitement.

Deep in the Kootenay mountains, on the Salmo River Ranch, Shambhala Music Festival has grown from a small party to a six-staged, laser-reinforced party Voltron, powered by the thousands of beautiful, open-minded, peace-seeking dance enthusiasts that flock to it every year. About to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, Shambhala has once again put together an over-stuffed lineup of the finest in international and local electronic artists, covering nearly every imaginable nook and cranny under the “electronic/bass music” umbrella. With two of the six stages set to under from-the-ground-up reconstruction, the physicality of the festival is ready to take a change, even after some really nice upgrades from last year (ie: Next-level lasering and that huge garden upgrade right in the middle of the Festival. Lovely.).

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

There are a lot of familiar names coming back to celebrate the big 2-0 and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Familiar faces like STICKYBUDS, EXCISION, JPOD the BEAT CHEF, NEON STEVE, SMALLTOWN DJs and SLYNK return back home for their annual throwdowns, while old vets like KRAFTY KUTS, DEEKLINE, STANTON WARRIORS, MARTEN HØRGER and ED SOLO all make triumphant returns to the FARM. Fresh faces like REZZ and HAYWYRE (Okay, they both debuted last year, but that's still pretty fresh considering we're at year 20), POMO (The man responsible for the beats on “Dang!” and “Am I Wrong?,” two of the best songs of 2016) and, the dance gods have looked down upon me and blessed me with my #1 Shambhala wish for 2017, THE POLISH AMBASSADOR finally makes the trip up to the Farm to hold court for all us deep-groove seekers. To help make things just a little bit easier, Rags Music has compiled a short playlist to help power the early steps of sonic research, or really, just some tunes to get you groovin' and in the mood. This list will surely continue to grow in the coming weeks and months. Only the top of the pyramid has been revealed thus far.

Your Shambhala 20 Headliners... More artists to be announced when stage-by-stage lineup releases start on April 17.

Tickets are sold out, because they sold in a mere 16 hours last September! If you are buying resale tickets please be careful and take precautions to avoid scammers! And Good Luck. If you were lucky and smart enough to get your tickets back in that short window, GET YOUR DANCING SHOES READY. IT'S GONNA BE A SPECIAL YEAR.

Photo by Xavier Photography. 

Photo by Xavier Photography