There has been no presence on Calgary music in the past decade quite like Jay Crocker. A band-leader to be reckoned with, a band-mate of envious talents, a uniquely pin-sharp producer/arranger, and a fierce improviser and musical explorer Crocker's inspiring shadow hangs long. Following a banner year for his "other" bands Ghostkeeper (including a Polaris Prize nomination for their sophomore self-titled album) and international acclaim for trash improv/jazz outfit NoMoreShapes, 2011 marks the release of Crocker's finest, laser-precise bursts of creative spark yet, the twin LPs Turned to Giants, and Co-Stars.
Fresh, exciting, and entirely original, the creative force behind Giants and Co-Stars practically spills from the speakers, barely contained on the shiny underside of a compact disc (or within the 1's and 0's, should digital be more your speed).
Ricocheting in a multitude of directions, both Giants and Co-Stars mark a shift in Crocker’s work in which the possibilities of noise are meshed with a fool-proof sense of melody and composition. Melting pianos, makeshift music boxes, and pulsating guitars bubble beneath Crocker's developed lead vocals from a gentle whisper to a multi-tracked howl. Rarely does one hear a record of such imagination and skill emerging from a solitary voice that Crocker has created two in just one year is testament to his standing as one of Canada’s most forward-looking musicians.
But before looking ahead, it’s always important to look back, and Crocker’s musical history is one of intense growth and versatility. Following the dissolution of Recipe From a Small Planet (with whom Crocker toured Canada incessantly, playing over 1,000 shows), Crocker re-grouped and re-emerged with his debut solo album Melodies from the Outskirts, proclaimed the “Best
Indie Release of 2006” by The Calgary Herald. Crocker also has been in eminent figure in Calgary's ever growing improv and noise scene.
Recorded in Tuscon with producer Craig Schumacher (Calexico, Iron & Wine, Neko Case) at the legendary Wavelab Studios, 2008’s Below the Ocean Over combined the classic songwriting of Melodies from the Outskirts with a razor-sharp sense of epic instrumental arrangement. Built upon sweeping horn sections and strings (Calexico’s Joey Burns guesting on cello), Below the
Ocean Over stands up as a manifesto of purpose and intent.
Spending much of the interim following Ocean Over behind the boards, Crocker has since become one of Calgary’s most sought-after producers, his small backyard studio Sea Legs capable of capturing the gigantic sounds in his head within a tiny hand-built secret bunker shack.
Turned to Giants and Co-Stars marks Crocker’s re-emergence as a songwriter and performer to be reckoned with, and they stand as a one-two punch destined to match the critical praise heaped upon not only the other recent projects given the Crocker touch, but the full canon of modern music. This time, keeping Crocker as Calgary’s own favourite secret is out of the question.
Eric Hamelin - smash
Jay Crocker - smashing
NoMoreShapes is a Calgary based duo featuring Jay Crocker on guitar & electronics and Eric Hamelin on drums & percussion. NoMoreShapes was formed in 2007 through a series of early Bug Incision (bugincision.com) gigs and few tapes filled with seemingly unremarkable, sweaty keyboard & drum riffs. These sketches would turn out to be the starting point for the trio's music and within the year enough material for an album was developed.
Creesus Crisis is the first full length recording by NoMoreShapes as a trio (featuring Jay Crocker on guitar & electronics, J.C. Jones on trombone and Eric Hamelin on drums & percussion) which has received critical acclaim around the globe in such notable publications as the New York Times and Paris Transatlantic Magazine. Creesus explores territories such as small sound electronic improvisations, Ornette-ish like free bop, to musical sources such as free rock, noise, jazz and folk. Since 2007 NoMoreShapes have performed across the country as both a trio and more recently as a Crocker/Hamelin duo, picking up a revolving cast of members such as Josh Zubot, Jesse Zubot, Simon Fisk, Chris Dadge, Chad VanGaalen and more.
Eric Hamelin is an upcoming improviser/drummer from Calgary AB. Hamelin is a staple in the Calgary improv, noise/ pop scene and currently drums for Chad VanGaalen. He has also collaborated with Josh Zubot, the Copilots, Jesse Zubot, Simon Fisk, Pierre-Yves Martel, Tania Gill, Lina Allemano, Chris Dadge, Darren Williams, Dave Chokroun, and many more.
Calgary-based Ghostkeeper produces raw and electrifying music. A colourful patchwork of heartfelt, outsider blues and noisy pop, perhaps their music can be best understood through the distinctive Northern Alberta origins of Shane Ghostkeeper (vocals, guitar) and Sarah Houle (drums, vocals).
Shane & Sarah spent their adolescence isolated by Northern Alberta's geography, listening to folk and blues records, slowly developing an admiration for individuals that had the ability to convey rich stories through song. When they later expanded their musical horizons beyond these roots, they found another world in the self-aware discordance of Pavement and the raw appeal of The Make Up. Here, they developed their own storytelling language with which Shane could voice the traditional songwriting he grew up with and Sarah could provide skewed drum patterns as a backdrop. The addition of Jay Crocker (guitar, vocals) and Scott Munro (bass, vocals), fleshed out the skeletons of Shane's songs into the extraordinary marriage of noisy blues and pop sensibility that became the band Ghostkeeper.
While traditional influences remain at the very core of Shane's songwriting, a healthy irreverence towards standard song structure and an idiosyncratic storytelling voice results in something undeniably Ghostkeeper.