HOLLOWPHONIC

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Hollowphonic is an ambient shoegaze band from Toronto, Ontario that has been in existence since 1999. Hollowphonic’s trademark sound has been described as “an atmospheric masterpiece” and a “tsunami of sound”; Hollowphonic’s latest release (February 14, 2014 on Minor Sphere Records), titled “Viaduct” (a culmination of five years work), is reviewed below, and an interview with founder Brad Ketchen is featured as well. 

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‘In Support of Living’ opens “Viaduct” in an industrial and ambient, yet professional and intriguing manner. This band’s sound is Trent Reznor-like, yet much softer and more musical. The song is melodic and follows a pleasurable pattern, repeating a melody over a solid drum groove. There is some dissonance and infrequent ambient, out-of-phase vocal parts to create mystery as the track builds and builds, but ever so quiet and simply. The drums are steady and consistent throughout, the track repetitive yet not stagnant. This is a fantastic, ethereal opener, one that would sound great as background music to a television or film soundtrack. ‘Absent Without Leave’ follows with a reversed guitars and samples (or loops). The intro has an odd-meter feel; soon the bass comes in and becomes the focal point, with vocals following shortly thereafter. The drums are very supportive and the track is mixed excellently (for the most part; further attention could be focused on the ultra-distorted section that enters at 1:44 and again later in the track). While this section ended abruptly, it did add a certain edge and grungy vibe to the song as a whole that ultimately took the song to a different place which could only be achieved by this sound. Repetitive vocals drive the questions and story line home over time; this was another solid track with awesome energy and feeling. ‘We Are Not Alone’ has an incredibly pleasant and melodic introduction which listeners will come to love from the outset. The intro builds into the next section (when the band comes in) and the first verse well; the vocal melody is outstanding, the running bass is excellent, and the drums are especially foundational and interesting on this tune. There is a razor sharp synth in the chorus sections, the feel-good track dreamy and completely encompassing of shoegaze as a genre. I imagine this being performed live at an outdoor summer festival, fans and listeners alike swaying and moving uncontrollably to the rhythm. It seems like there would be a lot of memories surrounding this great song; a breakdown approaches towards the end of the song and continues until its close, this different half-time feel complimentary to the song as a whole. ‘In Need’ opens with an oscillating, pulsating intro; soon the drums come in, as does a unique picked guitar melody. Brad Ketchen does a fantastic job of connecting notes and phrases over this soft, pleasing groove and provides listeners with an outstanding glimpse into his writing and recording style with this song and with all of “Viaduct”. With a better mix, this is another track which would sound great backing a television program or movie scene; the vocal melody is very memorable against the verse progression, and all of these tracks are incredibly-likable, each being an example of fantastic writing and excellent use of varied instrumentation. 

The band released six albums from 1996-2003, correct? What can you tell us (band history-wise) about these years?

“Hollowphonic began in 1999 with the first record “Phonic 50mg”: a remix under the name ‘Hollow’ for a friend and ex-label owner of Sweet Tooth Recordings (who released “Phonic 50mg”) preceded that. (Other than that) prior to 1999 there were just demos thrown around under the name ‘Hollow’ and a limited split single with a friend’s band called ‘More Plastic’. The ‘Phonic’ was actually added in the nick of time of the release of “Phonic 50mg”, as it was noted that there were several (bands named) ‘Hollow’ already. Following “Phonic 50mg” was a six-song record called “Majestic” that I self-released; after that I re-issued my first record and contributed two tracks to an Errol Records compilation (of Bristol, England).” 

Hollowphonic released a new album, titled “Viaduct”, this past February, on Chicago label Minor Sphere Records; how did that opportunity come about? 

“Alex from Minor Sphere Records had messaged me after I had posted a “new” song on Soundcloud (‘Remember’ from “Viaduct”). I wrote and demoed it on my Yamaha four-track tape recorder in 1995; I always wanted to do something with it, and here it is thanks to Alex.” 

What happened between the years of 2003 and 2014 musically both within and outside the band?

“I always had played in another band, so when I released “Majestic” it was kind of overshadowed by a side project I played bass in (with a friend from the band ‘Southpacific’). Following that I started a minimal IDM group called ‘In Support of Living’, hence the name of the first track off “Viaduct”. As friends joined the group, the band turned more into an orchestral kind of thing and guitars were added; we were soon sounding like Hollowphonic, so after I folded that group I took a few of the best tracks we had done with ISOL and produced them for “Viaduct” (‘In Support of Living’, ‘Absent Without Leave’ and ‘Endings’). I also got into scoring films, two of which were features called The Last Sect (with the late David Carradine) and Living Death. I also relocated to Holland for a short while, strictly performing as a DJ, something I have done around Toronto as well.”

What life events and experiences led to the writing and recording of your latest album “Viaduct”?

“I was always influenced by emotional, atmospheric music (that contained) a heavy edge. Loss and fear have always been popular topics (in my music), but there’s also been positive elements like coming-of-age reflections. This is when I supported international acts such as Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals, Low, Los Campesinos, and Junior Boys; my songs are fueled with hope and just keeping on.”

What can you tell us about the music scene in Toronto, Ontario? 

“Everyone here is from somewhere else just like other big cities. To be honest, the newer groups I don’t really know, but I will get to having just moved back to Toronto. The bands I really like from Toronto, like Crystal Castles, Death From Above 1979, Do Make Say Think, and MSTRKRFT, are normally on tour internationally. The Holiday Crowd I also recommend; I did a remix for them as well under my own name.” 

Who or what inspires you to create music? Have your influences changed over the years or remained largely the same?

“Bands like My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Ros, Godspeed, Mogwai, Boards of Canada, and The Verve have always influenced me and still do to this day. I really like Lanterns on the Lake, John Grant, Savages, Cults, Temples, Toy, and War on Drugs. I don my Wu-Tang socks proudly as well, a Christmas gift from my girlfriend.”  

Does the band have any upcoming performances or tour dates lined up in support of the album’s release?

“We are booking shows in the spring in Toronto and Hamilton, as well as surrounding areas in Southern Ontario. We are working on US dates, including Chicago, and are hopeful to book European Festivals and other dates around Europe. We plan to hook up with a friend’s band in Scotland called ‘Apples of Energy’ who I recommend and their record label ‘A Stolen Sea’. Dates will be available soon on the Minor Sphere Records website as well as a website we are currently organizing.”

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