Coming soon: Mammoth Gardens ‘Slow Candle’

It’s spring, and it looks like something else has sprouted up within Mammoth Gardens.

This time, it’s a single release — digital only, for the time being — for a song that some of you who are familiar with one of my other musical exploits, Galore, might know from 2002’s ‘Parader’ album. This version, however, is radically different.

Some time in the late 1990s — I’m guessing maybe 1997 or 1998 — I was blocking out studio time with the amazing (and at the time, Halifax-based) producer/engineers Terry Pulliam and Laurence Currie, who were both running their own studios in town (SoundMarket and Idea of East, respectively). The band I had been with for the bulk of the ’90s, Cool Blue Halo, had just begun what seemed at the time to be an indefinite hiatus (thankfully, that status has changed to a degree) and I was aiming to do something quite different from the guitar-based power pop that CBH had carved out a reputation for. I was striving to do something more atmospheric, perhaps a little more electronic, something a little outside of my comfort zone. A local filmmaker had asked me to contribute one or two songs to a project he was working on, and that seemed like the perfect opportunity to branch out and try something. So, via sessions both at SoundMarket and Idea of East, under the ‘nom de plume’ of Electricity (I still think that’s a great band name, for the record — ubiquitous and calling for subversion, a la Television) I recorded a couple of tracks: ‘Sleepwalker’ (which was used in the film in some capacity) and ‘Slow Candle.’ My memory of the events is not photographic, unfortunately, but I believe initial recording was done at Terry’s studio and more tracks were added at Laurence’s with Laurence also handling the final mix of at least ‘Slow Candle.’

I have no idea why I didn’t release ‘Slow Candle’ at the time. Perhaps it was because I was in the process of plotting a short-lived first stab at living in Toronto, or because it was somewhat left of centre compared to the other stuff I was demoing with Halo’s drummer, Glenn MacCulloch, which eventually was released as the first EP from Galore, ‘Pilot Light.’ Either way, the track was put aside and resuscitated somewhat for the first Galore full-length album, ‘Parader,’ albeit in a much more stripped-down fashion, with just acoustic guitar, piano and vocal.

Fast forward 24 years or so, and I’m sifting through storage bins housing assorted bits and pieces of a bygone life, and I stumble upon a CD master for the original ‘Slow Candle.’ I pop it into a CD player and instantly I’m transported back to that time of experimentation, dabbling in all forms of studio wizardry with Terry and Laurence, with an exploratory mindset that was determined to create something new to us, and hopefully to others.

Sometimes one is more comfortable in leaving the past in the past, but in this instance, I thought that bringing this original version of ‘Slow Candle’ out of the shadows would provide an interesting curiosity for those who are familiar with the Galore version of the song, and perhaps a fresh experience for those who don’t know the song at all. For me, it’s certainly been both.

This will be available for streaming and download purchase via the usual outlets, through DistroKid, with a release date TBA (but expect it sooner rather than later). I will also provide a sneak audio preview in a subsequent post.

The song was produced by Terry Pulliam, Laurence Currie and yours truly; mixed by Laurence Currie at Idea of East Studios in Halifax, NS; with final mastering by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel, Toronto and additional sonic enhancements by James Parker. Performed and written by yours truly.

Stay well,

Barry Francis Walsh

Mammoth Gardens: The Dissolving video

Following the release of the second Mammoth Gardens EP, “Remote”, we at Mammoth Gardens HQ are happy to unveil the video for its lead track, The Dissolving.

An early version of the song was first begun in 2016. Initially, the subject matter was inspired by what was then a pandemic of sorts: a rise in polarization that was happening in various countries, fuelled by the “shoot first, ask questions later” immediacy and relative anonymity of social media. But that pandemic was soon supplanted by another one — one which we are still living through. But the polarization continues, and has even intensified. It was that state of affairs that came to the fore when I started working on the song again in early 2020.

The marketing messages at the time said that we were “all in this together” but eventually we found that some of us were seemingly “in it” deeper than others. The pandemic — and responses to it from governments, medical bodies, corporations and just plain folks like you and me — seemed to drive wedges deeper between us. Some of us could stay home, have our food and groceries delivered, work remotely. Some of us didn’t have that luxury. Some of us (well, a very small percentage) saw exponential increases in wealth and privilege over the last two years. Many of us saw quite the opposite. Instead of discussing the very serious issues we were all facing, we, as a society, opted to shout at each other via whatever means were at our disposal: TV, social media, et cetera. And the shouting is only getting louder as we enter a third year of uncertainty.

The lyrics for the song came as a stream of consciousness, practically automatic writing. It’s pretty clear what is “dissolving” — a sense of compassion for each other, a feeling of unity in the face of adversity. What this song, and its video, does is pose the question: Once these things dissolve, what will take their places?

The video is beautifully directed by my friend, musical collaborator (he appears on several ‘Remote’ tracks, including this one) and director of several videos from Cool Blue Halo, another band I’m lucky to be a part of — James Parker.

