I didn’t realise until now just how much the psych scene of Toronto has shaped my record collection!
Some time ago, in an earlier incarnation of Loud Horizon, I received a promo copy of and album by Canadian band Quest for Fire. I loved it, and played it more for pleasure than I did for review purposes.
A few years later, I came across an album by Nordic Nomadic. Reading the album’s sleeve notes, I noted this was side project of Quest for Fire‘s guitarist, Chad Ross, and so shelled out for a vinyl copy.
Turns out Chad produces a lot of music I like, because he later, and still does, play guitar in Toronto based psych band, Comet Control, along with fellow ex-Quest for Fire member, Andrew Moszynski.
(As an aside, Comet Control‘s drummer was at some point, Jay Anderson, also of Stonegrass and Lammping fame, albums of both which are in my collection. Toronto definitely rocks!)
And it’s this seemingly eternal connection that has led to Chad Ross’s latest project.
Initially intended as another solo acoustic project, the new album ‘Skull Creator‘ morphed into something a bit more substantial when Chad was approached with offers of involvement by Joshua Wells (drummer with Vancouver band Destroyer); Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell and Aaron Goldstein renowned and revered exponent of the pedal-steel guitar.
“I had it in my head that I was gonna make an acoustic record, with the sole purpose of making fun of myself, reflecting on a few of my past wasted lives and just generally taking the singer/songwriter thing out with the trash. The lyrics all made me laugh at one point, but when Josh and Isaiah got involved, things got elevated…. as they tend to do with musicians like that.”
The resultant eight tracks of folk-psych are a spellbinding mix of the music that connects the three of Chad’s bands / projects mentioned earlier.
Remember Venn Diagrams from our schooldays? I’ll not attempt to draw one here as I failed my Maths Higher twice and would surely get it all wrong! But think of three overlapping circles, one entitled Quest for Fire, one, Nordic Nomadic and the other, Comet Control.
‘Skull Creator‘ falls into that part shared by all three circles. The biggest contributor to that area would be Nordic Nomadic, the smallest, Comet Control.
(Is that possible, or am I still crap at Maths?)
Generally speaking, it’s a fairly downtempo album, with some tracks rising and soaring in intensity. Opener ‘Buzzin in the Bush‘ has a warm, desert-rock feel about it, while ‘Takin a Dip’ is quieter, more acoustic based with a pronounced bass-line and a lovely, harmonious and catchy chorus.
Third in is ‘Wrong Side of the Sky.’ It goes like this:
The title track lines up fourth in the order. As you’d likely expect ‘Skull Creator,‘ is a bit darker that the preceding songs, but retains a haunting warmth. If my memory serves me right, it reminds me a bit of the band Sleepy Sun from some years back.
‘The Stranger‘ has a gentle refrain, backed by an unobtrusive string section. This one quietly just seeps into your subconscious. My favourite (I think – I have changed a couple of times!) is ‘On Golden Pond.‘ I can just imagine the steam rising from a swamp-like pond as the sun starts to set. It’s another track with a lovely warmth to it, Chad’s hushed vocals sounding the perfect accompaniment.
(I cannot think of a band more polar opposite to C.Ross than Oasis, but I do hear little echoes of ‘Champagne Supernova‘ in parts. Sorry if that offends anyone – it’s just an observation. And not a bad reflection by any means.)
Of the final two tracks, ‘Way Too Nice‘ is the ‘heavier’ and more psych-rock as I like it, while ‘Tracks in the Snow‘ brings the album to a bit of a downbeat climax. I’m just not sure about this being right for the ‘closer’ but hey! What do I know?
‘Skull Creator‘ definitely sits more on the ‘folk’ side of the Psych Rock fence, but within that, there’s plenty variation to explore and with musicians the pedigree of those involved, then it has to be a winner!
** ‘Skull Creator’ can be bought through Bandcamp and streamed through various streaming services.**