Bri­tish dance-mu­sic duo Gor­gon City says its King­dom pro­ject is more than an al­bum or a col­lec­tion of sep­a­rate tracks; it’s a brand.

Gor­gon City re­leased King­dom’s tracks sep­a­rately, but to­gether the songs form a com­plete pro­ject

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - > BY KATE WIL­SON

The dig­i­tal era changed ev­ery­thing about mu­sic—both how it’s con­sumed and how it’s re­leased. But while a num­ber of artists sim­ply switched from putting out al­bums on vinyl and CDS to stream­ing on Spo­tify and itunes, pro­duc­ers like Gor­gon City went one step fur­ther. Reimaging the scope of the con­ven­tional al­bum for­mat, the Bri­tish duo is re­vis­ing what it means to put out mu­sic as a col­lec­tion with its King­dom pro­ject.

“Some­times when you’re writ­ing an al­bum it can get frus­trat­ing when you’ve worked on a track, fin­ished it, and then have to wait for the la­bel to fig­ure out what to do with it,” Kye Gib­bon, half of Gor­gon City, tells the Straight on the line from Lon­don, Eng­land. “Be­cause we’re tour­ing so much, when we have a song done, we want to get it out there. We fig­ured out that it would work to our ad­van­tage to re­lease each of them one at a time.

“There are a num­ber of pos­i­tives,” he con­tin­ues. “Putting out each track sep­a­rately gives them their own space as well as their own at­ten­tion. It lets us write mu­sic that takes in a lot of dif­fer­ent styles. There’s songs like ‘Blue Par­rot’, which is a straightup dark, techy club track, and there are things that are much more house. They’re all linked to­gether by their heavy bot­tom end, and a fo­cus on the bass. To­gether, they form a full al­bum.”

In­no­va­tion has been a vi­tal part of the duo’s ca­reer since they first hit the Top 10 in their home coun­try with club banger “Ready for Your Love”. Tak­ing U.K. rave mu­sic—jun­gle, drum ’n’ bass, garage, and grime—as ref­er­ence points, Gib­bon and fel­low DJ and pro­ducer Matt Rob­son-scott traded in their solo ca­reers to pur­sue Gor­gon City full-time. It’s proven to be a good de­ci­sion. Scor­ing a res­i­dency at Ibiza’s premier Am­ne­sia club, tour­ing in over 30 coun­tries, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with every­one from Jen­nifer Hud­son to Duke Du­mont, the pair is fill­ing big­ger and big­ger dance floors around the world.

Gib­bon puts the fi­nal num­ber of re­leases for King­dom at 16, and hints that a bun­dle of tracks will be re­leased to­gether early next year. That’s not where the con­cept ends, though.

“King­dom has be­come more than an al­bum— it’s a bit of a brand now,” Gib­bon says. “We have par­ties that are called King­dom. We’ve done them at fes­ti­vals around the U.K. like South West Four and Cream­fields, in Mex­ico at BPM, and Florida’s Holy Ship! as well. We also started King­dom Ra­dio re­cently. It was an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a mix that goes out to a lot of dif­fer­ent coun­tries around the world. It was a bit daunt­ing to do a ra­dio show ev­ery week, but it means we have to dig more than if we were just do­ing club sets. It’s a great way to show­case artists’ mu­sic that we’re into.”

The King­dom brand also in­cor­po­rates the pair’s live per­for­mances. Set­ting them­selves apart from other elec­tronic-mu­sic duos, Gib­bon and Rob­son­scott have built a show that al­lows them to sep­a­rate their DJ sets from con­certs in non­club venues.

“We love Djing, and I think we’ll al­ways want to be Djing,” Gib­bon says. “But when it comes to do­ing a live set, we want to play mu­sic like a band. We have a live drum­mer and two singers. The drum­mer plays elec­tronic kits as well as acous­tic stuff, so he’s trig­ger­ing the kick drum, which is the same sound that we use in the pro­duc­tion. There are other acous­tic drums he can layer over the top. Me and Matt have a cou­ple of syn­the­siz­ers each, a MIDI key­board for play­ing bass lines on, and loads of dif­fer­ent se­quencers.

