Fernandes keeps running a hip hop experiment

by John Cameron


cd-def3Def 3 and Factor
3.5 out of 5

Back in 2003, Exclaim! wrote of the local rap scene that “Regina’s ready to give ’er,” their Exhibit A being the Dead Can’t Bounce record I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost… and if you don’t know where this is going, the short version is that Queen City artist Def 3 (a.k.a. Danny Fernandes) has been on his grind nationally for over a decade. But —surprisingly, for someone who’s still on the edge of Canada’s rap underground — if you’ve seen him perform in Regina over the last several years, you’ve probably noticed a dude who in other circumstances might be having an identity crisis. He’s performed in front of a laptop preloaded with tracks, as the frontman of Oye, a full band of Chilean musicians, and recently with Saskatoon-based DJ and producer Factor on the decks.

His latest with Factor, Wildlif3, reflects that shifting identity and Def 3’s obvious confidence. Fernandes coasts from breezy, synth-heavy party rap (“Babyface” and the title track) to vaguely futuristic boom-bap (“So Far”, “Under the Influence”) to the soulful tracks bookending the record, bringing to mind something like the Windy City’s young buck mixtape superstar, Chance the Rapper. Some of it works — the stretch from “So Far” through the Blade Runner-sounding “Live It Up” is banging, and not just because of Toronto MC Shad’s blowup guest verse on “The Truth” — and, well, some of it falls flat.

But that’s to be expected of an artist with a decade-old body of work who still makes experimenting with his sound feel comfortable. Even his missteps are better than hearing a dude grind out the same shit for a decade in a scene as vibrant and volatile as hip hop. “Life’s a beach,” Fernandes raps on “Babyface”, “so I try to keep the sand out my suit.”

Funny that it comes in one of the lighter tracks on the record. Nothing Def 3 says on Wildlif3 carries more weight as an ethos.


A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Sea When Absent
3 out of 5

What’s that, Jen Goma and Annie Fredrickson, lead vocalists of A Sunny Day in Glasgow? You have beautiful voices with just the right combination of lilt and grit, but I can’t hear you. Maybe if you turned down the random noises playing in the background, I could hear your new album, Sea When Absent. What’s that? You say that those random noises are the new album? Because it sounds like someone went and forged a mighty hammer out of purest Pro Tools and smashed your songs into a bunch of loud lumps. I think you’ve got a really interesting album in here somewhere beneath the production, so I’m going to keep listening until the songs emerge. What’s that? Sorry, I just can’t make out out what you’re saying. /Aidan Morgan

cd-firstaidFirst Aid Kit
Stay Gold
4 out of 5

The law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply here. Far from it. As Johanna and Klara Söderberg –– Swedish sisters, if you couldn’t guess by the name –– add more and more to First Aid Kit’s sound, the act gets better, deeper, more vital. The most notable addition this time around might be a backing orchestra, prominent in a lot of songs over Stay Gold, their third record. It boosts the already firm arrangements the sisters crafted, matching their rich and soaring harmonies. Theirs is a folk sound more varied and full than so many others out there. Appropriately, it’s also strong, confident music, unafraid to take on emotional turmoil while never wallowing in it. “I’d rather be striving than settled,” they sing. “I’d rather be moving than static.” Fine words from a group producing some of the finest folk out there. /James Brotheridge

cd-usaUSA Out Of Vietnam
Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes
New Damage
3 out of 5

Montreal’s USA Out of Vietnam mixes up tones, genres and sounds in near baffling ways. On its debut, the group — led by guitarist Johnson Cummins, formerly of Bionic and ’90s MuchMusic darling the Doughboys — meanders between glacial prog metal, angelic psych pop and shoegaze. At over an hour in length, the five-song LP doesn’t qualify as easy listening. Vocals are few. At one point, a vocodor’d voice shuffles past the riffs, while later a sampled spoken word piece takes the podium. Apparently Patrick Watson contributes his vocal prowess, although you’d be hard pressed to pick him out of the cacophony. But if you can wade through the deliriously sludgy guitars and densely layered rhythms, Crashing Diseases is a decent marathon crash course in heavy music that never relents, with an unexpected sense of melody and pomp. /Chris Morin