When deciding who to see at this year’s Over The Top Festival, we luckily opted to check out Halifax’s Rich Aucoin. Between his musical pedigree (he’s the brother of the Hylozoist’s Paul Aucoin) and the fact that his EP was synched up to How The Grinch Stole Christmas, we knew he would at least be interesting. His set turned out to be far better than just interesting, so it seemed natural to give his Personal Publication EP (Independent) a proper review.
Much of what we said back in May holds true: Aucoin’s music is a melding of styles and is hard to classify. The songs are a mix of piano, heavy drum and bass, and percussion instruments like the vibraphone and marimba that point to Aucoin’s time with the Hylozoists. With the large number of competing sounds, it’s no surprise that the songs are dense, but they are remarkably clear at the same time. Considering that Aucoin recorded the album by himself in his house, it’s amazing that he manages to make his songs sound so rich without being cluttered.
One of the main reasons that the songs hold together is that they all have a strong base. “At War With The Cynics (An Opening)” is splendid because it evolves around one basic piano line, slowly warping itself around the initial musical phrase. Aucoin usually opens with a strong melodic theme then goes through a number of variations, adding and detracting sonic layers as he sees fit. The end of “10,432 Cut For The US” exemplifies this process, bringing in short phrases of sounds as the song heads toward a chaotic finish. It’s grandiose, almost to the point of excess, but still a treat for the ears and mind.
While the drums and bass sounded off when we saw him, they are absolutely perfect on the EP. The disco groove of “Behold The Lamb! [Muffled By The Noisy City] (An Offering)” is a true hip-shaker, aided by the staccato vocals and violin that emphasize the beat. The full drum sound really keeps the EP moving at a brisk pace and gives energy to the eclectic instrumentation, creating a compelling listen that should appeal to a wide range of listeners.
Since his Over The Top show, Rich has been touring the country on his bike, raising money for the Childhood Cancer Foundation. He rides into Toronto for two upcoming shows: Sunday, July 15th @ Sneaky Dee’s (Wavelength, Pay-What-You-Can) and Tuesday, July 17th @ The Horseshoe Tavern (Free!). Be sure to check him out and pick up the Personal Publication EP while you’re at it.