For in disease, the most voluntary or most special movements, faculties etc., suffer first and most, that is in an order the exact opposite of evolution. Therefore, I call this the principle of Dissolution.” – John Hughlings Jackson (neurologist, 1835-1911)

That which came together can easily dissolve if conditions become unfavourable. That which has dissolved may come together again if circumstances are appropriate. Therefore, who is to say that there is a beginning and an end?” Lie Yakou (Daoist philosopher, 5th century BC)

Barry Walsh

January 14, 2022

Galore “Roller” — coming November 12

At long last, the “lost” album from Toronto-based rock and roll combo Galore, “Roller,” is set to be released digitally through AutomanicArts.

First, a little clarification about what we mean by “lost.” Recording for the album began way, way back in the halcyon days of 2008 when that era’s iteration of Galore — consisting of longtime members Barry Walsh, Tim Timleck and Kevin Hilliard and joined by guitarist Stephen Krecklo (Small Sins, The Carnations, K-OS) — set out to put down tracks at friend Todor Kobakov’s flat. Various songs had been written for the band’s first full-length since 2006’s “Amplifier” on Bhurr Records (which is, for those interested, still available for streaming via Apple Music).

Fast forward a couple of years to 2010, and with the bandmates having fulfilled touring obligations with other bands for a spell, the Galore crew reconvened at the rehearsal space-turned-recording space of a rather prominent Canadian indie rock band and got to work finishing what was begun a couple of years before. The record, which was christened “Roller” in honour of the April Wine song of the same name, would be the first Galore album to feature another vocalist/songwriter besides Walsh, with bassist/vocalist Kevin Hilliard contributing several songs to the proceedings. About a year earlier, the band took part in a short-lived but much-loved series on now defunct Aux TV, “Master Tracks,” in which participating bands would record a song at Metalworks Studio in Toronto with producers Laurence Currie (Sloan, Cool Blue Halo, Gandharvas) and Moe Berg (The Pursuit of Happiness) over the span of a day.

With that song, “Getting Over It,” in the can, the band completed 10 or so more tunes ranging from the windswept Americana of Hilliard’s “Colorado” and “Cincinnati Annie” to the straight-up power pop of Walsh’s “Not the Only One” and the aforementioned “Getting Over It,” to the fist-pumping rock of “Under Your Thumb” and “Stop Believing.” With the whole process overseen by Krecklo as producer/engineer/mixer, the band played a few more shows before embarking on an unofficial, perhaps unplanned hiatus.

Fast forward to 2021, and for whatever reason, the stars have aligned just enough to allow for a digital release of the third long-player from Galore. Perhaps, when the fates allow, there will be opportunity to play these songs live. But in the meantime, the band is excited to finally share this labour of love, lust and loss with you at home.

“Roller” will be released to your favourite digital music platform via Distrokid on November 12, 2021.

TRACK LISTING

SIDE ONE

  1. Stop Believing
  2. Under Your Thumb
  3. Getting Over It
  4. Cincinnati Annie
  5. Please

SIDE TWO

  1. Colorado
  2. State I’m In
  3. Not the Only One
  4. Too Many Sarahs
  5. Request Line

COMING SOON: MAMMOTH GARDENS/ REMOTE

Dystopian rhapsodies for the summer of 2021.

Sneak preview to come. But in the meantime, a little more information.

Track listing:

The Dissolving

Fall With You

Waving

Thaw

Devoid of Stars (Light Years Away)

Produced and engineered by Laurence Currie with additional recording and engineering by James Parker and Barry Francis Walsh.

Performed by Barry Francis Walsh, Laurence Currie and James Parker

COMMUNIQUE

As 2019 came to a close, Laurence Currie (whom I’ve worked with for many, many years now — from my days with Cool Blue Halo in the ’90s and our “Kangaroo” album to the debut Mammoth Gardens EP, “New Moon Variety” in 2015) and I started talking about working on a new Mammoth Gardens project. I’d sent him demos for all sorts of songs, with the aim of assembling a group of players together to head to his studio in a peaceful rural part of Ontario to hash it all out.

But as we all know, 2020 had different plans.

Once it became apparent that we wouldn’t be convening in a studio with other humans for a good while yet, I decided to familiarize myself more with home recording. And I guess lockdowns and stay at home orders allowed a little more time for the creative process than usual circumstances. Therefore, I started writing more material — some stuff on keyboards, some stuff on guitar — and found that there was some sort of through line that made the new stuff stand together as a whole. Maybe it was a spirit of adventure and experimentation. Lyrically, some stuff that I’d started in 2019 — perhaps in response to other ills plaguing the world at that time — had a deeper resonance now. And some stuff was more or less “automatic writing.” But it was all something new for me, and exciting.