“When we do those shows, it adds a dif­fer­ent feel to the tracks,” he con­tin­ues. “Ev­ery­thing is a bit looser. There are cer­tain parts where we’ve de­lib­er­ately not got a plan. A cou­ple of tracks are lit­eral jams, and we can do what­ever we want. When­ever we’re play­ing our sin­gles or the tracks that every­one knows, some­times we might do it a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently. If a cer­tain cho­rus is go­ing down well, we might play that bit for longer, or add in ex­tra fills. It’s very spon­ta­neous, and it keeps every­one on their toes. We’re tak­ing the King­dom party around the world.” > KATE WIL­SON Gor­gon City plays at Celebri­ties on Fri­day (October 6).

Next Mu­sic From Tokyo show­cases a wide spec­trum of Ja­panese sounds

It might seem un­likely that an event as 2

nar­rowly fo­cused as Next Mu­sic From Tokyo will in­clude some­thing for al­most every­one, but con­sider the facts. The five acts that are part of this trav­el­ling minifes­ti­val, which sur­veys Ja­pan’s bur­geon­ing but lit­tle-known mu­si­cal un­der­ground, en­com­pass ev­ery­thing from the squeaky-clean pop princesses of Koutei Cam­era Girl Drei to the chaotic no-wave ex­per­i­men­tal­ists of o’sum­mer va­ca­tion to the un­fath­omably bril­liant math-rock vir­tu­osos of Nuito and Jy­ocho. So whether you show up to help in­au­gu­rate the new KW Stu­dios art space in the base­ment of the Wood­ward’s build­ing in a brand-new Lucy Heart­filia sun­dress, a stud­ded leather jacket, or a sun-faded Yes T-shirt, chances are that you’re go­ing to get your money’s worth.

Ac­tu­ally, at the rock-bot­tom price of $14 for ad­vance tick­ets or $20 at the door, that’s a given. But what links these bands? Ac­cord­ing to tour pro­moter Steven Tanaka, it’s just that he en­joys them all.

“In terms of bring­ing any acts to Canada through this tour, I have to re­ally like the mu­sic,” he ex­plains, check­ing in from his Toronto home. “And one other thing is that I tend to pick bands that make mu­sic I can emo­tion­ally con­nect with, that re­ally has some sort of im­pact.

“Well, emo­tional is maybe not the cor­rect term,” he adds, “but it has to get me sort of worked up or en­er­gized.”

An­other fac­tor in Tanaka’s pro­gram­ming is that he tries to book bands that only truly ob­ses­sive Ja­panese-mu­sic fans will have heard of. “For the most part, I try to avoid main­stream acts,” he ex­plains. “They’re usu­ally good mu­si­cians, and they can write good mu­sic, al­though it of­ten tends to be kind of cookie-cut­ter, fol­low­ing cer­tain pat­terns that are meant to ap­peal to the big­gest de­mo­graphic pos­si­ble. I tend to fo­cus more on the in­die-un­der­ground acts who are will­ing to take chances, to ex­per­i­ment, and to make mu­sic from the heart.”

Koutei Cam­era Girl Drei is one no­table ex­cep­tion. An ex­am­ple of what Tanaka calls “idol pop”, a sub­genre in­spired by singing-com­pe­ti­tion TV shows, the quar­tet is as slick and plas­tic as a chain res­tau­rant—per­haps be­cause it’s a fran­chise, too.

“There’s Koutei Cam­era Girl Drei, but there’s also Koutei Cam­era Girl Zwei, Koutei Cam­era Ac­tress… There are at least four dif­fer­ent acts us­ing the name,” Tanaka ex­plains. “From the lyri­cal stand­point, the girls don’t re­ally have any in­put. Also, in terms of pro­duc­ing the mu­sic it­self, they have a team of about six or seven track-mak­ers or beat­smiths that are tasked with com­ing up with in­stru­men­ta­tion for the songs. They’re sort of mys­te­ri­ous, be­cause only a cou­ple of them have di­vulged their real names or iden­ti­ties, but they’re a di­verse mix of DJS and in­stru­men­tal­ists.”

The other acts on the bill are more con­ven­tion­ally “in­die”, but their mu­sic is of­ten far more dar­ing than what most North Amer­i­can alt-rock acts are will­ing to pro­vide. Lovers of pro­gres­sive mu­sic will es­pe­cially want to check out Jy­ocho: fronted by the ex­tra­or­di­nary gui­tarist Dai­jiro Nak­a­gawa, the band in­hab­its mu­si­cal ter­rain some­where be­tween late-phase

Sonic Youth and peak-pe­riod King Crim­son, but with an odd sweetness all its own.

