Columns

Columns

Ex-Softess

author
Tate Kaufman
illustration
James Spetifore
photography
Alistair Henning

Rattling my way over False Creek on the 007 bus, Ex-Softess’s chiming guitars and sprawling reverberations manifest in the twinkle of sunlight over the water, and the depths therein. Inherent within the band’s newest release, Hollow Ritual, is the muddied chaos of a lopsided city. The band delves into free-jazz noise excursions harkening back to L.A. Blues by The Stooges (indeed, Don, Guitarist and Vocalist shared a moment of mutual revelation in discussing the first time we heard the track). Unlike L.A. Blues, however the songs on Hollow Ritual quickly snap back into order, chaos aligning at once and driving the songs forward. 

Sometimes, what realigns the band is a specific audio cue, a transition line on April’s bass or fill from Bill’s drums, other times the cue is visual or spatial, one member directing the other two to return to form. This synchronicity requires both discipline and chemistry, with Ex-Softess always openly experimenting off of each-other while simultaneously working towards the progression and build of a song. 

Indeed, the band forms such a solid unit, with a distinct form of experimentation that it’s hard to believe it was formed out of Don and Bill’s prior project, Softess.  April recounts how she came to join the band, telling me that she had been to numerous Softess shows, and was surprised when Bill and Don reached out to her, not knowing that they had heard her work as a bassist in hardcore bands such as WANT and Career Opportunities. Once onboard, the three realized that they had a radically different approach and sound than Softess had once had, and settled on renaming the band to Ex-Softess, signalling a new stage in the group’s sonic evolution. Ex-Softess is, in many ways, a quintessential Vancouver band, each member having found each-other through the city’s vast network of musicians and artists, and coming together to create a sound both claustrophobic and expansive. 

Art Review

EAT YOUR TAIL

author
Krystal Paraboo
photography
Sophie Janus

The latest exhibition at Access Gallery, EAT YOUR TAIL, offers bewildering multi-media works by four local artists; Maya Gauvin, Chrome Destroyer, Teresa Holly, and Evan Sproat. The exhibition’s title pays homage to the ancient Egyptian ouroboros, a dragon or serpent eating its own tail, symbolically presenting a cyclical interpretation of death and rebirth. Through a single object both eternal sequences of life that are impossible to co-exist are presented, drawing equal criticism to both human downfall and its contrasting renaissance. The artists in EAT YOUR TAIL mimic this iconography and present their own paradoxical juxtapositions within self-portraits.This in turn urges viewers to partake in the process of confronting meditations on both self-deprecation and approbation, all through the lens of ritual. 

Gauvin and Destroyer begin by successfully creating a realm that ritualizes interconnectedness. The display of Gauvin’s ceramics on the floor, mounted on the wall and hung from the ceiling, set the tone for a sacred space — heavily reminiscent of esotericisms and monuments such as Stonehenge, both in display and  medium. The multi-coloured stained glass in “Salt Range” confronts viewers with their multi-dimensional reflection within this single object. Chrome Destroyer playfully displays the interconnections between generational objects of significance — both historical and contemporary — enhancing the spiritual realm of Gauvin’s work. The beauty in Chrome Destroyer’s photographs is in their deconstruction of certain eras, whilst criticizing their chronological effects. Audiences are forced to question the impact and influence of these objects; to what extent do they collectively play a role in shaping and harming our identities?

 A highlight of the exhibition was Sprout’s pink, hand-made, performative sculptures. Juxtaposed with Holly’s scattered display of papier mache bodily parts — indicative of a suppressed creature attempting to either escape or return to an unknown realm — both artists suddenly have us wearing costumes that elicit self-criticism through the unseemly display of mythological anatomy. All components of the metamorphosis are  fostered in these works — the grotesque is simultaneously graced with the ethereal in materials combined with soft shades of pastel.

This exhibition challenges notions of conceptualizing one’s identity. The experience becomes an expansive analysis of the self, as opposed to a compartmentalized interpretation. Although I was the sole viewer during my visit, I pondered how my experience would have been altered had I been with a handful of viewers — whether the shared experience would have created another layer of interconnectedness to be challenged and accepted.