SOUND SEEKERS: Spool Cool and other throwbacks
Scene & Heard

SOUND SEEKERS: Spool Cool and other throwbacks

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani

Ookpikk tape front. Photo by Adam Saikaley.

There is a place for throwbacks in the digital age. You see a lot of it lately, where the newly hip pay homage to concepts and technologies that seem to be fading.

The cool kids that are part of the collective called Antique Skate here in Ottawa throw paperback parties at bars. You bring your favourite novel and leave with someone else’s favourite novel, all the while exchanging ideas and sideways glances.

Upon entry to the bar, you peel off one of those Hello My Name Is stickers, and affix it to your popped collar. Instead of putting your name in the blank spot, attendees list their favourite book. It sets a tone for the night. Books are the focus of the evening, so people aren’t dorking on their phones so often.

Events like these are sweetly nostalgic, but verge on the point of fetish. I mean, call me old, but I still have paperbacks and feel no need to throw a party for them, but I guess that’s what people are referring to when they use the term “middle-class porn” (or perhaps I’m just having a first-world problem? I don’t know for certain as I am a little behind of my net-neologisms).

I question the value of cassettes in the same way. A few bands of late have been pushing out releases on these spools, celebrating their hissy, humming glory. What is the point?

“It’s like an art object people can take home,” says Daniel Kaunisviita. He is the primary programmer for the Ottawa-Gatineau electronic music collective Place (Jovial, Meat Parade, Antic Hous) and heads its associated label. He says cassettes are a stylistic signature for the label that speaks to an esthetic and an ethos.

“The sound quality is an esthetic choice for us. It is complementary to a lot of the music we are producing,” he says of the warm, cinematic sounds of some of their new wave bands. “We are fond of the DIY culture that has always been a part of tape culture. We hand-make the labels, and tapes are easy to produce in small quantities, which helps us stay above the line.”

A company in Montreal called Amtech produces runs of 50 cassettes that Place puts out for diehards. Everyone else can download music by Place artists digitally.

The label’s latest release comes from RLMDL (pronounced role model), the solo project of Jordan Allen from the Paramedics. The tunes sound late-nightish, like a mash of Junior Boys and Malajube. Kaunisviita calls it chillwave.

“Chillwave is a kind of buzzword like shoegaze used to be. It’s sort of a simple, yet sonically experimental, pop format album,” he says.

RLMDL uses samplers and old drum machines to create a lot of layering of static and cross-feedback, so that the music retains an experimental feel while still appealing to the crowd that likes to dance to the hyper-addictive beats of pop music.

And as for the use of cassettes, though it may seem like a throwback for those of us who were either reared on tape or not fond of its waning sound quality, it’s next-garde cool for others, such as Place artist Ookpikk who describes the cassette as “a seminal artifact for the budding genre called Future BASF.”

Math Rosen, RLMDL, and Adam Saikaley play the Place showcase Friday, Jan. 13. 8:30 p.m. $5. Raw Sugar Café, 692 Somerset St. W.


  • Thunderuncle, In Heat, and Four-Stroke offer “hooks, howls, and headbanging” at the Clocktower Brewpub, 575 Bank St., Saturday, January 14, 9 p.m., $7. The bands are all members of the Centretown Recording Alliance, a group dedicated to co-creative endeavours as detailed previously in Sound Seekers.
  • Country living and Canadiana are the stuff of Ray Harris’ roots-rambling songs. The Pontiac-reared songwriter invites a pile of his musician friends to crowd into the Elmdale Tavern on Friday night for the release of his second album Poorly Kept Secrets. See Harris with his band the Bastard Sons of Bitches, openers Al Wood & the Woodsmen and guest musicians Marie-Josee Houle, Sherwood Lumsden, Peter Pritchard, Jack Arnold, Rob Smith, and Greg “Lefty McRighty” Harris. 1084 Wellington St., W., January 13, 9:30 p.m., $10.
  • O-town soul players Slim Moore & the Mar-kays are at Maverick’s, 221 Rideau St., Saturday, January 14 with guest DJ D-Mass. 9 p.m., $10.