Just as re­mark­able as Jy­ocho’s mu­sic, how­ever, is that the Van­cou­ver-born Tanaka has been fund­ing Next Mu­sic From Tokyo, now in its 11th it­er­a­tion, out of his own pocket ever since its in­cep­tion in 2010.

“I’m prob­a­bly be­ing taken ad­van­tage of, to some de­gree,” he says, af­fa­bly enough. “But most of the mu­si­cians have part-time jobs, or they’re go­ing to school, or they’re re­ally just kind of scrap­ing by, so it’s just like, ‘Oh, what­ever; I’ll pay for it all.’ But I’m an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist. I make a very com­fort­able liv­ing, so I can use some of that money to pay for this ridicu­lous hobby.”

His loss is our gain. > ALEXAN­DER VARTY Next Mu­sic From Tokyo Vol. 11 takes place at KW Stu­dios on Wed­nes­day (October 11).

SHAHDJS marks 10 years of cre­at­ing pos­i­tive vibes

Count­less ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams 2

of­fer cour­ses in how to get into mu­sic pro­duc­tion, event man­age­ment, and pro­mo­tion. For SHAHDJS founder Wil­lis Lom­bard, who per­forms as Wil­li­sist, it was more im­por­tant to fol­low his in­tu­ition. Es­tab­lish­ing a seven-per­son drum ’n’ bass crew that has been in­stru­men­tal in re­vi­tal­iz­ing the Van­cou­ver bass mu­sic scene, the artist stum­bled upon a suc­cess­ful model by chance.

“Ten years ago, the ANZA Club was do­ing an open-decks ses­sion ev­ery Satur­day night,” Lom­bard tells the Straight, on the line from his home in the city. “A few of us knew each other, and we all just started go­ing there ev­ery week. It was pre­dom­i­nantly a tech-house night, and still is, but we would all show up and play drum ’n’ bass. It didn’t take long for us to re­al­ize that we all had sim­i­lar tastes.

“There’s a nat­u­ral ebb and flow in Van­cou­ver’s elec­tronic-mu­sic scene,” he con­tin­ues. “Drum ’n’ bass had a high point a few years be­fore we got to­gether, but it got a bit stale, peo­ple got older, and some ma­jor play­ers left town. The one night that was still hap­pen­ing was pretty ag­gres­sive and grimy. It was do­ing fine for what it was, and the peo­ple who loved it re­ally en­joyed it. But we were much more into the liq­uid side of things—the melodic stuff—and cre­at­ing a more pos­i­tive, happy vibe. No one else was pro­mot­ing that at the time.”

In a few ar­eas, the col­lec­tive got lucky. Pho­tog­ra­pher Vasho joined the crew around the time that Face­book was be­com­ing standard, and, as Lom­bard puts it, “Hav­ing qual­ity me­dia at ev­ery show was price­less.” Fel­low SHAHDJ Kir Mokum, too, had se­ri­ous vis­ual-art chops, and started putting to­gether the group’s fly­ers. It wasn’t a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy, Lom­bard sug­gests, but it was in­valu­able for pro­pel­ling the col­lec­tive’s pop­u­lar­ity.

On the pro­mo­tion side, though, it was the founder’s gut in­stincts that el­e­vated the crew’s pro­file.

“I de­cided a long time ago not to lock into a venue or have a fixed res­i­dency,” he says. “Venues con­stantly come and go. When one closes, an­other one will pop up for six months. I’ve al­ways been a free agent, and when we want to put on a big show we put a call out and hope­fully there’s a venue we can work with. It means that noth­ing gets repet­i­tive and stale, and ev­ery per­for­mance feels a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. The lo­ca­tion makes a big dif­fer­ence to the vibe. If you’re dec­o­rat­ing the same spot ev­ery week, it gets stale. When you show up for a one-off, it’s go­ing to be unique.”

