Features

1_evan_Buggle_ForDiscorder_February2017

Chapel Sound

More Than Music

The first thing to note about Chapel Sound is that sound does not solely refer to music. Founder Sean Oh says, “When I was saying Chapel Sound, ‘sound’ was not the music. It was something that is around. Wherever you are, there is no place [without] sound. It is a ubiquitous dimension … A lot of people misinterpret that [Chapel Sound] is a musical group.” Instead, Nancy Lee adds, “It’s a frequency, it’s a vibe, it’s an energy.”

To call Chapel Sound a vibe or an energy is an effective summation of the mindset at work within the collective. More concretely, Chapel Sound is a multi-disciplinary art collective with as many as forty contributors. At their regular meeting space I meet with four of them: Oh and Lee, along with Laine Butler and Eli Muro. They are all fully immersed in the visual, sonic and curatorial aspects of the collective, which is to say they each use many verbs to describe their roles within Chapel Sound. Lee says that since Chapel Sound’s outset, “We didn’t want to have music only. We wanted to have the disciplines interact … Everyone is quite interdisciplinary.”

Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine
Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine

The members of Chapel Sound are known for throwing parties at alternative spaces throughout Vancouver. While the parties are often remembered for the DJ sets, Chapel Sound is as much about curating the vibe of a space and creating an immersive experience as they are about playing music. Chapel Sound first gained attention in September 2012 when Oh live-streamed a party he hosted in his living room, complete with visual projections and a live painting installation. The first event was an “index of what we’re interested in,” says Oh.

The subsequent parties offered a platform for artists to experiment with different mediums and to bring their artistic practices to the table. Butler performed his first live DJ set during a broadcasted party. He adds, “Chapel is kind of why I became a VJ … There was a need for it.” Similarly, Lee says that her new media practice developed as she created installations and immersive spaces for Chapel Sound events.

Chapel Sound || Illustration by Mel Zee for Discorder Magazine
Chapel Sound || Illustration by Mel Zee for Discorder Magazine

Lee says that the aim from the start was to offer “an alternative space so we could get together and jam and be weird and be comfortable being weird.” Muro says of the early parties, “It was a strange sort of vibe but it worked.” They moved the parties to a larger underground space to increase the reach of the events so more people could contribute. Through their events, Chapel Sound offered a platform for DJs and producers who aren’t being booked for mainstream venues, often because their styles differ from mainstream electronic music.

Chapel Sound started hosting events in the first place because Oh “like[s] to [bring] people together.” He has aimed to bring artists together since he arrived in Vancouver. He is happy to encourage the talents of local artists in what he refers to as a “dad-type” of role within the scene. Butler adds that with Chapel Sound, “It [is] all about being inclusive.”

Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine
Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine

Inclusivity continues to be a focus for Chapel Sound, whether it means embracing a range of genres or ensuring that hosted events showcase the diversity of the collective’s members. Lee says, “Chapel Sound is a very racially diverse electronic music collective.” Muro continues, “I know that some other collectives have been criticized for being predominantly white men. I think we can be kind of proud that we’re not that.” All members I meet with agree that there isn’t a single sound that defines Chapel Sound. “People come from lots of different backgrounds, so that affects people’s styles,” says Muro. Chapel Sound’s two compilation albums effectively represent the range of styles in which its members work.

Chapel Sound || Illustration by Mel Zee for Discorder Magazine
Chapel Sound || Illustration by Mel Zee for Discorder Magazine

What connects the members’ work is a common vibe. Oh attributes the vibe to the Vancouver music scene and to the impact of the city’s geography and climate. Muro agrees: “Any city’s musical sound [is] influenced by the environment.” So too is a music scene influenced by its city’s history. In Vancouver, this includes a history of colonialism and of economic division. Chapel Sound aims to initiate conversations around these topics. Chapel Sound does more than offer a platform for artistic experimentation; it offers a platform for critical engagement.

In May 2016, the collective hosted its inaugural Chapel Sound Festival. In addition to parties, the festival included workshops and panels, notably a panel discussion on women in electronic music and creative technology. The women on the panel shared their experiences of discrimination in the music industry and their differing experiences based on sexual orientation, race and class. The audience was made up of more men than women, many of whom asked questions. Muro says, “We created a space that allowed for that kind of transferring of understanding.”

Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine
Chapel Sound || Photography by Evan Buggle for Discorder Magazine

Now that Chapel Sound is in its fifth year and has gained acclaim beyond Vancouver, its members are able to take on new endeavours, develop their artistic practices and initiate conversation. With future events, they intend to push the conversational aspect. By offering a forum for discussion Lee says, “We can actually reflect critically on our positionality in society: to [become] more self-aware and conscious of who we are and why we make art, why we make music, why we have to go through this process to do things in Vancouver and reflect on, maybe, class divide, housing issues.” On a closing note, Lee emphasizes that the doors are open to anyone who wants to contribute to Chapel Sound. As for future goals Oh says, “I still dream about this perfect 360 experience where all of your senses are stimulated.”

