On a recent trip to Toronto, I took a break from the toils of record shopping and bicycle riding by sitting down for a wobbly pop at a Kensington Market watering hole. I sat down to go through my records and I got to wondering about a Toronto record label called Optical Sounds. I hadn’t yet found any of their releases in my travels, so while I sipped my libation, I sent an email to one of the fellows who runs the label about maybe picking some records while in town.
As I worked on pint number two, I realized how much I was enjoying the music being played inside the bar, so I decided to make some conversation with the bartender, who was also acting as DJ. After asking for a recommendation of a spot to eat nearby, we got to talking about stuff going on in the area and he mentioned he and his brother ran a record label in the city. “Oh really? Which label?” I asked, almost knowing the answer to the question as I asked it.
The bartender in question turned out to be Richard Gibson, one-half (along with his brother Robert, whom I had just emailed minutes before) of Optical Sounds records. The label has released a solid discography of mostly (though not solely) Toronto-based bands such as Revolvers, Action Makes and The Auras. The music of the label ranges from folk to rock to punk and experimental, all with a healthy dose of psychedelia and shoegaze-edelia. Gibson himself has released albums on the label as well with his now defunct band The Hoa Hoa’s (pronounced Wah-Wahs, he tells me), as well as his newest project, a blues-y psych-rock outfit called B-17. A super-group of sorts, B-17 features members of other Toronto bands like Action Makes (Clint Rogerson on bass), The Hoa Hoa’s (Gibson and Calvin Brown on guitar) and The Easy Targets (Nick Kervin on drums).
This past November, B-17 released Wishing Won’t Make It So, a five-song EP available digitally or on limited-edition translucent green vinyl.
The EP combines heavy riffs & grooves with elements of blues, psychedelia & 90s shoegaze. The pace starts off fast with the drum-machine-esque pounding of “Another Nocturnal Day” and hard-groove of “Bad Situation,” evoking a bleary and ill-fated trek home after a long night out (and possibly the insuing hangover). Bluesy ballad “My Love” brings down the tempo, only to have it build again, through the atmospheric paisley-psych jam of “Pay Back My Mom,” into title track “Wishing Won’t Make It So,” which closes the EP with an explosion of intensity that seems to bring the band close to exhaustion.
This EP is a great example of what is going on in this particular microcosm of the Toronto music scene. Optical Sounds is building a roster of bands and musicians that will hopefully continue to churn out the caliber of releases we’ve heard thus far. The only thing missing from this fertile field of music is a parade of tour vans headed west towards the prairies. Maybe wishing will make it so (cough).
The Jay of Spades
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Record DetailsReleased: 2012
Record Label: Optical Sounds