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Somewhere, BC

Limbs of the Stars

An extended electric guitar and cello piece originally composed as part of an immersive exhibit featuring photos of British Columbia’s West Coast by Wallace Barber, Somewhere, BC is a place of mist-cloaked, muted magic.

SOMEWHERE, BC

Originally composed as part of an immersive exhibit featuring photos by Wallace Barber of British Columbia’s West Coast, Somewhere, BC is a place of mist-cloaked, muted magic.

Performed on electric guitar and cello, the long form piece was written as Lyons filled his studio with projections of Barber’s photos and worked towards an understated vocabulary of sounds and subsumed, greyscale motifs to complement the tone of the photographic works.

Slow-paced and gently shifting, the piece is propulsive at the same time. Cello rolls through like deep fog, while a range of guitar techniques (percussion, metallic bowing, etc) create an absorbing 43+ minute soundscape.

Stephen Lyons - guitar Shanto Acharia - cello

Photos by Wallace Barber https://www.instagram.com/barberw13/

"Somewhere, BC" was composed, produced, and engineered by Stephen Lyons. Additional engineering for cello, mixing and mastering by Rob Malowany.

© 2018 Offseason Arts / Stephen Lyons

LIMBS OF THE STARS – SELECTED PRESS QUOTES

“Limbs Of The Stars are probably one of the most talented groups of musicians currently residing in Western Canada, let alone Vancouver…the level of virtuosity exuding from Stephen Lyons and Skye Brooks (guitar and drums, respectively) alone was palpable to anyone who had ever sat down with an instrument before. Borrowing members from Fond of Tigers, the foursome eke out a sound one part experimental freestyle jazz and two parts pure fun, and their set earned most of its enjoyment from seeing the intensity and joy with which the musicians plied their equipment for sound, with particular props to Lyons’ ridiculously masterful whole-body guitar solos. Something about seeing musicians of this magnitude jam right in front of you is pretty damn awe-inspiring.” – Discorder, December 2012

“While FoT’s ’70s prog-jazz-meets-avant-rock template is still roughly in place, there’s more romanticism evident here, including a folky/alt-country element, courtesy of Lyons’s plaintive, introspective vocals. See “no more sinners” and “us vs. them” especially: most of the album is instrumental, but there are a couple honest-to-God songs here. Lyons’s guitar doesn’t so much defy genre as employ it at will, making artful, evocative journeys of each track.” – Georgia Straight

“Headed by jazz-rock crossover mastermind Stephen Lyons, Limbs of the Stars arranged themselves in a horseshoe so they could not only look up and feed off of each other, as many improv players do, but it also allowed Lyons to conduct the quartet from behind his guitar and mess of pedals. Diving right into a mix of jazz, folk, and turn-of-the-century indie rock accented with flourishes of New Weird America, the humble ensemble played slow building jams, such as “Film Song,” that gave way to indulgent soloing while keeping the audience engaged. As the set drew on, Lyons feverishly instructed the remaining trio between guitar caterwauls and delay loops on the rollicking “Us Vs Them.” While the six-song set seemed condensed, nearly an hour had passed before the band thanked the crowd who awoke from their trance, mingled awhile, and proceeded into the night.” – Discorder, September 2014

“The first thing you notice is that the chaos is far more controlled in this act. This doesn’t mean that the music is any less intense…Another excellent album from a very talented bunch.” – The Province

“Heartwarmongering’s strength is its pensive moments (No Reward, Falling For Falling’s Sake, No More Sinners), which let the mind wander along to Lyons’ vulnerable voice and lyrics. The album ends on a propulsive note, the moody Us vs. Them turning into Cosby, a gloriously raucous combo finale in the vein of post-rock favourites like Slint and Mogwai.” – Vancouver Sun

