How did Toronto’s Old World Vulture come to produce the hulking slabs of synth-heavy instrumental rock they’ve built their reputation on? Call it a happy accident.
Musically, their backgrounds are diverse: Mike Costanzo (guitar) and Anthony Perri (bass) played together in a band with a penchant for Guided By Voices-inspired rock, Devin Hughes (synthesizers) was a member of a pop-rock band, and Jamie Hunter (drums) was a singer-songwriter. When the band formed in 2008, the idea was to breathe new life into abandoned songs from previous projects. Instrumental music wasn’t the intention, but it quickly became apparent that doing away with lyrics was an avenue worth exploring. It was an opportunity to push melody without using a microphone, to experiment with dynamics and maybe cause a little tinnitus along the way.
Prefaced by a trio of digital singles, the band independently released their self-titled EP in 2010 and quickly set out to make a mark on Canada’s instrumental music scene. Recorded at Audiolab Recording Company in Toronto by Chris Hegge (Fucked Up, The Meligrove Band), the six songs debuted the electronic-versus-analogue nature of their sound; where curious rhythms and uplifting synth melodies float above a sinister and aggressive foundation. Perhaps best outlined by !earshot, the band can “make your skin crawl and make you take a deep cleansing breath all within the space of a single song.”
The release enjoyed a long run on Canadian campus radio and was well received by critics both at home and abroad. National monthly music publication Exclaim! heralded the EP as “an immense success,” while Toronto’s NOW magazine said that it “hits with an immediacy not often heard in the genre.”
There was definitely something unique about the brand of instrumental rock Old World Vulture was creating, and this helped to cement the band supporting roles for some of the genre’s heavyweights. While touring the EP they shared stages with Arms & Sleepers, Caspian and Grails and were selected to open for Mogwai on their 2011 Toronto tour stop.
In late 2010, the band returned to Audiolab to record their debut full-length, Trophy Lovers. Recorded and mixed by Hegge, and mastered by Harris Newman (Handsome Furs, The Besnard Lakes) at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal, the richly layered and sonically expansive nine-song LP boasts an eclectic collection of songs that propel the band into unexplored territory.
There’s a push-pull tension that’s threaded throughout the album; it’s as bleak as it is hopeful, as dissonant as it is melodic. The album opens with a distant pulsating synth that soon lends itself to one of the darkest songs the band has written to date; a guitar-heavy bruiser that delivers like a punch straight to the gut. Alternately, the title track dials back on the heaviness in favour of shimmering synths that dart and weave their way around a pulsating rhythm and subtle guitars. Flourishes of brass make their way onto a handful of songs courtesy of trumpeter, composer and arranger Ben Bowen (A Northern Chorus, Lily Frost). Trophy Lovers seamlessly carves a line between discordant aggression and a streamlined sound without ever losing its way.
A new plateau of composition has been reached. Trophy Lovers will be released July 27, 2012.
300 dpi Print Quality
72 dpi Web Quality
Photo Credit: Tracy Van Oosten
“[Old World Vulture] take their cues from the likes of Mogwai and Holy Fuck . . . infusing contagious synth melodies with fuzzed-out guitars and frenetic rhythms, to near perfection.”
“Dense drones, uplifting synth melodies, booming bass runs, overwhelming beats and contemplative guitar lines . . . [Old World Vulture] take what bands such as Mogwai and Do Make Say Think do and add layers of their own creativity to it — and it translates powerfully live.”
“Hits with an immediacy not often heard in the [instrumental post-rock] genre.”