Friday, February 13, 2015

Del Bel, Last Ex

There’s no reason for Torontonians not to miss this weekend’s Wavelength 15 festival—unless, of course, you’re old enough to remember Wavelength back in 2000 and you are now discovering that it’s just as hard to get babysitting on Valentine’s Day as it would be on Christmas Eve. (Maybe that’s just me.) Tonight’s show at Sneaky Dee’s features the reunited Controller Controller and the legendary Art Bergmann, Laura Barrett, More or Les and even more (or less). Sunday’s show at the Garrison has Fresh Snow, New Fries and Mozart’s Sister. But Saturday at the Polish Combatants Hall is the kicker: Lowell, the Acorn, Ginla, and these two bands:

Del Bel – In My Solitude (Missed Connection)

If you spent the ’90s watching Twin Peaks and listening to Portishead, this is the band for you. Toronto-Guelph ensemble Del Bel are drenched in hot-buttered soul, Duane Eddy twang and torch song melodrama set to minor keys. Brass, woodwinds and vintage organs fill out the texture while the rhythm section sinks into deep grooves that sound like RZA beats slowed to a crawl, and singer Lisa Conway coos like a fairy-tale heroine lost in the deepest, darkest woods.

All these elements were in play on the band’s first album as well, but the production values here have stepped up considerably, especially the creepy guitar tones, drenched in reverb, and all the other tiny, tasty bits that add to the overall ambiance. Sole complaint: if you’ve heard one Del Bel song, you’ve heard them all. Not that there’s anything wrong with a mood album—especially a mood as carefully constructed as this one.

Download: “In My Solitude,” “Firebox,” “The Stallion”

Last Ex – s/t (Constellation)

Taylor Kirk, the man behind Timber Timbre, has an incredible band behind him that keeps getting better—that was more than evident on 2014’s Hot Dreams and the following tour (check their headlining performance at Massey Hall online, you won’t regret it). So what does that band do in their spare time, when they’re not being employed by Kirk to creep on creepin’ on, when they’re not encumbered by dread and dirt and downright weirdness? Why, they get creepier and drearier and dirtier and weirder, of course.

Last Ex could certainly be seen as merely an album of Timber Timbre instrumentals. But that also frees it up: without a reliance on Kirk’s personality to sell the music—and his occasionally hokey Halloween-y lyrics—the music is allowed to be evocative on its own terms. So elements of a David Lynchian view of ’50s music are still there, but this time it’s filtered through what sounds like a ’70s German experimental rock band stranded in the Arizona desert. Everything here sounds a bit off, a bit wobbly, in tone and texture and even in tape—it sounds like old, analog reel-to-reels were left out in the sun a bit too long. It’s not surprising to learn that this music originated as a score for a since-abandoned film.

Download: “Hotel Blues,” “It’s Not Chris,” “Nell’s Theme”