Over the course of its 10-year his­tory, the crew has put on more than a few mem­o­rable events. Lom­bard re­calls throw­ing a “False-o-ween” party at the venue that once housed huge tourist at­trac­tion Sto­ryeum, set­ting up a gi­ant party for more than a thou­sand peo­ple. In­volved with Bass Coast Fes­ti­val since its own in­cep­tion 10 years ago, the DJ re­mem­bers rock­ing the main stage after Bri­tish un­der­ground star dbridge, stand­ing on top of a gi­ant pi­rate ship that “looked like it had crashed into the stage”. A decade after its cre­ation, SHAHDJS con­tin­ues to sell out high­pro­file shows.

“The elec­tronic-mu­sic scene here is thriv­ing,” Lom­bard says. “You need to con­stantly evolve.” > KATE WIL­SON SHAHDJS plays the Com­modore Ball­room on Sun­day (October 8) as part of Bass Coast’s 10th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions.

Trio Da Kali draws on rich tra­di­tions of the gri­ots

Trio Da Kali takes the mu­sic of Mali back to its an­cient roots, at the same time ex­plor­ing new sonic spa­ces for a con­tem­po­rary flavour. The group’s de­but al­bum, Ladi­likan, re­leased last month, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with San Fran­cisco’s famed Kronos Quar­tet that ef­fort­lessly spans the ground be­tween the western clas­si­cal tra­di­tion and the rich her­itage of the gri­ots.

Sto­ry­tellers and praise-singers, the gri­ots and their cul­ture are found through­out the ter­ri­to­ries once part of the me­dieval Mali Em­pire that nur­tured their art. “All three of us are gri­ots,” says Las­sana Di­a­baté, mu­si­cal direc­tor of Trio Da Kali, reached on tour in Nel­sonville, Ohio. “I play the bal­a­fon [a marimba with gourd res­onators], which is the very first in­stru­ment of the Mand­ing. It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily only to get peo­ple danc­ing, or used for cel­e­bra­tion—it could also be clas­si­cal. I’ve worked to make mu­sic on the bal­a­fon that’s for lis­ten­ing.”

Trio Da Kali’s other mem­bers are bass ngoni (banjo-lute) player Ma­madou Kouy­até and vo­cal­ist Hawa Di­a­baté, daugh­ter of one of Mali’s greatest singers. The Di­a­batés are among the lead­ing griot fam­i­lies, and for a long time Las­sana was a mem­ber of kora master Toumani Di­a­baté’s Sym­met­ric Orches­tra, which per­formed at the Van­cou­ver Folk Mu­sic Fes­ti­val some years ago. More re­cently Kouy­até played here with his fa­ther Bassekou’s band Ngoni Ba.

Soon after form­ing, Trio Da Kali came to the at­ten­tion of David Har­ring­ton, founder and mu­si­cal direc­tor of Kronos Quar­tet. “The idea at first was not for us to make an al­bum, just to do a few con­certs to­gether,” says Las­sana. “So they wanted us to record some mu­sic and send it for them to work on. Dr. Lucy Du­ran in Eng­land, some­one I’ve worked with a lot and who knew Kronos Quar­tet, helped me se­lect songs with them in mind.”

The two groups first met in San Fran­cisco on the oc­ca­sion of Kronos Quar­tet’s 40th-an­niver­sary bash in 2014. “We only played a cou­ple of things but the next day the press were all over us, and some­one im­me­di­ately booked us. Peo­ple were thrilled by what we did to­gether—and all of us were thrilled too. David Har­ring­ton said that we had to take such a col­lab­o­ra­tion fur­ther—or some­one else would do. We only re­hearsed a few days be­fore record­ing to­gether, then flew off to play the Mon­treux [Jazz] Fes­ti­val. After that the trio went on to play at the BBC Proms, and tour the U.K.. The re­sponse was amaz­ing.”

For the mu­sic on Ladi­likan Trio Da Kali drew in­spi­ra­tion both from their griot pre­de­ces­sors and a fresh in­flu­ence—u.s. gospel leg­end Ma­halia Jack­son. “The first time we met Kronos Quar­tet, im­me­di­ately after Hawa had sung, David went to get an al­bum he had of Ma­halia Jack­son, and said to Hawa ‘She’s so much like you—the power, range, and the phras­ing in her voice.’ So he gave us that al­bum, and Lucy trans­lated the words. We worked with that. When we first heard our griot mu­sic played by vi­o­lins, vi­ola, and cello, I felt it was go­ing to be the best col­lab­o­ra­tion of my life. And it is.” > TONY MON­TAGUE Trio Da Kali plays St. James Hall on Fri­day (October 6).

