Staggering new limited private press LP from out of nowhere by a no-name Canadian loner with the kind of power-crying/void staring vision of a Simon Finn, a Nicodemus or a Roky Erickson: Grapes was apparently an unsolicited demo sent to the label a few years back and it feels like a genuine postcard from the void. McIntyre previously snuck out a tiny private press LP in 2010 in an edition of only 100 copies but this is his first fully available recording. The songs are incredible, with a high cracked vocal style that could be the ghost of Bobb Trimble and the lyrics are so bleak and spirit-crushing they could almost be from Bob Desper, touching on the humility of pain, factory work, stomach problems, cancer, dying suns, darkness and light. Grapes starts out all-solo guitar/vocal, with wavering/echoing tape work capturing McIntyre power-beaming visions of all-alone before kicking in with the kind of fuzz-encrusted ballads that would somehow reconcile goddamn Randy Alvey with Neil Haggerty and Jakob Olausson. The songs are unforgettable, desperate man hooks delivered with an edge of the bed feel for personal oblivion and as the record progresses it builds to full band soundings that touch on the apocalyptic biker gang feel of Sweet Kelley and Nicodemus. Seriously, this is one of the premier outsider all-alone folk/psych burnout albums of the goddamn decade. Hard to believe this is in any way contemporary, with a feel that could just as well have been beamed from the nightmare of 1969 or 74 as from a small, lonely satellite somewhere out there in space. Seriously, every one that has heard us blast this in the shop has immediately gripped a copy so make your move. Beautifully presented in classy full-colour ‘Folkways’ paste-on sleeves this is a mind-blower and gets VT’s highest possible recommendation! -- Volcanic Tongue
Mark Alexander McIntyre is the felt behind the cat's eyes. Dew drop deathly recordings pour out of this man's thought-dumpster every rare, bloody moon and things go careening. The music livens any stereo system or modified television with forests of psych-introspection.
He hails from many worlds -- Glace Bay, Ottawa, Victoria-- and many groups: Weapons of Mass Seduction, The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol, Cold Coffee and Salty Boots, and Capital Region; but his music always lives in the tide pools of Canada. The sounds McIntyre collects like sea shells are pressed through the bedroom processors of too many Tascam tape machines to mention, to come out the other end a breathing Frankenstein of folk proportions.
The songs are involved in the eternal autumn of life, the leaves that fall from the trees in myriad colours but always appear blue, the cold that creeps into the warmest hearth, the fading away of the year's greatest desires. But channeling those moments and experiences makes for exquisite listening. McIntyre's previous full length Situs Inversus Totalis showed a world of lost opportunity, plugged into a wall of echoes. The new album Grapes indicates a new road for the soundsmith. Listeners will have to walk it alone as they listen.
From the desk of Jack Derricourt
Mark Alexander McIntyre
Grapes OKF 009 LP edition of 300
SOLD OUT from the label and distributors
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Coceptoradio Review (Spanish)
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Situs Totalis Inversus
Interview with Mark Alexander McIntyre by Joeri Bruyninckx
It is a dark and dreary affair, filled with the murk and mire found in modern living
Mark Alexander McIntyre is a 31 year old Canadian musician, radio DJ and record collector who currently lives in Victoria British Columbia. At the end of last year, he released ‘Grapes’, his second solo album, a psychedelic outsider country record.
Mark Alexander McIntyre: ‘Grapes' is a very personal record. It is about me, my family, and people that I know, or have known. It is a dark and dreary affair, filled with the murk and mire found in modern living.
It was, for the most part, recorded in my bedroom. I use a 4-track cassette recording machine, because it is simple to use and I like the gritty sounds that I can get from it.
I grew up with cassettes and I'm comfortable with them. I don't have the same level of comfort with digital technology and though I appreciate a lot of the sounds that musicians can get from dealing with music recorded on computers, for me the magic happens when I pop a cassette in the 4-track. I've tried recording on computers and although I have had some really good results, that comfort isn't there, yet. I suppose that I really just like when music sounds homemade and to me that really comes across when shitty tape machines are used.
Sometimes I can hardly understand what you’re singing because there is so much fuzz on the guitar and so much echo on the voice.
I think I use these sounds and recording techniques to both please my ear and to fit an aesthetic that I deem to be appropriate. Are the vocals intentionally fuzzed out or drenched in reverb so the audience cannot understand the lyrics? No. I am the primary audience for this material and I can understand it! That said, I have always enjoyed records that make you work a little harder to understand the authors intention. The fact that you cannot understand the lyrical content is also a positive thing for me as this makes you the audience create a meaning for the song.
Why do you prefer dirty sound?
The sounds presented on these recordings are part of a certain aesthetic that I’m looking to capture. I’ve been a fan of homemade music because it so clumsily utilizes those sounds and presents a snapshot of grit and imperfection which is of course the complete opposite of modern popular music ideals which are aiming to be overly glossy.
I use tape machines because they pervert the sound in a way that is favourable to my ear, where people who perhaps use more modern or perhaps technologically advanced tools, such as computers and digital mediums use it to pervert the sound to a way that they deem appropriate to their ears or to who ever is the imagined audience.