“Songs like the eight-minute instrumental ambush of “Cosby,” Limbs of the Stars don’t seem so much interested in creating a template for hypnotic space rock, as much as carving their own cranny in these frequented, yet fantastical, shores. There are some haunting and high-flown flashes throughout Heartwarmongering, an album title that is both cheeky and cryptic. Vocalist Stephen Lyons has a volatile mien, but he doesn’t dominate anywhere, and seems happy to be buried in the haze a lot of the time. In “Film Song,” for instance, his vocal-delivery is malleable and quietly sinister, allowing the cinematic quality of the track to kindle casually. In “Heartwarmongering No. 1,” Shanto Acharia’s cello acts as a sort of phantasmal force and Skye Brooks’ drums fill in pale and prolonged spaces, as if to score a taut and terrifying giallo picture like a delicate Dario Argento (if there is such a thing). It’s challenging music for some, perhaps, as it sprawls in many mannered directions, but for the adventurous, Heartwarmongering offers up some shadow-shrouded riches.” – Discorder, January 2013

“Stephen Lyons is the mastermind behind many of Vancouver’s most compelling music projects, and often some of the most strange and beautiful as well. Limbs of the Stars are all these things.” – Vancouver Fringe Festival, 2016

“Stephen Lyons, who has contributed to other local experimental outfits like Fond of Tigers and Cloudsplitter, leads this thought-inducing, post-rock project. The band’s sound is both dark and gritty, with spiraling musical progressions that make for a strange yet exciting entity to experience.” – Beatroute Magazine “Must-See Shows”, 2016

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Affiliates: 2

Parkland

A band full of seasoned musical interpreters who push themselves—and each other—into parts unknown, Vancouver-based Parkland never plays a song the same way twice. Truly engaging alt-country songwriting and improvisational sonic abstraction.

PARKLAND - Affiliates: 2

The second in a series of digital releases from Parkland finds the ever-shifting ensemble reinterpreting songs from vinyl releases Singularity (2015) and Monument (2016), as well as tackling the previously unreleased track Black Night.

Starting from the bare essentials of lyrics and a chord structure, the ensemble re-approaches the pieces, using the spirit of the moment to dictate dynamics, tempo, melodic ideas, and mood. Rob Malowany’s heart-laid-bare songwriting gets taken down wildly divergent paths with each performance, and the Affliates series showcases a small selection of the group’s many live reinterpretations.

Affiliates: 2 was recorded live off the floor at Vancouver artist-run space Merge, as part of the filming of documentary project Bleeding Daylight, to be released in Spring 2018.

A rare melding of alt-country and sonic abstraction, Parkland continues to explore an ever-expanding musical territory.

VANCOUVER SUN REVIEW OF PARKLAND: Affiliates: 1 (Offseason Records):

The second album from Vancouver-based Rob Malowany (Devilsplender) is a far more realized and captivating session than his altogether enjoyable debut Singularity (2015). The live recording captures Malowany and the ever-changing cast of Parkland Affiliates — drummer Stephen Lyons and bassist Shanto Acharia (Fond of Tigers), guitarists Robin Hunter (The Imagineers, Old Reliable) and Paul Rigby (Neko Case, Art Bergmann) for this performance — in fine form on six extended tracks that would make any Calexico or Giant Sand fan break into a full grin. Credit the guitar interplay between Rigby and Hunter’s slinky lap steel with much of the wide-open atmospherics of tunes such as Lost My Heart and Depression Sets In. And the often improvised nature of the songs gives all the members ample chance to take the material in different directions. This is only the first planned recording in a series of digital releases intended to capture the various Affiliate lineups in the “Parklandscape.” Keep tabs on live shows/sessions at parklandmusicproject.com and offseasonrecords.com.

VANCOUVER SUN REVIEW OF PARKLAND'S "MONUMENT"

The second full length release from Rob Malowany’s wonderful atmospheric avant-country collective is a tour de force for pedal steel guitarist Paul Rigby. His high lonesome twangs and textures to Sashay Shimmer are perfect compliments to Malowany’s plaintive vocals and the rest of the group’s rolling gait rhythms.

If the debut Singularity was a winner, this is a big step up as the mix (by Malowany who also produced) showcases the material better as a whole and there is some achingly beautiful confessional writing. The showpiece is the honesty in Depression Sets In, where a slow jam just sinks lower and lower to reflect the “bringing me down” lyric chanted like a mantra. Bummer, yes. But in the best possible way.

Fans of groups such as Giant Sand or any twang-tinged jam band should certainly check this out live. Much of the soundscape is improvised and that means it never happens the same way twice.