From there, I shared the demos with Laurence and he was excited to work on the songs as well. I also reached out to my longtime friend and occasional musical collaborator James Parker to see if he wanted to contribute too. The end result was forged with a spirit of collaboration, perhaps some improvisation, and a push to create something evocative and new, despite — or perhaps, aided by and reflective of — the circumstances.

I’m looking forward to sharing these songs in the weeks ahead.

Barry Walsh

06/09/21

DWRecordings to reissue Cool Blue Halo’s “Kangaroo”

CBH kangaroo new cover

 

In 1996, a city on the East Coast of Canada was the focal point of an indie music renaissance that saw numerous bands from the area rising to national prominence and garnering international attention. Dubbed “the Halifax Explosion,” the indie music scene in Halifax, Nova Scotia, fostered by live music venues such as The Double Deuce, the Club Flamingo and Birdland, drew music industry executives from around the world, flocking to hear – and sign – the “buzz bands” of the city.

One band that steadily built its audience in those clubs from its inception in 1992 to its dissolution in 1998 was Cool Blue Halo. Founded by singer/songwriters Paul Boudreau and Barry Walsh, by 1995 – after numerous personnel changes and a brief hiatus – the band found its firm footing with the arrival of bassist and vocalist Jason Ives and drummer Glenn MacCulloch. In 1996, with Halifax-based producer and engineer Laurence Currie behind the board, the band took to Idea of East Studios (where Currie was concurrently recording Sloan’s landmark “One Chord to Another” album) to record its first – and, to date, only – full-length album, Kangaroo, for Halifax indie label No Records.

Released in June of 1996, the album appeared in the top 20 charts of campus radio stations across Canada and generated glowing reviews, with AllMusicGuide’s Gina Boldman, in her four-star review, calling it “an album full of sparkling, smart and memorable power pop songs… one of the most refreshing power pop albums to surface in the past few years.” The University of Western Ontario’s Gazette praised it as “one of the greatest pop albums to come out of Canada in a long time,” and international power pop bible Amplifier heralded it as “utterly catchy.”

Videos for its effervescent singles, “Too Much Kathleen” and “Take It Back Now”, received considerable airplay on Canada’s music television cable network, MuchMusic, following the rapturous reception given to the band’s previous video effort, the evocative “Sweetie Said”, directed by James Parker (helmer of the videos for the Kangaroo singles) and Shannon Duhasky. That video was nominated for three MuchMusic Video Awards in 1996 and was a favourite of then-VJ Sook-Yin Lee.

Rare for an indie band without major label backing, the singles also received strong airplay on commercial radio across Canada, with “Too Much Kathleen” appearing on the top 15 of Toronto FM station Q107, as well as hometown FM station Q104 in Halifax.

Performing across Canada, the band would eventually sell close to 2,500 copies of Kangaroo before breaking up, with each member moving on to new musical projects, and various members moving away from Halifax. And as No Records ceased operations, the album would eventually go out of print.

But its influence would still be noted for years afterward. Prominent music blog Said the Gramophone, in posting an MP3 of “Too Much Kathleen” found somewhere in the recesses of the Internet, said of the song: “(“Too Much Kathleen” is) like the Fountains of Wayne, had the guys been Nova Scotia boys instead of New Jersey hooligans.” And in 2016, current Halifax-based indie favorites Monomyth name-checked the album and referenced the band in their song, “Cool Blue Hello.”

In 2012, the band was invited to reunite and perform at the 20th anniversary edition of the renowned indie music festival the Halifax Pop Explosion, sharing the Marquee stage in a sold-out show with other beloved acts from the mid-90s such as The Superfriendz, Hip Club Groove and The Stratejackets. It was Cool Blue Halo’s first performance in 14 years.

Now, just over 20 years after its initial release, Kangaroo is getting a new lease on life via Toronto-based DWRecordings. Home to Michelle McAdorey’s Polaris Prize long-listed solo album, Into Her Future, the label is releasing an anniversary edition of Kangaroo this fall on vinyl, on CD and through digital outlets, remastered by renowned engineer João Carvalho and complete with new artwork featuring never-before-seen photos from Toronto-based photographer Katherine Pittman. The digital and CD versions will also feature the original version of Cool Blue Halo’s “Sweetie Said,” first recorded in 1994 by Barry Walsh and producer Terry Pulliam, and issued on vinyl 45 by Pulliam’s Release Records. The song has never been officially available on CD or as a digital download.

“All of us in Cool Blue Halo are so happy that these songs are going to make their way out into the world again,” says Walsh. “We were very proud of the work that we had done with Laurence and Terry back then, and we are just as proud of it all now. We’re very grateful to DWR for giving us the chance to get the music out there once more, for those who appreciated it back in 1996, and for those who might discover it now.”

The remastered anniversary edition of Cool Blue Halo’s Kangaroo will be available on Oct. 27, 2017 in vinyl, CD and digital formats. You can pre-order it via the fine folk at DWR here.