After spending a day at work in front of the computer, AA Wallace comes home to his bedroom studio in the north end and, surrounded by a medley of machines, starts to play. Like any good armchair voyager into the deep space of the internet, Wallace realizes the escapist pastoral dream of weary office workers and urban hippies is mostly pleasant fiction.
Truth be told, he misses his computer when he's camping or fishing—after all, the electronic music community, fueled by internet forums and media sharing sites like Soundcloud, is something not easily accessed offline.
The first track on (disambiguation), his latest record, is a synth pop ode to this condition: "I'm going offline all night, unplug the phone, the LED light's too bright." And then, alluding to a fairly familiar feeling for anyone grasping at real escape, is the coda: "I'm going offline all night, leave me alone."
If there was such a thing as experience contemporaneous with nostalgia—missing something as you're doing it, or, conversely, willed amnesia as if the memory is too sweet or painful, Wallace nails both fairly well when he sings softly of karaoke cowboys and happy hour highs: "I can't remember where it was when we first came to life."
Wallace made friends with Prince Edward Island folk singer-songwriter Al Tuck in the early 2000s, which made a lasting impact on his approach to songwriting, as did the soft rock ballads of Paul Williams. Hopefully the songs don't come across as being overly nostalgic, he remarks: "I was a kid in the 1980s, so I don't remember that time, it's not nostalgia for me."
There is a tendency for kids to emulate the 808 sound of the '80s or '90s house records, but Wallace is just doing what feels right and puts out what still sounds good to him a week later.
Electronic music used to be a very isolated art—picture sound scientist Stockhausen tinkering with a wall of synthesizers—but artists now enjoy the luxury of collaborating together much as a rock group would.
So it goes with Wallace's live act, a collection of friends or former bandmates who perform with him on stage, though lights and positioning silhouette him from the audience: "I'd rather they're looking at each other instead of standing there looking at me," he says.
It's not too far removed an aesthetic from the largely faceless nature of white label Acid House recordings from which he draws inspiration, along with popular science magazines and '70s sci-fi films. Wallace uses toy drum machines, Casio keyboards and boutique synthesizers which he later manipulates using guitar pedals and Ableton Live.
His constant online output ranges from a "daytime disco dub" mix of Mac DeMarco's wistful "Ode to Viceroy" or an ecstatic mashup of Daft Punk, Super Mario Bros and the Rocky theme—the kind of music for cruising late night boardwalks in a simulated Los Angeles cityscape. the mu-(sic) 4 zero muzizians, for example, is akin to 13 minutes of swimming through a warm, ambient jungle of 808s and VHS tape reels in icy water.
Humour helps in the largely self-referential electronic music scene. Wallace explains that "Complaining About Airports" refers to those jet-set artists and DJs grumbling about airports on Twitter (haven't they heard of Eno's Music for Airports?). But the joke speaks to something of our modern anxiety of experience.
Or, as Wallace aptly puts it: "You can't understand when you're a part of it, because it feels too real."
AA Wallace album release
w/Whale Skin DJ set, Weirdo Click
Friday, May 3, 10:30pm, 8pm
The Seahorse, 1663 Argyle Street
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