The funny thing is that neither I nor the glossier sounding folks are presenting an honest portrayal of what our music actually sounds like. For instance, if I played guitar on your couch while you drank a beer, it would sound much different than if I filtered it through a tape machine and then onto an LP.
Do you plug your mic in the same amp as your guitar?
When I play live I tend to use one tube amplifier that I plug the guitar straight into and the vocal microphone into via a reverb unit. Of course the tubes have an over driving effect on the guitar and vocals, but I generally don’t work this way when recording solo material at home. I will mic the rhythm guitar track and then layer lead guitar over top. Vocals are added with a cheap plastic microphone and and a reverb unit, sometimes a fuzz pedal, depending on how I feel that day.
I have a lot of fun recording with tape as it is easy to push. I can blast it into the red and the tape will then be fantastically saturated.
Often I like to mess with the tapes when creating a master. For instance I will randomly turn the pitch knob to create a sort of warble sound. I like this because it reminds me of old tapes that you may find in a car that were well used. To me these little warbles are greatly endearing and create a sort of nostolgia.
Nostalgia for what?
When I do understand your lyrics, they seem to be a lot about sickness and death, like when you sing "Laying in bed, trying to breath”.
That song was written when a lot of people around me were very sick, some critically very ill.
The line about "Laying in bed, trying to breath" is about panic attacks. The rest of that song is not from my perspective but from that of someone who has lived a long life and saw the loss of many friends, as any one who lives a long life invariably will.
Who is the ‘you’ in 'Just Let Me Know You're There'?
It is about the self and the person that you depend on most.
This song is about being lost. Making a life choice that distances you from friends and family and not knowing if you are on the right path.
In ‘A Life Of Bad Luck’ you sing about stomach problems.
This song is about an old man who died from cancer. He had multiple health problems throughout his whole life and often could not find work as jobs were given to people who returned from World War II as heroes, something that he could not do as he was not allowed to serve due to ill health. So during the war, as he was one of the only men in town, he had his pick of jobs, but after the war he couldn’t find employment as any job he would do would be given to returning veterans.
You made a dark album but it's also uplifting, I guess this is because of the melodies.
Melodies are what drive songs, no matter of what the lyrical content is. While I’ll often use a basis of minor chords played on an acoustic guitar for for the backing to lyrics, when it comes time to record I’ll also through in lead breaks and such that may offer something new to the song.
As stated before, I’m really just trying to make records that appeal to me, so if I like it that’s what matters. But I’m glad that you’ve find some enjoyment in it too, of course!
In a way, your songs are very traditional. The guitar lines you play sometimes sound like real country guitar lines, Johnny Cash style.
My father is a hardcore traditional country and western fan. Hank Williams, Mearle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow etc.
Although I do find enjoyment in listening to these artists, it’s not exactly what gets me out of bed in the morning. I think that being exposed to those sorts of things at a young age probably fused them into my brain and so that sort of playing may be instinctual to me in some manner.
'A birth, a death, the dark and the light’ sounds very different from the rest of the album.
I think this track is very interesting as it shows another side of the world. It’s rather jarring and completely minimalist. It’s a breath of air from another side of the mirror. It also seems to tell a story of death and darkness contrasted by life and light. Or at least it does to me.
I can hear a baby crying on that track.
The baby crying sounds terrible but it’s really the first sounds that we make, our first song. Life can be thought of as a cycle, turning and turning. Where does life begin? It begins in light and ends in darkness.
Why is the album called 'Grapes'?
I’m not entirely sure. But somehow it seemed appropriate.
What do you do when you’re not making music?
I do a radio show on Victoria's CFUV every Saturday morning called ‘Everything Is Weird’. I play a lot of psychedelic music, folk, outsider and rock music.
Is that the kind of music you like?
I am interested in hard psychedelic rock from the 60s and 70s and in music with that sort of feel. I’m completely into guys like D.R. Hooker who somehow made these wonderful varied folk and rock records. I like Black Sabbath-ish doom metal, especially Sweden’s Witchcraft. Or Pentagram from the U.S.A. Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats have made two really fine LPs. I’m a fan of oddball folk records like those made by Fraser and Debolt or the spacefolk group Lightdreams. Also, I just discovered Al Simones and his records are incredible, totally weird psychedelic mushroom dreams that he recorded in his home studio in the 90s and 2000s. I’m really interested in homemade music by real people that unfortunatly most folks haven’t heard.
But that said, there is so much music out there, and while most of it can be said to be of questionable quality there are a lot of fantastic gems to be found. A lot of that stuff goes for stupid amounts of money in collectors circles so I’m always grateful for record labels big or small to do reissues or the hard to find stuff.
Is it important to you that your record is released on vinyl ?
I like to collect records and so I feel that the music that I make should also be represented on vinyl, mostly just so I can have a copy for myself.
They say that every great musician is eventually a record collecting nerd. So are you also a bit like that too, maybe?
Yes, probably. Every time I write a song it is likely in reaction to a great record that I’ve heard. I’m not interested in emulating or imitating it though, but using those records as a state of reference, perhaps. I have a a fair sized record collection, not huge, but certainly not small. It’s just what I’m into. Music is life. At least for me. And records are stories of lives...