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French For Sled Dogs

French For Sled Dogs

brainy, white-knuckle post-rock

Allan MacInnis ("Alienated in Vancouver" blog): "the project is terrific. Dave Chokroun quipped "the wrath of math" at one point; I was kinda thinkin' "the Melvins go prog." Intense, involuted amplified acoustic guitar noodlin's and cleaver-chop chords from Albanese; Dave permuting loping electric basslines and perversifyin' them into - well, different loping electric basslines; Lyons alternately channeling Billy Martin (in terms of how he sounded) and a young John Wright (in terms of how he looked). Lyons was pleased to hear that I thought he acquitted himself just fine as a drummer, saying, "that means I have you fooled, as well" - though he also drums for Books & Branches, Cloudsplitter, Dixie's Death Pool, and D Trevlon, none of which have I heard. I wasn't really able to make out what Julian Gosper, on electronics, was doing, but then, I'm never quite sure what Martin Swope or Bob Weston are up to for Mission of Burma, either, unless the rest of the band quiet down so I can hear their contributions; my ear for electronics in live band contexts is simply not that sharp.

French For Sled Dogs are focussed and intense without being bugfuck; "math rock," as Chokroun had called them, is not an appellation that I immediately get excited about, since at times it suggests music that makes my head hurt, but there was a freedom in what French For Sled Dogs did at 1067 that kept things from getting too cerebral or manic. It was very easy to close my eyes and just listen (or to watch them; Chokroun seems to play electric bass with his jaw, or at least his lips, slightly off-kilter, something I don't recall noticing when he drums or plays his more regular acoustic bass). "I think that we play the music that I write in an organic way," Albanese tells me. "Before the guys agreed to play in the band, I usually explained that it would be some written music and some improvised. As for what I write, I would say atonal, strong rhythms and a specific mood. The guys write their own parts, unless I have a more specific idea for the rhythm section. That way it is more democratic..."

I asked Albanese about the origins of the name "French For Sled Dogs," which seems to oscillate between two different readings - the French word for "sled dogs," and, say, Berlitz instruction for huskies working in northern Quebec. Albanese directed me to Stephen Lyons, since Lyons came up with it. "The vibrating meaning between the two options is the very reason for the name," Stephen tells me. "I'm attracted to those intersections of meaning where misunderstanding is highly possible. Most people ask 'well, what IS French for 'sled dogs?' wanting to hear some French term, but fewer picture a husky sitting at a cafe, pawing through his vocab book, cramming for his coffee order..."

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Caribou Whispers

Books & Branches

Old car parts and animal hearts.

Books & Branches' Caribou Whispers is the studio culmination of numerous demos and scraps sent by songwriter Colin McLaine to multi-instrumentalist Stephen Lyons (Fond of Tigers) while McLaine was living in the Yukon. Dave Chokroun (bass, piano) rounds out a trio that created a diverse though never cluttered range of sounds.

Caribou Whispers is a nuanced, rewarding, and subtly strange album that channels the ghosts of Townes van Zandt, 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz, Erik Satie, and the North itself.

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jesse Gander. Colin McLaine – voice, electric and acoustic guitars, baritone ukulele Stephen Lyons – drums, percussion, electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, voice Dave Chokroun – upright bass, piano

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Uninhabit

Fond of Tigers

Featuring seven of Vancouver's leading creative musicians, "Fond of Tigers have proven that descriptions of their sound are next to impossible and essentially pointless." - (Herohill)

JUNO Award winning Fond of Tigers have been developing a complicated, beautiful sound since 2003. Featuring seven of Vancouver’s leading creative musicians, Fond of Tigers play a layered, nuanced music that explores musical possibilities ranging from the smallest gesture of extended technique, to the full avant-rock bombast possible with a wild, double-drumkit-led septet.

