When I first started writing about music some six odd years ago, I started to develop an interest in the regionalism of Canadian music. I was always aware that individual provinces had particular sounds and styles (54•40 was to BC as Blue Rodeo was to ON, etc. etc. etc.), but the more I started listening to music coming out of particular cities and regions, the more the diversity of the Canadian music scene came into sharper focus for me. One of my favourite scenes was Ottawa’s, a fluid collective of artists that didn’t adhere to any strict code of style, but welcomed everything–from symphonic indie pop to rich and textured world rhythms to gentle acoustic folk to four-on-the-floor disco–into the fold.
Oddly, the one Ottawa based band I’ve given little exposure to over the year’s is Hilotrons, dubbed “Ottawa’s favourite band”. Known for turning their live gigs into high energy dance parties with their blend of electronic beats, world music influences and pop sensibilities, Hilotrons’ legion of fans were a bit confused about an announcement made by front man Mike Dubue late last year, indicating that the band were done. The truth is that Hilotrons is sill going on, albeit without the original line up, and without further live performances. Dubue himself noted on the band’s Facebook page that “If I had my way, I would only play my music with the guys I’ve been playing with since I was in my early twenties, as they are some of my favorite musicians to play with. But alas, reality kicks in…”
That it does, Dubue, but wipe the tears from your eyes for a second and marvel upon what you’ve done. Together with cohort Philip Shaw Bova and an impressive list of guests, including Jeremy Fisher, Michael Feuerstack of Snailhouse, Jim Bryson, Sacha Gabriel, Lynn Miles and Geoffrey Pye (of Yellow Jacket Avenger, whose “Emergency” Hilotrons recently covered), you’ve turned out At Least There’s Commotion, a fantastic collection of kinetic, hyper-pop that is at turns touching, sentimental and emotionally raw. You can’t easily file the record under any one style or sound; “Danger World” oddly sounds like Devo covering Marc Cohen’s “Walking In Memphis”; “Venus at My Backdoor” could have been an LCD Soundsystem single; “Runaway Heart” has all the heart and soul of a Springsteen ballad. I know in print it sounds messed up, but in reality, it works amazingly well.
At Least There’s Commotion is released on February 5 by Kelp Records. Hilotrons are working with the fine folks at Southern Souls to document each of the album’s track in live performances with the goal of collecting the videos to create a unique online interactive map of their beloved Ottawa region.