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You can learn more about Chapel Sound at chapelsound.org, or visit soundcloud.com/chapelsound to hear past projects and compilations.

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Pale Red

The Cézanne Of Soft Opening

I heard about Pale Red for the first time last year. They had just played Shindig and everyone I met was raving about over them. This happened just around the time I was getting into the CiTR and Discorder community, and even though this is based on almost nothing, I developed a sense of nostalgia for Pale Red. We have been ships passing in the night for almost a year now I always plan on going to their shows but never make it, or arrive right after their set, and this streak persists even for this article. All the communication seemed to happen just an hour too late or a hangover too soon. We end up exchanging questions and answers via email, which isn’t perfect, but it allows Portia, Myles, and Charlotte to respond individually. Through their responses, I see their personalities and similarities.

Pale Red is a local art-pop trio made up of Portia Boehm, Myles Black, and Charlotte Coleman. They had known each other since high school and have played together in various combinations before establishing Pale Red in 2014. The longevity of their bond is uplifting. Charlotte describes their first full-length album, Soft Opening “as a culmination of that history.” Myles gushes, “Pale Red is my favourite thing, it’s such a beautiful artistic relationship. Sometimes I even think of it as a model of what human organizations can look like, how people can figure out ways to express themselves without steamrolling others.”

Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine
Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine

Until the release of Soft Opening this month, their only recordings were EPs made on their phones. In reality, the album has been recorded for over a year. Myles and Portia chalk the delayed release up to the project refusing to be rushed. Portia explains, “Things just take as long as they take. We really didn’t have a desire to hold on to it, so much as life got in the way of the process of mixing, mastering, duplicating at pretty much every turn.” The value of this extended production period was not lost on them. Being able to revisit and reevaluate the material allowed for more thoughtful and satisfying songs. This is not the band’s usual approach. Their previous EPs were released almost immediately on Bandcamp.

Pale Red || Illustration by Fiona Dunnett for Discorder Magazine
Pale Red || Illustration by Fiona Dunnett for Discorder Magazine

I am reminded of an episode of the Revisionist History podcast where Malcolm Gladwell categorizes artists as Picassos or Cézannes, the difference being whether they produce completed works or projects that are always being worked on and perfected. Judging by Pale Red’s earlier, Picasso-esque releases, this intentional and simmering Cézanne Soft Opening promises to be distinct. Charlotte describes the album as “for the most part, real fun and sloppy, but also not sloppy.”

Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine
Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine

This sloppiness, and lack thereof, played a big role in motivating Soft Opening. All three members cite higher quality recording as a major goal for the album. Myles explains the contrast between the professionalism of the process and the informality of the recording: “I wanted to make an album that really sounds like us playing an intimate, live set. Close to the mic, high energy, rough around the edges. Rehearsed, but with room to play and improvise.” An imperfect combination of Picasso and Cézanne.

Pale Red || Illustration by Fiona Dunnett for Discorder Magazine
Pale Red || Illustration by Fiona Dunnett for Discorder Magazine

Pale Red’s last Bandcamp release, un-titled ee-pee, hinted at an imminent “no nonsense” album. Upon reflection, Portia, Myles, and Charlotte all disagree with that goal. Portia laughs it off saying, “less nonsense, maybe, but I don’t know that you can completely eradicate it from anything I am involved with.” What Charlotte describes as “minimal nonsense” is reflected in the Soft Opening’s creative process. For Myles, songwriting “focuses attention on enduring emotional concepts and in a way counteracts anxiety.” Myles wrote most of what he calls the album’s “core songs,” which Charlotte and Portia then wrote onto, which developed the Pale Red style. “Songs are rarely static because we are people,” explains Portia, “so also rarely static.” While this has been Pale Red’s process for years, Soft Opening is unique in its deliberateness. The songs were allowed to morph and evolve through additional practice and live performances. Despite the more professional set up recording in their friend Evan Matthiessen’s home studio as opposed to their tiny home jam room it was “really casual and fun,” and still let some nonsense seep into the Soft Opening.

Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine
Pale Red || Photography by Konstantin Prodanovic for Discorder Magazine

When asked about their band name, Myles explains, “colours are abstract and emotional, very open conceptually. We all wanted a name that was very open to interpretation.” Portia elaborates, “Pale Red to my mind is sort of an imaginary colour, an oxymoron almost? I like the unrepresentability of that,” speaking to an intangible materiality present in a lot of the music.

That’s what makes it seem kind of fitting that we never actually meet in person. I am able to sustain this game of engaging with a band that I’ve never really experienced. It feels like any more intimate interaction would be the end of an era. Soft Opening as an album is the beginning of a new era for Pale Red, and maybe the beginning of a mostly polished but still messy era for me and the band.

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To hear Pale Red, visit paleredband.bandcamp.com for previous releases, and keep an eye out for the Soft Opening release party February 17 at Ged Rate.