Fond of Tigers’ intense and idiosyncratic sound inhabits an undefined musical territory somewhere in the outlands of avant-rock: “prog, post-rock, or jazz -- whatever you want to call this, it rarely sounds this pretty, this expressive, this emotional, this bracing.” (CokeMachineGlow)

Some reviews of Fond of Tigers' previous album, Continent & Western:

"Vancouver’s Fond of Tigers keep ideas flowing at a good clip on their masterful third full-length album." - NOW Magazine

"Fond Of Tigers vacillate between minimal washes of sound and gales of loudness that incorporate jazz, rock, European classical and electronic accents in grand, sweeping ways." - Exclaim!

"...a beautifully sprawling disc." - The Georgia Straight

"The band has never had a better sounding recording, with each player's contribution clear in the mix and this means you can really appreciate the complexity of what the musicians achieve in this constantly amazing project." - The Province

"It will keep you very interested." - See Magazine

"That Continent & Western manages to fit song structures and experimental improv into its forty-six minutes and still sound like the work of one band says something about its range." – Textura

“Continent & Western” fuses rock, no wave and, well, fusion, into a wild, improvisational, hot groove that almost never stops. And never stops upending expectations." - Foxy Digitalis

"Without question, five years of music from Vancouver’s Fond of Tigers has proven that descriptions of their sound are next to impossible and essentially pointless... When it comes to Continent & Western however, the reward is in the total experience. The moments of serenity and tradition spliced into collages of chaos and urgency are as captivating as they are conflicting and certainly better heard than read. " – Herohill

"...this avant-pop combo is as much pop as it is avant, and there’s always enough structure to these songs to keep the playing, even at its edgiest, from careering into cacophony." - The Globe and Mail

“Fond of Tigers have already explored a lot of interesting musical ground and don't seem to be slowing down. Catch them now if you can.” - !Earshot

“Vancouver's seven-member avant-garde meets avant-rock group still serves up experimental, edgy, layered music, but this effort is more approachable than previous releases. Rest easy, though, as the raw chaos is still evident in tracks such as the explosive “Soheb,” “Grandad,” and “Sept. 16, 2005,” but this Continent & Western displays a new Fond of Tigers, with a newfound, expanded reach.” – FFWD Magazine

“No band impressed me more than this one. They’re Fond of Tigers, a Canadian outfit who had my eyes rolling into the back of my head.” - The Needle Drop

“Fond of Tigers’ newest album, Continent & Western, offers the curated chaos listeners have grown to love, but this time there is a new focus on melody, distinct arrangement, and the first appearance of lyrics. Don’t think, though, that the album is a radical departure or transformation of their ethos; rather, for Fond of Tigers, the traditional is unexpected, and the unexpected has become tradition. Continent & Western offers the same intelligence, space and shades of previous offerings, as well some amazing collaborations from old friends. – Discorder

“Fond of Tigers branches out into new and sometimes noisier territories on its third album Continent & Western, the septet at times sounding closer in spirit to an avant, take-no-prisoners outfit like Naked City than a standard neo-jazz collective. But regardless of whether the material in question is a vocal-based song or an uproarious throwdown, the band's uncompromising identity remains intact.” - textura

“And then I listened to Continent & Western. And then I was happy and had hope for the future and for my son." - Forest Gospel

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Cabalcor

Sun Belt

Dusty, cinematic stories in song and surreal soundtracks from Canada's approaching desert.

Recorded in Tucson, AZ at Wavelab Studios (Calexico, Howe Gelb, Iron and Wine), the Vancouver-based Sun Belt creates subtly surreal atmospherics and dark folk story songs. This album is a companion to a 168 page book, "Cabalcor: An Extracted History" available from Anvil Press. The band is made up of Rick Maddocks, Stephen Lyons (of the JUNO Award-winning Fond of Tigers), Jon Wood, and Paul Rigby (Neko Case). Recorded by Craig Schumacher and Chris Schultz.

Album review in Exclaim! Magazine

"Newly formed Vancouver-based group Sun Belt have undertaken an ambitious project with their new album, Cabalcor. The album revolves around the central location of Cabalcor, a dusty tar sands boomtown in an unidentified arid region; each song reflects the area's growth and decline. Having travelled to Tucson, Arizona to record the album, Sun Belt successfully tangle nylon guitars and harmonica with pedal steel and banjo, creating a compelling texture of Latin flavour and country twang that could only be achieved in the Tex-Mex melting pot of the South-western United States.

