Columns

hotham-sound-4

On the website for Hotham Sound, the geographic place after which the label is named is described before the label itself. Hotham Sound is a sidewater of the Jervis Inlet, located on the South Coast of British Columbia. This prioritizing of information says a lot about Hotham Sound’s focus and inspiration.

Hotham Sound releases the work of experimental electronic artists from the Cascadia region. Their catalogue is atmospheric, textured and cinematic, boasting nine releases from the likes of Mount Maxwell (a project by label founder, Jamie Tolagson), Khyex, KR75 and others. Although each release has its own personality, they make the listener feel that they are suspended in dark waters or laying in an evergreen forest at dusk, grainy synthwork and eerie samples painting sonic pictures of the Pacific Northwest.

HothamSound1_forDiscorder
Photo Edits by Duncan Cairns-Brenner for Discorder Magazine

When Jamie started the label in 2015, he didn’t expect it to flourish as it has. This year alone, he has released four cassettes with another one on the way. This success is, in part, due to the coincidental conception of Hotham Sound. Jamie met friend and fellow artist Kristen Roos (one half of KR75) bonding over music. Within one week of meeting, they were talking about  how to release their sounds. “[The growth was] exponential because every new person that gets involved brings with them this whole little community,” says Jamie. And so, like the seedlings of one tree planting several others, that one connection has spawned a rich discography in less than three years.

It might seem enigmatic to emulate nature with electronic music, but Jamie thinks otherwise. “To me, electronic music has more of a connection to nature than acoustic music,” says Jamie, “It’s all sinewaves, all processes. It reminds me of natural processes. That seems to be a big mental block for some people; electronic music is [associated with] clubs and nature is [associated with] guys with acoustic guitars.”

The label is run with an unwavering vision: “I want it to feel like a place.” Jamie continues, “I’ve had a lot of submissions that I really liked, but they were more suited to a dark, cavernous space in Berlin, overtly synthetic. I have no problem with that, it’s just not what I’m looking for.”

This attention to detail extends beyond the music itself; Hotham Sound’s aesthetic is also neatly maintained. The website is sleek and minimal, featuring no photos of the artists themselves, and Jamie works at length with the artists to design the graphics for their releases. It’s not only the music that’s experimental, but also the operations.

Moon_AliciaLawrence_ForDiscorder_July2018
Illustration by Alicia Lawrence for Discorder

Jamie works on a contractless system, splitting the cassette releases 50/50 with the artists, with all digital sales going directly to the artists. Another unusual aspect of the operation is that Hotham Sound offers its musicians exposure but not publicity. Jamie wants the listeners to share in the same experience of discovery that inspires the music. “I let the artists know that it’s not the kind of label that will be marketing them. It’s almost a hidden thing, something I want people to stumble upon at 2AM and say, ‘What is this?’”

One of the more unorthodox projects in Hotham Sound’s repertoire is the MMR Broadcasts, four hour-long sound collages. Each ambient soundscape is composed by a group of artists and decorated with radio static and dialogue samples from old films. Another is The Mondrians, a sound compilation based on the works of Dutch artist and theoretician, Piet Mondrian. The project seeks to re-imagine Mondrian’s abstract, geometrical grid paintings as graphic scores.

Scientists know more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean. Jamie Tolagson is no scientist but Hotham Sound is a sort of laboratory, and the artists on the label are its crew. Where the average, big-time label seeks out stars, Hotham Sound and its roster are much more interested in the depths, what’s underneath the surface of music. Together they pose the question, “What better way to learn than to experiment?”

X

 
The Mondrians is set to release in October 2018, and is still accepting submissions. For more details and to listen to Hotham Sound sounds, visit hotham-sound.squarespace.com.

