crystal dorval - white poppy

Review of Natural Phenomena by White Poppy

Artist: White Poppy
Album: Natural Phenomena
Rating: 7
Label: Not Not Fun Records

White Poppy is the creation of Crystal Dorval, a Canadian experimental musician and songwriter hailing from Vancouver Island, BC, but now settled in Vancouver. Her new album, Natural Phenomena, has just been released, and within the listening pleasure is perhaps a longing and nostalgia for nature. If her self-titled debut album was described by Nylon Magazine as containing “sonic beauty” within the angst of a coming of age tale, this latest offering has expanded into a more fully aware aural landscape containing both disturbance and release. As Dorval also is behind the website Sanity Soap, a profoundly moving weblog devoted to mental health awareness, with pieces of description and connection around depression and understanding, perhaps it’s no surprise that her music encompasses both anxiety and comfort.

The theme of nature that permeates the disc might find its base in White Poppy’s original home territory. Vancouver Island is one of the largest Pacific islands, a place of great beauty with a long and fragmented history. Apparently it has a thriving technology sector, as well as being a place where battles over logging and watershed protection are fought, without much success. Perhaps this contrast between what is beautiful and timeless and the encroaching forces of development, which must be especially keen in a place like this, inform the eerily beautiful moments in this music, where both a vague sense of unease and an hypnotic calm repeat until they seep into your consciousness, like a wavelength designed to encourage certain types of brain activity. This is especially true on the track, “Wild Mind”, where a buzzy jittery electronic sound is juxtaposed against a delicate background, carrying forward a sense of tension at the beginning, urban nerves invading a natural space. Then the tension is eased out into a repetitive calmer place, until something like a chorus comes along to soothe.

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American Wrestlers at Northside Fest

American Wrestlers
Elvis Guesthouse – June 12
Northside Fest – June 14
New York

I saw American Wrestlers twice when they were here in NYC. Once at the oddly named Elvis Guesthouse in the East Village, which despite the charming attempt to create a story around Elvis still being alive somewhere on the “hippie trail” in the Middle and Far East (sure, why not), was a stunning example of how shrinking supply and rising rents is pushing music into places not entirely suited. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about the vibe and not the sound, but a drum kit in a corner across from a tiled-in seating area that seems a throwback to when the space was a kitchen, or toilet, or massage parlor is going to overpower everything, no matter what. There was free beer before 8, not complaining, and some eager fans, and the dancing guy who finally broke loose, freed by the music and started dancing from the bathrooms to the tiles very happily. It’s a tribute to the quality of the songs that even in such inauspicious surroundings, Gary McClure and his band brought the album alive.

After a killer show supporting Viet Cong on Saturday, the Northside Festival in Williamsburg – Brooklyn – was the next port of call for American Wrestlers. A hot, sunny day, Bedford Avenue closed down to traffic, some squares of grass put down in the street to mimic a park, and the opportunity to watch the endless parade of hipster fashion was the setting.

American Wrestlers hit the stage in very low key fashion, no introduction. The music was left to stand for itself, especially after the bassist let the audience know they were from St. Louis, then after another song, let slip the name of the band. No matter.

more review over here…