The fictional landscape is the setting for a collection of surreal tales. The album begins with "Fort Iquique," a track that is, ostensibly, a mysterious crescendo of noise that teleports the listener into the town of Cabalcor. The next offering, "Country of Madmen," lays the groundwork for the stylistic intention of the next 35 minutes. The song acts as a kind of narrative overture for Cabalcor, summarizing the town in a True Detective-esque opening sequence. Opening with ranchera nylon strumming, an omniscient figure speaks of the rugged scene: "Cracked cartilage and bone, man down! Dirt soaks up the blood, as children gather 'round. Later they'll re-enact the scene, dry straw and grenadine."

Cabalcor carves out a plot with different narrative voices and subject matter, but the message remains fairly uniform: Cabalcor is not an easy place to live. "Nobody left in this town, goes outside alone," vocalist Rick Maddocks sings on "Champion the Wonder Horse." Yet, Cabalcor is also presented as pastoral, exemplified by the audible town square vignette with complementary classical guitars over townsfolk chatter on the album's title track.

Sun Belt have done a remarkable job developing a fictional location that has a distinct atmosphere and local character; the album is part of a multi-media release in combination with a book, Cabalcor: An Extracted History, which features fictional sources such as journals, film transcripts, environmental studies and police reports that chart the region's descent into a wasteland. The commendable effort is made all the more impressive by the fact that the album, even without the accompanying book, stands up on its own as a story.

However, while the four interludes play an important role in telling the tale, they occupy a large portion of the album. So while there are many bright spots on the album, the fact that four of ten tracks are interludes means there's less time to fully explore Cabalcor. Still there's more than enough goodness here to keep the album engaging; Paul Rigby's classical guitar contributions, Maddocks' pining voice and the inclusion of bass harmonica (to name a few elements) all successfully mesh to give this album an intriguing sense of time and place. (Offseason)"

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Heartwarmongering

Limbs of the Stars

Creative post-rock set of dark-hued, textural songs by members of Fond of Tigers.

Live review in Discorder "Limbs Of The Stars are probably one of the most talented groups of musicians currently residing in Western Canada, let alone Vancouver. Although I’m not sure how much of the effect non-musicians absorbed during their set, the level of virtuosity exuding from Stephen Lyons and Skye Brooks (guitar and drums, respectively) alone was palpable to anyone who had ever sat down with an instrument before. Borrowing members from Fond Of Tigers, the foursome eke out a sound one part experimental freestyle jazz and two parts pure fun, and their set earned most of its enjoyment from seeing the intensity and joy with which the musicians plied their equipment for sound, with particular props to Lyons’ ridiculously masterful whole-body guitar solos. Something about seeing musicians of this magnitude jam right in front of you is pretty damn awe-inspiring." - Fraser Dobbs, Discorder

Georgia Straight album review: "Limbs of the Stars' Heartwarmongering is a thinking person’s musical feast" Heartwarmongering (Offseason)

Alternating between propulsive, impassioned drama and glowing, meditative lyricism, Limbs of the Stars’ heartwarmongering shows sides of Stephen Lyons that followers of Fond of Tigers might miss. That band’s tendency to build to maximalist, multi-instrumental explosions is mostly choked back, creating a restrained, pushing-against-the-barriers tension that usually just threatens to soar—although occasional breakouts still occur.

While FoT’s ’70s prog-jazz-meets-avant-rock template is still roughly in place, there’s more romanticism evident here, including a folky/alt-country element, courtesy of Lyons’s plaintive, introspective vocals. See “no more sinners” and “us vs. them” especially: most of the album is instrumental, but there are a couple honest-to-God songs here. Lyons’s guitar doesn’t so much defy genre as employ it at will, making artful, evocative journeys of each track. Skye Brooks’s drumming slips effortlessly between the jazzy impressionism at the start of “falling for falling’s sake” and the Swans-like, pounding intensity at the end. And the freakout that begins the perversely titled “cosby” gives way to super-cool showoff bass-noodling from Shanto Acharia.

This is a thinking person’s musical feast. It doesn’t really matter what your musical orientation is; if you’re smart, you’ll find stuff to like." - Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight

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