Massybooks6_geraldinepinzon_forDiscorder_summer2018

Shelf Life

MASSY BOOKS

author
Esmée Colbourne
photography
Geraldine Pinzon
illustration
Emily Valente

Massy Books is an independent bookstore located in Chinatown on East Georgia Street, owned and run by its namesake, Patricia Massy. Massy’s bookstore is a labour of love. Open for almost a year now, Massy has used the space not just to sell books, but also host readings and build community.

Massybooks4_EmilyValente_forDiscorder_Summer2018
Illustration by Emily Valente for Discorder Magazine

The entrance is easy to miss. This, in combination with its clubhouse-meets-library feel makes for a cool and welcoming oasis from the hot summer. There’s no trace of that musty odour normally associated with secondhand books, yet the main space is laden, floor to ceiling, with stocked shelves.

Massy and her staff are approachable and knowledgeable. While watching her talk to the people coming and going, it was easy to see the pleasure she gains from small exchanges with new faces and her dedication to finding niche books for customers. Her personal love of books stems from the learning that can be gleaned from them, for example “a sensical kind of rabbit hole that books can take you down and lead to other books and other histories and other works.” She also enjoys dense or complex novels because they enable her to emotionally connect with and learn about characters’ lives: “It’s like travelling without going anywhere. Sometimes when a book is challenging I literally feel my brain working hard […] It feels good, kind of like weightlifting, but with words and ideas.”

Massybooks3_EmilyValente_forDiscorder_Summer2018
Illustration by Emily Valente for Discorder Magazine

Owning a business and living in Vancouver comes with issues of affordability and precarity. Luckily, the building that houses Massy is relatively new and there’s co-op housing above the store, decreasing the likelihood that redevelopment will affect them during their current five-year lease. Massy believes that the lack of affordability is what makes Vancouver so unwelcoming to small businesses and residents. “[Vancouver] really caters to developers. I was asked by the City […] to sit on a panel on how to support the promotion of Indigenous culture and I didn’t go. […] I basically said, ‘We should be talking about how to make spaces more affordable so [Indigenous-oriented] events and cultural things can exist.’”

Massy Books is fast becoming the go-to place for discovering Indigenous literature. “A lot of great fiction by Indigenous people exists. It’s just a matter of finding them used. People hold onto their books or there weren’t enough printed in the past,” explained Massy. The sheer quantity of Indigenous books as well as Indigenous-focused events, such as the Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series in partnership with Room Magazine, or the shop’s willingness to host book launches for Indigenous authors, have cemented Massy Books as a cultural centre. In fact, thanks to an anonymous donor through Room Magazine, Indigenous Brilliance Reading Series will continue with more resources. “Now we can pay the readers for their work. So often Indigenous people are asked to work for nothing, so it is really great to be able to offer an honorarium,” explained Massy.

Massybooks7_geraldinepinzon_forDiscorder_summer2018
Massy Books || Photography by Geraldine Pinzon for Discorder Magazine

Massy’s support for the community extends to the artists shown in the bookstore’s upstairs gallery. “We are always looking for artists. […] We have a link on our website, a call for artists […] and a call for Indigenous artists. It would be great if people started applying to utilize the space. […] It’s for established artists and emerging artists that have never had a show before.” Currently, photography by Laura Noonan and Tara Paget of Meet Me at the Lamppost (MMATLP) is on display until mid-July. For the entire month of September, there will be a showcase of different Indigenous art forms featuring Northwest Coast Indigenous Women/2SQ artists.

Massy Books is a quiet haven for Vancouver book lovers. Patricia Massy’s commitment to stocking enriching books and her engagement with customers and artists is what makes Massy Books such a lovely place to be in. The shop is a joy to wander through and a prime example of what a good independent bookstore should be: community and identity driven, supportive of artists and welcoming to visitors.

X

 

Massy Books is located at 229 East Georgia Street. You can follow them on social media or visit their website for news and upcoming events: massybooks.com.

For a Summer Reading List of recommendations from the staff at Massy Books, find a print copy of Discorder around town, or keep an eye out on our social media channels.