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EERDERE EDITIES | 2006 | MUZIEK | PICASTRO


Biography

"Picastro began a long time ago, in 1997 actually. It was guitar and cello for a long time. Stephanie Vittas (cello) and Kurt Newman (guitar) were the first members. The band was at its best, and worst. I puked before every show. I miss those times.

A long cycle of members came and went, including everyone from the Toronto band Pecola (still one of the best bands I have ever seen). Zak from Pecola remains. Evan Clarke (Rockets Red Glare, Burn Rome in a Dream, the Jim Guthrie band) joined in 2000. Then Rachel McBride joined on cello. Then Owen Pallett on viola. Now Owen is busy with Final Fantasy. Rachel is in school. Alex played viola, now Nick plays cello. Is this too much information?

 

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Recordings include contributions to Badaboom Grammaphone #4 (the Russian song “Ochi Chorni, 2001). Greg Weeks is also on it and Six Organs of Admittance. Before that “Gidali” an early Picastro recording appeared Eye of the Beholder vol. 1 on Tract Records. In 2005, “Towtruck” a collaboration with Dwayne Sodahberk appeared on the Wiretapper 13 (June 2005 issue of the Wire) and “Shorter Hard” appeared on Comes with a Smile, issue 19.

We released “Red Your Blues,” our first full-length on Pehr in 2002. We toured a lot, met lots of good bands, played a lot of festivals, radio shows, etc. Monotreme in the U.K. licensed the album in 2004. Then Winter Notes off the album was licensed by the show “24”.

 

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The second album “Metal Cares” came out on Polyvinyl and Monotreme in Europe in 2005. Three of the songs were recorded at home, one of which is a Russian song I had been playing for years on my piano and finally recorded. One song features my friend Dwayne Sodahberk who has records out on Tigerbeat 6. I did some more music with him to appear on his upcoming album." - Liz Hysen

Yet another European tour in 2006, and this time they'll stop in Belgium. Don't miss them at the Rhâââ Lovely Festival!

 

Discography

-) 2004 : 'Red Your Blues' on Monotreme.

Sunday Times' point of view :

It's rule no. 1 for music critics: don't be taken in by a good cover. In the case of Picastro, whose cover resembles something from Rothko's little-known "arts & crafts" period, the music lives up to the artwork: bold, simple, slightly off-centre, hard to ignore. Picastro live in an alternative universe, one where the cello players beat the singers in the race to be front man. Or, indeed, front woman. For, while Picastro have a singer, Liz Hysen, and while Hysen is clearly the one in charge, her vocals are submerged in the mix, with Stephanie Vittas's cello lines snaking out front. The result is somewhere between the Dirty Three and Electrelane. Others have compared Picastro to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other post-rock notables, but Picastro have none of the bombast that this implies (or, rather, on the rare occasions when they try the bombast route, they don't quite pull it off). No, this is something subtler - post-folk, really. What raises Picastro above the herd of atmospheric noise-makers is that, hidden though the vocals may be, these tracks aren't instrumental jams, they're songs - with all the structure and emotional closure that this implies. Red Your Blues can be bleak, but it's also beautiful.

Mark Edwards - website.

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-) 2005 : 'Metal Cares' on Monotreme.

Pitchfork's point of view :

Often folk acts are as meek and delicate in person as their music would suggest, and Toronto four-piece Picastro are no exception. After L.A.-based Pehr Records released their 2002 debut, Red Your Blues, Picastro inexplicably left the label. Refusing to step on any toes, the band remained tight-lipped about the affair despite claiming how awful the experience was. Singer/guitarist Elizabeth Hysen immaculately personifies this innocuous, victimized pathos, suffering from hyperaesthesia-- a sensory condition in which victims suffer from increased sensitivity to stimuli (think Daredevil).

Appropriately, Metal Cares exudes a sound seemingly tormented by sleep-deprivation, pain, and-- most pressingly-- fear. Hysen's vocals are much more prominent in the mix than on Red Your Blues, allowing her every grief-stricken crack and murmur to resonate above the equally tortured instrument parts. The track list serves as a peek into Hysen's neuroticism with titles like "I Can't Fall Asleep", "Teeth and No Eyes", and "Sharks", named after one of Hysen's foremost phobias. However, Hysen, a straightforward, no gimmicks songwriter, keeps the lyrics short and cryptic, not to mention unintelligible. On the chorus of "Dramaman", Hysen wails indecipherably amidst shrieking strings, while the ballad "Sharks" builds to a muffled chant sounding like "bigger hunter, hello hunter". Good luck trying to decode "Ah Nyeh Nyeh."

With her garbled drawl, Hysen could pass for a German laptop pop artist, though her bandmates' instrumental workings borrow the most from that genre. Rather than adopting the punchy, infectious folk-pop of past tourmates Cat Power or Smog, Picastro are content with allowing their songs to methodically unfold. Opener "No Contest" patiently unfurls on a cyclical acoustic riff for two minutes before finally revealing the song's subtle yet gorgeous refrain. Despite this asceticism, the album still contains several beautiful, striking moments between the gossamer acoustic strumming and haunting strings.

Hysen's hushed, sparing vocals leave a lot of open space between verses, but she's hardly twiddling her thumbs during that time. For all the allure Hysen's voice generates, her acoustic/electric interplay with guitarist Zak Hanna is the true glue that holds the LP together. "I Can't Fall Asleep" builds to a jarring chorus that features Hanna's reverb-drenched electric against Hysen's dissonant, ringing acoustic. Closer "Blonde Fires" puts a warmer, more inviting spin on this interplay, allowing the guitars to intermittently carry the lead melody. It's a sound awkwardly caught between Elliott Smith and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, balancing pretty acoustic melodies with chillingly shrill clangs and screeches. But hey, that's the unapologetic, enigmatic Hysen for ya; for all we know, part of her probably wants to be "Miss Misery", but the other half simply can't stop freaking out over sharks.

Adam Moerder - website.

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Audio

-) Sharks, taken from 'Metal Cares'.
-) Fifth Wall, taken from 'Red Your Blues'.
-) Mine, taken from 'Red Your Blues'.
-) The Sea Will Kill You, taken from 'Red Your Blues'.

 

Web

-) Official site.
-) Myspace.
-) Monotreme.