5 reasons to get experimental with Gate this weekend
Gate is the solo music endeavour of New Zealand's Michael Morley (also of renowned noise band The Dead C), who has about 30 different releases under this moniker floating around the globe. While you'd be hard pressed to find copies of these albums—most are ultra limited editions, now sold out or simply unknown to the general public—Morley's is not a case of elitism or purposeful exclusivity, as he told me himself: "I don't mean to appear obscure, I don't think I am."
Morley assures me all you have to do is dig deep (and trust me, the reward is worth it), but this weekend Torontonians will be saved some hard work since Morley will be coming to us all the way from down under for the first time in his 30 year career. On Saturday night he's set to enrapture Double Double Land with his unique twist of murky guitar-driven dirges of folk, rock, electronica and noise; blending genres seamlessly and when the time is right tying it all together with his one-of-a-kind sedative vocals.
Here are 5 reasons even casual fans of experimental music should make it to Kensington Market on the 21st to take in this (paradox-loving) obscure legend.
Three decades of music wisdom
Michael Morley's longevity is proof of his talent and constant ingenuity. Before he started performing and recording as Gate in the late 80's, he was a member of Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos—a fitting band-name-as-mission-statement if there ever was one. Yet by far the biggest testament to Morley's status as a wise-man in the world of sound is his place in the far-reaching influential band The Dead C, a group who were instrumental in the progression of lo-fi, DIY recordings to free rock to the avant-garde, and self proclaimed "The AMM of Punk Rock."
Morley's contributions include 100's of releases in a huge variety of genres, yet while one might imagine such a prolific lo-fi artist as being fairly lackadaisical about putting out albums and EPs, it seems Morley's creativity is the exact opposite of that model. "It's for me and those who want to hear it," Morley said of his process. "It takes me years to make an LP now, too much consideration, not enough action. It seems to work ok for the moment."
Gain, gain, gain
In the musical world "gate" is typically the term for an audio noise reduction tool in the studio--but in the exploratory world of Morley, "Gate" is thrown upside down, as mysterious noises are amplified and distorted beyond all recognition. When asked what he expects from his own performance, Morley answered only "some honesty, some hard work, some gains." From voltage to pleasure, I think we can take Morley on a more literal level here and safely assume there's plenty to be, well... gained.
It isn't rock and roll... except it totally is
Throw a bunch of people in a room full of gear and tell them to rock out, and chances are you'll have yourself an exhausted formula including an an inevitable guitar solo. Still, who can resist the anticipation of a solo when it's surely to come? Michael Morley is no exception. He's been mastering the guitar solo for years in The Dead C (albeit more noisily and fractured than other rock bands), but with Gate he completely turns it upside down, flipping from speedy ego-triumphing noodling to a vulnerable, dour sludge of fuzz. As Morley eloquently put it: "I really love long, slow guitar solos."
Embracing an apocalypse obsessed generation
Not only is this the first time Michael Morley has visited Toronto, it could very well be the last time. Morley seems conscious of the fragility of social order across the globe; last year's Gate album was titled Damned Revolutions, followed bv 2013's Dead C record Armed Courage. He confirmed my title-based speculation by noting the presence of social unrest everywhere: "I would think that there is a fairly high level of concern around the state of contemporary society, with levels of democracy being interfered with by people with short term goals."
Okay, even with Mali, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and, uh, etc, most of us soft to moderate doomsday believers know WWIII probably isn't dawning. Yet when Morley says, "I may get to travel once or twice a year to play," I can't help but wonder at the layered reasons Canadians might lack of opportunities to see an artist like him live.
Never refuse the company of a connoisseur
What is taste when it comes to art? Maybe everything—and if we're to go by such an equation we'll be in good hands Saturday night: Morley is spot on with the finer things in life. In my brief conversation with Morley he found easy opportunity to name-drop AE & F (a mesmerizing Russian artistic outfit focused on re-evaluating the world of marketing in Russia), Deep Purple's timeless 'Machine Head', JMW Turner, Whareakeake in New Zealand, and--most highbrow of all--indulging some poutine while visiting Toronto this weekend. With a palette like this, how could you go wrong?
Oh, and did I mention Gate recently made one of the best electronic dance albums I've ever heard?
Writing by Mark Wol.