Sunday, 30 April 2023

Ariel Ulysses - A Song For A Rainy Day (2020)

We believe this cassette is a 2023 release of an album Ariel Ulysses put out in mid-2020, in the exciting, early days of the pandemic. We'd picked up the digital download back then, so we're pleased to have a physical copy of this quiet, introspective release which blends softly strummed guitars, electronics and field recordings. The result is somewhere between ambient and dream pop, and it's highly compelling.

Get the tape from Ariel Ulysses' bandcamp.

Saturday, 29 April 2023

Uncanny Valley - Fevering Stare (2023)

It's been five long years since Uncanny Valley's first tape - when we first heard this was coming, we got super excited. We're big fans of the projects related to Uncanny Valley - Stripmall, Parisian Orgy, Aiwass, to name a few - and this band delivers the perfect post-punk sounds for our earballs. Lead singer Alicia Palmar's vocals are just enough Siouxie Sioux and the band's music is just low-fi enough to make you wonder if you've come across that one forgotten gem from the 80's goth underground. 

Get the download via the Uncanny Valley bandcamp.

Monday, 10 April 2023

In Memoriam: Andy Sparacino

Once again, we're sad to share the passing of another great light in the Calgary scene. Andy Sparacino passed away in Nanaimo, BC on April 5, 2023 at the age of 49. Andy was a beloved musician, rapper, and actor known for his work with the A-Team, Helvis, Blist, and FUBAR. He's being remember by his former bandmates and many friends for his incredible sense of humour and gentleness.

For most of us Calgarians, we knew Andy first in the magical (and somewhat chaotic) A-Team, a big part of the Rock Central scene (the cover of their Non Merci CD features a photo from one of their legendary Stampede breakfasts). That band was my first glimpse into Andy's brilliance, a hilariously smart delivery of low-brow matter covering drinking beer to pooping. His rhyming was always on point, cramming as many syllables into a phrase as he could. Andy's crowning achievement with the A-Team was the catchy-as-hell singalong, "I'm A Truck."

2002's FUBAR catapulted Andy into the national spotlight. In Troy/Tron, he brought his wit to the big screen - reportedly ad lib-ing many jaw-droppingly hilarious scenes in one take. That first FUBAR movie would have been a very different thing without Tron and Andy's participation, and "Tron funkin blows" remains one of the film's biggest catchphrases. 

I got to know Andy over a weird weekend in 2004, when Cory Martens asked me to help record Helvis' XXXmas EP. While I was turning into a ball of stress about the recording process, Andy was there with a relaxed manner and a stream of jokes and funny quips that helped immensely. When it was time for King Sausage (Andy's Helvis stage name) to step to the mic for his vocal takes, everything went down with minimum number of takes. And his lyrics were pretty darn funny.

After that, I'd run into Andy at shows with Blist, his more directly hip-hop oriented act with Robey Stothart (aka Sabo Forte). Blist brought a higher production value to Andy's raps and Stothart provided a great foil to his delivery. But the matter was still decidedly low-brow; "The Big Testemony" remains one my favourites of Andy's songs, with unlikely rhymes like "got no slacks on/loud as a klaxon" and "I can't do pilates/'cuz I got the big testes" powering a stream-of-consciousness-like story line. 

The last time I saw Andy was on stage for Helvis' reunion show in 2015. In the spring of 2021, friends and former bandmates Dan McKinnon and Dave Lawrence announced a fundraiser for Andy, acknowledging that Andy had been dealing with an addiction to IV drugs that had led to him experiencing homelessness and a life-threatening blood infection. The fundraiser was a huge success, with his friends immediately coming to his support - and allowing Andy to enter to rehab program in Nanaimo. 

The outpouring of love and grief for Andy over the past weekend has highlighted two things - he wasn't just hilariously funny, he was also kind and gentle. For every amazingly off-the-wall story about his antics, there's a story about his generosity. Terry Cahill's memorial post probably summed up Andy best with three words: "More than Tron."

My thoughts are with Andy's father, his bandmates, and everyone who had the joy of knowing him. 

This has been a rough few months - if you're struggling, please know that there is help out there. Please reach out to a friend or some of the resources available in the community. And take care of each other.

Arif Ansari

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

Shamash - Rusty Heart (1978)

Shamash was made up of a trio of siblings from the Okanagan (John, Julie, and JoAnn MacCormack), along with keyboardist Tracy Marks, bassist Nigel Blagborne, drummer Dillas D'Urfee and singer Del Mildenberger. This album bounces from rockers to softer pop offerings, choices likely informed by their many nights of playing clubs around town. 

We like the quote from Blagborne in this article: "There's no cabaret scene in Vancouver at all and not much opportunity to do club work... we're able to make a better living out here." That explains why there are so many of these records by Calgary bands from the 70's. 

Get Shamashed!

Monday, 3 April 2023

Spirit River - In The Beginning... (1978)

If you've been waiting for a Christian country folk gem, this is probably going to be your thing. We've tried to find more info on Spirit River, but their name gets conflated with the northern Alberta town and leads us to nothing but dead ends. From what we can tell, this was a duo comprised of Phil Stan and Jay West - backed by a rhythm machine and a few guest musicians on this LP. 

The album's a bit of a sleeper - there are snatches of greatness through the first side, but it's the last three songs that really shine, especially the gospel soul of the closing track,"Are You Ready." It's short, catchy, and has a killer fuzz guitar solo - and is worth the price of admission.

Get it here.

Sunday, 2 April 2023

Fosterchild - Fosterchild (1977), Troubled Child (1978), On the Prowl (1980) + singles

To be honest, prior to digging into their discography, we best knew Fosterchild for being the band that had the honour of having the Social Blemishes open for them at a school concert in 1978. While that marked the Social Blemishes' first gig, it would have been around the time that Fosterchild released their second LP, Troubled Child. 

We dug into a bit of the band's history when we posted their first single, but we'll turn to Vancouver Pop Music for a bit more of the story. Victoria-born Foster met Willis "around 1970 and they played in a few bands and learned the ropes of performing in concert. Willis moved on to New York City while Jim Foster formed a quartet named Fosterchild where they were a regular band at Calgary’s the Scotch and Sirloin.The band went to Edmonton and recorded a demo of a song Jim Foster wrote called “Let Me Down Easy.” On the strength of that demo the band got a record deal with CBS Records. However, CBS was unimpressed with the other three musicians in Fosterchild and got session musicians to work on the single release. Consequently, Jim Foster had a new record out to the general public but no intact Fosterchild band. It was 1976 and Vern Wills had come back to Calgary since his US visa had expired. Jim Foster recalls, “So I called Vern who was living in Edmonton. He said he’d just heard me on the radio. I said ” You wanna join forces?” and that was it.""

The result of that partnership was two LPs on Columbia Records and a third on Wes Dakus' Edmonton-based Vera Cruz Records. And a bunch of singles, the most notable of which were I Need Somebody Tonight” and "Let Me Down Easy."

Oh, and somewhere in between the band's second and third LPs, they added Doug Johnson on keyboards - but he'd soon split to join Loverboy. 

Get some Fosterchild here.