ARTS & CULTURE | Balancing Roots, Electronics, and Individualism

Brandon Hoffman (Blocktreat) has a new record out this spring. Photo: Leah Selk

Brandon Hoffman (Blocktreat) has a new record out this spring. Photo: Leah Selk

By Tyler Shippit–

 

Cariboo artist Blocktreat is releasing a new album at the end of April, Exciting New Ventures in F***ing Up.

Imagine walking along a rocky trail to your private spot while listening to Exciting New Ventures as the album mirrors a self-reflection one often gets in those quiet moments of realization—realization that no matter how small or simple we are, we are still unique in our own distorted self-manipulations. Blocktreat is the brainchild of Williams Lake local, Brandon Hoffman.

In September 2014, Hoffman moved back to his hometown of Williams Lake after living roughly ten years in Vancouver. Hoffman relocated to the Cariboo to take job offers at the Station House Gallery and the Central Cariboo Arts Centre. It was right around then he started working on Exciting New Ventures, his fourth release under the name Blocktreat. Having spent the bulk of his time in Vancouver working on other people’s musical endeavours, either as a side-man working in-studio or backing them up live, Hoffman was relieved to have so much time to spend on his own music. He fell into a regular routine of jumping between offices as arts administrator during the day, and meditating on his instrumental sample-based musical concoctions in the evening.

  Exciting New Ventures opens with a scattered layering of ambient noise and sporadic off-time sounds, but the underlying melodies that quickly emerge easily carry the listener through its 38-minute playtime. The record presents itself as a confident and cohesive piece, grabbing elements from multiple genres while maintaining the same continuity one would find listening to artists like Aphex Twin or Massive Attack. Exciting New Ventures borrows elements from folk, free jazz, and ambient electronic, all while creating an entirely original sound completely unique to Hoffman’s vision.

For those unfamiliar with sample based music, imagine taking a newspaper, cutting out words from every article and creating your own personal story. This is similar to what Hoffman does with music. He starts by capturing sounds on a handheld recording device—sounds of nature, candid clips of conversation, and friends jamming. He then “chops” them up in the studio with electronic instruments, and uses the clips to compose an evolving mosaic of sound.

  Exciting New Ventures is more of an electronic styled album instead of following in Blocktreat’s traditional “anti-folk” direction. “I imagine I take that core essence of a folk song and boil it down to its raw, emotional feel by taking the lyrics out of the equation,” Hoffman says, referring to his traditional approach of chopping up folk music.

My personal favourite from the new record, “Button Pusher,” is an evolving piece that uses simple layering of white noise between a glistening harp sample set to a driving bass line and simple drum beat. Initially bringing upon a feeling of loneliness, or sadness, the song gradually shifts to an upbeat, high-energy floor stomp, mixing feelings of melancholy, joy, and nostalgia. Another track for the dance floor, “Frump Rock,” features a heavily manipulated guitar, a head-bobbing drum arrangement, and a melodic calimbe sample. Hoffman creates interesting and complex feelings by blending totally different sounds into the same piece.

  Exciting New Ventures is set to drop at the end of April. Check out Hoffman’s Facebook page or website to stay up to date. Also keep an eye out for Blocktreat shows in your neighbourhood this summer. He has confirmations from festivals like Robson Valley, Music on the Mountain, and Campbell Bay Music Festival, with summer dates getting added all the time.

www.blocktreat.ca.

The official Cariboo release party for Exciting New Ventures will be the evening of May 14th, at Xat’sull Heritage Village.

Tyler Shippit is a Williams Lake local who spends most of his time pretentiously claiming that The Beatles were not that good.

 

 

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