Although the country doesn't receive much hype, Canada's spawned a plethora of world-class electronic musicians over the last decade. This week Seattle hosts four notables from our northern neighbor's vibrant underground-electronica gene pool: Lowfish, Mike Shannon, Jeremy Caulfield, and Satamile.
Lowfish (Toronto producer Gregory de Rocher, who also runs Suction Records) literally wears his influences on his sleeve—that is, on the inner sleeve of his 1999 debut album, Fear Not the Snow and Other Lo-Fiing Objects, Lowfish cites "the influence of Skinny Puppy, Autechre, Giorgio Moroder and OMD." De Rocher shows acute self-awareness: You can parse the first two's recessive industrial traits as well as recognize Moroder's sequenced sensuality and OMD's sugary tunesmithery. Lowfish seamlessly melds these inspirations into IDM/electro/synth-pop for the (s)ages.
By contrast, Lowfish's 2000 disc, Eliminator, is a more windswept, romantic affair, evoking Depeche Mode and New Order, but without the diabetes-inducing tones that mar many similar retro-fetishist efforts to rekindle '80s synth-pop love. The curious should also check out Lowfish's "It Has Much Grain" off an obscure comp called Altered States of America (Lo, 1997); it's one of Lowfish's most complex and ominous tracks, a richly detailed latticework of twitchy clicks, viscous textures, Varese/Xenakis-like electronic legerdemain, and mesmerizing, Autechre-esque metallic percussion.
Mike Shannon is one of many bright sparks in Montreal's star-jammed electronic-music constellation. One of his newest cuts, "Blind Love" off Spectral Sound's State of the Union 2 EP, is haunting, shuffling, midtempo techno with icy atmospheric interludes that hark back to the Force Inc. label's classically classy mode. Speaking of Force Inc., Shannon released a phenomenal album for that defunct German powerhouse called Slight of Hand in 2002. The disc seems to be the handiwork of a suave scientist whose little black boxes contain highly specialized charged particles engineered to make your molecules vibrate at optimal rates. Shannon festoons each of Hand's 11 tracks with a distinct palette of fidgety rhythmic tics, trippy reverb, and odd percussive accessorizing. The LP abounds with the sort of oblique, hypnotic tech-house that knowledgeable jocks will drop when they want to take dancers deeper into the mind-fuck zone.
Similarly bizarre is Shannon's remix of Horror Inc.'s "Siamese Twins," which combines rhythmic elegance with pranksterish tonal/textural filigreeing. This kind of contrast often triggers the most interesting dance music. Shannon—who also records quirkier material as Sid Dithers and John Shananigans—has become a staple in the DJ sets of Richie Hawtin, Algorithm, Craig Richards, and Akufen.
Jeremy Caulfield, who's part of Kompakt Records' mighty roster, applies beefy Canadian heft to minimal techno's scrawny frame. Toronto-based Satamile runs a label by that name that's one of the most advanced electro/IDM sources. DAVE SEGAL
Lowfish, Mike Shannon, Jeremy Caulfield, Satamile, Electrosect, and Greg Skidmore play Tues Dec 13 at Baltic Room, 1207 Pine St, 625-4444, 9 pm–2 am, $8, 21+. Visuals by Shannon Palmer.