Under Review

Aaron Schmidtke

It couldn’t have happened any other way. In true Vancouver fashion, N0V3L wrote and recorded their debut full-length album NON-FICTION in a since-demolished rental home likely featuring rusty nails through the floorboards and decorated with a tinge of West Coast black mould. If one scraped some of that rust off those nails, sprinkled in some of that illustrious black mould, and for the hell of it, threw in some Red Bull and cigarette butts, you would get NON-FICTION an anti-capitalist potion come to life, dissecting modern existence and the perverse parameters through which it’s experienced. 

Released through Flemish Eye Records, NON-FICTION provides dark yet danceable impressions, built on post-punk and a refusal to comply with the norm so-called Vancouver has constructed behind its transparent curtain. Tackling localized issues like the ravaging opioid epidemic, unequipped mental health programs, and a lack of affordable housing (while also relating existential concepts such as the hopeless trudge forward of time), NON-FICTION is an angry and desperate shout spread over eleven tracks.

With its title as a nod to pulling back this aforementioned curtain and peeling off the heart-shaped glasses, NON-FICTION is as real as it gets. 

Kicking off the LP with “UNTOUCHABLE” sets a precedent of uncomfortable being the new comfortable. With weaving bass lines, complemented by a droning synth, transforming into shrieky guitar lines as lead singer Jon Varley lyrically sets the tone for the whole release. 

Track four is what has to be considered the strongest track on the release, “FALLING IN LINE.” The bright, vibrant guitar line coupled with beautiful saxophone is a stark contrast to the melancholic tone which, dynamically, is the highlight of the project. Definitely one of the best post-punk songs to come out of Canada in some time. 

“PUSHERS,” another standout track, acts as a commentary on the opioid crisis which members of the project have experienced first-hand. Tracks like “PUSHERS” are what makes local bands so important to the scene, as they touch on issues that refuse to be properly covered by corrupt mass-media outlets. So? Someone has to cover them. “They’re taking a life over taking a loss / They lower the price while raising the cost!”

The final track “NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE” encapsulates the hopelessness that the entire album puts on a silver platter. This poetic piece is sprinkled with despair  – a retreat and submission into modernity after putting up a near-death fight. Regardless of the juncture of life one finds themselves in, if they are living in Vancouver when NON-FICTION was released, the aptly named “NOTICE OF FORECLOSURE” will forever live on.  — Aaron Schmidtke

IAMTHELIVING (aka Rian Peters) and Teon Gibbs have released their latest EP JNGL. Joining us here in Vancouver from Botswana and the U.K, the pair released this six piece R&B/hip hop project together, naming it a word that represents their collaboration, through the symbolism of the concrete jungle and green wilderness.

The EP starts off very upbeat with “Puppa” — a song with a very catchy instrumental, an energy which transfers straight into the second track “Translation”. With quite sexy and sensual lyrics, these first two tracks set the scene for the rest of the tracklist. However, just as you think you’ve gotten the gist of the EP, Peters and Gibbs create something different, and beautifully so, in “Where Do We Go From Here”. Here, Peters’ voice is given the spotlight, as well as featuring Gibbs’ best performance too. This track is definitely a standalone piece, not only in the two musicians’ deliveries, but also in its lyrical content. It is a song that dives into deeper content and really shows vulnerability. With a beautiful melody and angelic choir vocals, this track dives into finding a deeper purpose while also bringing up important issues such as police brutality. It also manages to deliver some of the best lyrics on the EP including: “You pray a lot for change, but never see it working” and “The thought that I might make it really makes me nervous / I’ve got to deal with the demons that live beneath the surface”.

 A drawback to the EP however, is how repetitive the background tracks can sometimes get by the time the song’s over — such as in “Boxes” and “Translation”. Not to worry though, since the most impactful songs on the EP are definitely the two slower ones: “Where Do We Go From Here” and “Fall”. The latter ends the project on a high note, another song filled with captivating vocals, melodies and lyrics. A tragic love song about wanting and needing to be better, this song is hypnotic. It is definitely a risk, ending the EP on lyrics like “Will I ever feel whole again?”, but “Fall” manages to provide incredible closure to JNGL while also leaving you craving more. — Valie