screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: May 2017

Introducing… Midnight Vesta


In Midnight Vesta’s “Second Chances,” a song from their latest album Seconds, they consider the possibility of reincarnation — a chance to come back for a “do-over” to correct the mistakes made in a previous lifetime. Or at the very least, can one be given the opportunity to make amends in a failed relationship — to heal, renew and recapture the original magic? It’s a serious contemplation set to a pretty pop song with the gentle sensitivity of a picked acoustic guitar, soft percussion and slightly wistful, inquisitive vocals that builds into a lushly instrumented pop song with buckets of tantalizing guitars.

The accompanying video is precious. Our protagonist, reimagined as a young boy, powers through his day at his warehouse job, dreaming of his girl. As he successfully completes his tasks, from sweeping the floor to wrapping boxes to counting pallets, we’re left to wonder if, having been reawakened and “reborn” as it were (quite literally, in this particular case), he could rekindle an extinguished flame.

It is a happy ending, as our working class hero returns home, all grown up, to find his love waiting for him. So sweet.

Midnight Vesta, based in Toronto, has transitioned from a banjo-based folk band to a guitar-loving quartet, yet still maintains that homey, personal feel. The thematic focus of Seconds is on transition. “Life is about managing the twists and turns that you encounter day-to-day. The date of birth, the date of death, and the “dash” in between: the loss of loved ones, failed relationships, and the prospect of new ones.”

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Next Stop, Desolate Dock


I was on a bus with some other people. We were traveling through Boston, but I wasn’t too familiar with all the areas, so I couldn’t figure out what stop to get off at. I was wondering how I would get home and couldn’t figure out how to get to the blue line (was I parked at Wonderland? I’m not even sure).

I recognized Central Square but somehow missed that stop, and then the bus was going towards Boston. I started talking to the people on the bus. There were two guys who I think mentioned the airport and I excitedly asked if I could ride with them, since that would get to the blue line of the train and closer to home. But they seemed flakey and non-committal. The bus driver wasn’t answering my inquiry as to what stops there would be.

Suddenly, the bus pulled over and it was the last stop. There were still a number of people on the bus, and they were all surprised by this. We got out. It was this forlorn-looking dock, and I had no idea where we were.

We were somewhere on the waterfront, but there didn’t seem to be any buildings or recognizable things nearby. It was just a dock. I was thinking that if it was anywhere near the Aquarium, it would be near a train station. It may have been at night or on a dark day, as it seemed quite desolate.

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I had driven to a strange building. There was a parking garage as part of the structure. It was in a city location somewhere, but it didn’t feel like a place I had been in before. There was just a single non-descript door leading to the street. I drove into the multi-level indoor parking garage and parked.

I don’t know what this place was, but it had many different rooms and facilities. I think there may have been clubs and different gatherings of people. Perhaps it was some sort of “sanctuary,” and there may have been music facilities or a recording complex. It felt like some type of alternative lifestyle community.

A Twisting Stairway, A Therapeutic Whirlpool

I followed a woman up a precarious sort of stairway. It was more like a series of structures and steps she was climbing, and she was helping me along after her. She would climb and would look back at me, and at one point I think she grabbed my hand.

We reached a point there she said to me, “Just jump!” And she did and I followed her. We jumped into a strange swimming pool that was actually a slowly circulating whirlpool of foam or some type of substance that wasn’t entirely wet. It was very pleasant and there were others going around in this odd structure. It was quite relaxing. We were all sort of sliding around this circular pool.

The Sophisticated Guru

Then I recall being in a large room with other people, and I was trying to pick out the “leader” of this place to speak with him.

I finally spotted the person in charge. He was a tall man with grayish hair, wearing some sort of ceremonial robe. In any case, he had a rather distinguished appearance. I asked him if there was a way I could stay there in exchange for helping to care for the place. I felt comfortable there and safe. It was a nice, upscale sort of environment and it felt like I had traveled from a distant location and had no place else to stay. I believe I told him this also.

He said something that indicated that we would speak more about it, and I had the feeling it would be ok. I felt a sense of relief wash over me, as I felt I now had “a home.”

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Introducing… Kurt Swinghammer

Kurt Swinghammer

Photo by Lori Cullen

Sometimes the best stories are not the grandiose, but the quiet, intensely personal ones. In “Jack Layton and Grace Appleton,” Kurt Swinghammer sings a touchingly sweet and poignant tribute to Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party — and his mom (Swinghammer’s, that is). These were two people who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with each other, except that they passed away on the same day and had a profound impact on him. The video for this song features Swinghammer’s 1200 hand-drawn frames, in a lovingly created work of art.

As he explains it:

I turned on the TV one morning to see CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge with tears in his eyes announcing the death of Jack Layton, the charismatic leader of Canada’s left wing New Democratic Party. It was a sad start to a new day, but then later that afternoon my mom died. These two people were very important to me for entirely different reasons, and as often is the case with significant personal experiences, it inspired me to write.

This was the first musical piece that was developed into a song cycle entitled Another Another, his 13th full-length release, in memory of his mother. At the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta, he had access to their collection of synthesizers, and it was there that his album took shape. This track includes the sounds of a rare Clavivox, first invented in 1952. Michael Phillip Wojewoda engineered the recordings on the Rolling Stones Mobile desk.

Kurt Swinghammer is a Toronto-based musician and visual artist who balances his personal projects and his commercial work. The album cover, his own illustration, is a portrait of his mother, Grace, with a quote from Brian Eno’s Another Green World. His mom was a fan of Eno’s ambient masterpiece, “Music For Airports,” and he played it for her during her final days, so this is quite fitting. Previous projects include co-writing and arranging Lori Cullen’s “Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs” and composing the score for an episode of David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” television series. He took part in Artists Against Racism, contributing an illustration to their nationwide Canadian billboard campaign.

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