Friends in Bellwoods Cover art by Nicholas Kennedy

Friends in Bellwoods: CD Review

I've been listening to Friends in Bellwoods for the last 24 hours. The best way to describe it is as "win-win" compilation: 2 hours of the finest local independent music for what amounts to a $15 donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

Completed between April 2006 and January 2007, and spanning 2 discs with 18 tracks apiece, there's something for everyone in this 2-hour compilation. It's an audio record of the music that has passed through the Bellwoods House and a testament to the power of friendship and giving. As James from Ohbijou put it: "The main reason we chose the Food Bank is because food is a basic necessity for all. It's the first step in anything."

Disc One:
This is my favourite disc in the compilation because it has an incredible ebb and flow. The tracks are arranged neatly in a meandering musical journey. The disc starts off with a trio of smooth, structured songs from The Bellwoods Crew, Snailhouse, and Friday Morning's Regret. The pace starts picking up with Bry Webb & Casey Mecija's resounding cover of Lou Reed's Oh! Sweet Nuthin'. The next three gems by We're Marching On (shitheadkids), The D'Urbervilles (We Are the Hunters), and Forest City Lovers (Don't Go, Please), bring the disc to a musical climax right before the first half closes.

Things start getting interesting as Bahai Cassette's SNIT... yada enters the scene at track 9, with a sampled 2-minute curveball of a song. The drumbeats stay strong a couple tracks later with Telefauna's synth explosion, called turbulence!. The BPMs rise again with Kids on TV and their energetic Breakdance Hunx. Just when I thought the disc was heading in one direction, the music transforms from steady BPMs into nothingness with Jeremey Gara's minimalist synth masterpiece, Thieves.

And, as any good journey should be, the last 3 songs end where the disc began: structure. Alight's smart string and piano arrangements, Nina Nielsen's delicate finger-plucked guitar, and Tim Ford's ukelele stompin' all bring the first disc to a delightful ending.

Disc Two:
The second disc of Friends in Bellwoods is the quieter, introspective sibling of the first. What it lacks in experimentation, it makes up with incredible consistency. Sebastian Grainger opens the disc with beautifully-textured Young Mothers, unlike anything in DFA1979's repertoire. Barzin, Rural Alberta Advantage, and Tusks follow with their own stirring contributions. Next, Water Colour's Hidden Sound warms up the disc with some colourful horns and keys.

Chiming in at track 7, Ohbijou's remix of Otherside is a wonderfully upbeat take on the band's characteristically relaxed melodies. It's followed by two and a half minutes of perfection (with hand-clapping and all) called Brokered Heart by The Acorn. I feel like this duo of songs distills the spirit of disc 2.

In the second half, The Dinghies whisked me away with their waltz-like, mandolin-fuelled Barkskin. Allan Graham's Waking Up in the Trees is another great tune that crops up a few tracks later. At track 14, Violence introduces a brief flash of change, with catchy beats and quirky screaming samples in Self Defense.

Things slow down again heading towards the finale, as Scott Remila's On Their Own ends the disc with 2 minutes of quiet, pensive music that is the strength of this compilation.

How to get it:
$15 at the Friends in Bellwoods CD Release show this Friday at the Tranzac. $10 for tickets at the door, advance tickets also available at Soundscapes. Doors open at 9:00 PM. Bring a canned-food donation for the Daily Bread Food Bank! All proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to the Food Bank as well.

After the show, the compilation will be sold at Soundscapes. If anyone brings a canned-food donation, Soundscapes will waive the service charge for the album.

In February, the compilation will be available nationally through the Out of This Spark label, with distribution through Sonic Unyon.

Art by Nicholas Kennedy.

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