L.A. Witch aimed at vin­tage warmth on its de­but al­bum

If the mem­bers of L.A. Witch 2

seem vaguely ob­sessed with the past on their long-time-com­ing de­but, that makes sense when you con­sider many of their favourite ref­er­ence points.

In a con­fer­ence call from their home­town of Los An­ge­les, singer­gui­tarist Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai, and drum­mer El­lie English rat­tle off a de­cid­edly retro list of artists who’ve in­spired them. Those in the golden cir­cle in­clude PJ Har­vey, the Gun Club, Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, and the Cramps. Con­sid­er­ing that short­list, it’s per­haps no sur­prise that L.A. Witch’s epony­mous de­but is def­i­nitely on the dark side, the songs marked by goth-surf gui­tars, doom-gen­er­a­tion vo­cals, and gloomy post­punk bass lines.

What binds the band’s big­gest in­flu­encers to­gether is that they came from an ar­tis­ti­cally pure time when no one mak­ing un­der­ground mu­sic ex­pected to have their songs placed in Ap­ple com­mer­cials or net­worktv dra­mas. And the at­trac­tion doesn’t stop there.

“The way that the mu­sic was recorded was re­ally dif­fer­ent and re­ally hard to repli­cate,” Sanchez says. “There’s some­thing that’s just re­ally special about old mu­sic, even stuff from the ’90s era. Even the ’90s grunge and al­ter­na­tive-rock pe­riod had a huge im­pact on us. There was, I dunno, just more warmth to it.”

Un­der­stand­ably, then, get­ting the right sonic tone was im­por­tant to L.A. Witch when, after a se­ries of EPS, they be­gan fo­cus­ing on record­ing their de­but al­bum. One of the first things they dis­cov­ered was that re-cre­at­ing a vin­tage vibe is harder than it might seem.

“We tried to record the al­bum a few times and it never re­ally came out sound­ing right—it was like it didn’t rep­re­sent us as a band,” Pai says. “I think what hap­pened is that we were tour­ing so much that ev­ery time we’d come back and re­visit the record­ings our sound had evolved.”

On L.A. Witch, that sound swings from the mid­night-in-the-swamp garage of “Kill My Baby Tonight” to the gun­pow­der-black coun­try punk of “Un­ti­tled” to the spawn-of-l7 grunge-pop of “Drive Your Car”.

A ma­jor part of the record’s ap­peal is that L.A. Witch doesn’t sound of its time, de­spite all three mem­bers of the band be­ing in their 20s. Their ob­ses­sion with the past doesn’t stop with mu­sic; one of the group’s other pas­sions is ana­logue photography, out of a strong pref­er­ence for the im­per­fec­tions of film. Dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy has made ev­ery­thing eas­ier to­day. But that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that things are bet­ter.

“We wanted to record the al­bum onto tape, but we never got the chance to do that,” Sanchez says. “Older records have a cer­tain warmth to them— it’s the same as how there’s some­thing more sen­sual about cap­tur­ing a shot on film. The ap­peal is that you don’t re­ally know what you’re go­ing to get.”

But the mem­bers of L.A. Witch have a pretty clear idea of where they want to go next. Hav­ing taken a good half-dozen years to fi­nally record a full-length al­bum, the trio are ea­ger to get back into the stu­dio. When they do, ex­pect them to take a page from the play­books of those they ad­mire.

“Look at Nick Cave and all the dif­fer­ent places that he’s gone as an artist,” Sanchez says. “He’s one of those peo­ple who has re­ally evolved from punk rock to where he is to­day. Some­times artists grow older and you can’t re­late to what they’re do­ing any­more. He’s stayed rel­e­vant by be­ing true to him­self. That’s some­thing to strive for.” > MIKE USINGER L.A. Witch plays the Fox Cabaret on Satur­day (October 7).

The mu­sic Matt Rob­son-scott and Kye Gib­bon make as Gor­gon City touches on ev­ery­thing from grim to house, but it is all marked by heavy bass.

L.A. Witch used PJ Har­vey, the Gun Club, and Sonic Youth as touch­stones when record­ing its new epony­mous LP.

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