Snowdance started back in 2012 when it was unseasonably warm, and there was almost no snow. Due to the lack of snow there was no ski hill to run and there was an abundance of musicians on staff. Thus the impromptu music festival featuring staff gave birth to Snowdance.
“The only man I hold weight for” – Ghostface Killah
Kairo is a student, but he’s also a teacher. The Winnipeg rapper is constantly learning about hip-hop history, cultural traditions from his homeland in Trinidad, and even lessons from his ancestors in Africa. But Kairo is also using that knowledge in his own music, to connect it to his past and to teach a younger generation that may have yet to discover the importance of figures like Haile Selassie. Kairo’s conscious style but street-savviness makes him one of the most interesting up and coming rappers in Winnipeg today.
Aaron Powell has become a household name when it comes to bedroom pop. If you’ve ever spent hours scouring Bandcamp looking for your next lo-fi obsession, Powell’s project Fog Lake was probably the exact sound you were craving. From a rural small town on the East Coast, Powell started his project Fog Lake after getting into scoring film with friends – which didn’t come as a surprise to me. The layered soundscapes Powell creates tell the isolating stories of his songs as much as his writing does.
“I’m bringing crying back” might be a phrase most of us have contemplated tweeting late at night this past year. A forgivable sentiment given the slow burn of defeat from every corner of the news. “Let’s see what chaos visited humanity today while I was on vacation” sings Greg Katz on “Original Composition,” an acceptance, along with a shrug, that the world is seemingly ending that will only resonate a bit too strongly. This track is only a chapter of an unofficial 2020 handbook called Emphatically No., the second full length from Los Angeles garage-rock trio Cheekface.
For their debut EP, Sixteenth Sapphire, Emily Sinclair, Lauren Wittmann, and Jenna Wittmann of Virgo Rising grace our thirsted ears with a sweet collection of graduated bedroom pop. Introspective themes dominate this enchanting combination of gossamery vocals, clean lyrics, and soft instrumentals, which immediately reminded me of Frankie Cosmos, old-style Ian Sweet, and Angel Olsen, minus some of the drama.
Mike Powell, known to Bandcamp as closetjudas, tackles abstract concepts of presence, truth, and a lack of both. In the lo-fi non sequitur, closetjudas blasts fuzzed out guitars through what sounds like the tiniest speakers. The sharp, shrill lead guitar parts peek out from behind the extremeness of the rest of the instrumentation, balancing like a wavering tower, surrounded by clouds of spoken word excerpts.
In the October/November 2020 issue of Stylus, “Winnipeg State of Mind” brought you the Top 100 Winnipeg Rap Songs, part of my attempts to document Winnipeg rap history in my forthcoming book “Gritty City.” In 2021, the focus of “Winnipeg State of Mind” will be to examine the current slate of young, up and coming rappers and artists that populate the landscape of Winnipeg hip-hop. Some of the artists that will be featured are already reaching huge numbers of people, some are just finding their feet artistically. But all of them are talented, driven, and dedicated to making Winnipeg hip-hop the best it can be in 2021 and beyond.
I wasn’t prepared for Ben Varian’s new album One Hundred Breakfasts With The Book. A preliminary listen reveals a downtempo pop album with a range of instrumentals, some pronounced dreamy elements, a nod to early 60’s jazz-pop, and soothing vocals to round out the sound. Upon subsequent listens, and with some cursory investigation, the album becomes much more than that.
Ryan Hockey’s debut EP Again channels everything from an indie piano ballad to space driven sound distortions that evoke a sense of escapism and a dream-like universe. It starts with the melancholic yet increasingly powerful “Again at 4 a.m.,” featuring a galactic backing track that makes the song an absolute ride right from the beginning.
As one half of the electronic-dance duo Prince Innocence, Prince Josh released his debut solo LP The Joy back in March of 2020. Darkness and desolation are intrinsic qualities of this down-tempo House album, but hidden with the moments of despair are glimpses of hope, sanity, and of course, joy.