Photo by Nora Vass.
Habitat 67 is one of the few structures remaining from Expo 67, the most successful World’s Fair in the twentieth century and arguably one of Canada’s finest cultural achievements. It’s a teetering jumble of blocks, catwalks, and gardens designed to reflect the celebration of diversity that the event represented. It is from this structure, and Expo 67, that the Vulcan Dub Squad draws inspiration for its new album, The New Designers.
Originally from Brampton, The Vulcan Dub Squad has a history of bringing high-minded concepts to their music. Previous incarnations found them performing in matching outfits and eerie black masks to emphasize their collectivist persona. Their music is an eccentric mishmash of genres, incorporating shoegaze, post-rock, garage/synth freak-outs and folk into a sound that Eye Weekly magazine called “a personality crisis we can get behind.” Vulcan quickly gained a reputation among the GTA’s indie scene for their theatrical, high-energy live performances.
For The New Designers, The Vulcan Dub Squad has dropped the masks and transformed their personality crisis into a manifesto, attempting to capture life in Canada during Expo 67. Thematically, the music is laid out with Habitat 67 and its striking design in mind, songs shifting stylistically and thematically according to the cultural moment, sitting on top and beside one another in a teetering Jenga tower. The wistful “Victoria” captures the nation’s disaffection with the British Monarchy, the screeching “Die Dief Die” reflects its disgust with PM Diefenbaker’s destruction of the Avro Arrow project, and the plaintive alt-country “Rial” captures the isolation of northern Canadian towns. Songs with a post-rock flavour are the strongest, capturing the vast aural landscapes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai without adopting their post-apocalyptic tone. Their ’60s garage freak-outs and surfer anthems fall somewhat flat on the album, though genre-wise they fit into the moment in time that Vulcan is referencing.
The Vulcan Dub Squad is debuting The New Designers live this Thursday, August 9 at the Drake, and given the group’s reputation for kick-ass live shows, no doubt another layer of nostalgia and nationalism will be added to this ambitious album. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $7 cover charge, 19+ (with Woodhands, Five Blank Pages, Grassy Knoll & The Magic Bullit as well as DJ Shandy).
Group photo provided by The Vulcan Dub Squad