Contrived draws a blank, blank, blank

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One of Halifax’s (and Stellarton’s and Yarmouth’s) favourite rock bands—with its every-few-years recordings, handful of shows and fiercely devoted fanbase—will deliver Christmas six weeks early with the release of a brand-new album on November 11.

“Around the end of last August we went into Sonic Temple and worked with Darren van Niekirk and essentially recorded the bed tracks in about two days,” says Contrived’s singer-guitarist Mike MacNeil. “It was just live off the floor. We recorded the eight songs and spent another couple weekends over September and October finishing the vocals and the overdubs.”

The result of those sessions is blank, blank, blank, a record that feels worlds away from Contrived’s first two albums, Pursuit of Plots (2002) and Dead Air Verbatim (2005), which are faster and more aggressive than the more melodic, spacier tracks of the new effort. “It’s funny because from our end of things it was a pretty natural progression,” says MacNeil, “but I think it’s because there was so many years between each one of our records and us not being able to be around and playing as much and have our presence felt because of the commitments of the other bands. When we do present new music it seems like a large jump, and maybe to the listener it is, but to us it was a slow move to that direction.”

Contrived’s line-up is MacNeil on vocals, Tim D’Eon on guitar, Loel Campbell on drums, Mike Bigelow on bass and latest addition Jon Samuel. You might recognize this line-up as suspiciously similar to Wintersleep’s, which means Contrived is essentially a non-touring band—its last Halifax show was after Wintersleep’s **Summersonic** set in July—so why make an album it’s hard, if almost impossible, to support?

“We all liked the material we had been working on and it seems to constitute having it put onto a record and document that time,” says MacNeil. “We were really happy with the results right away. It seemed to justify itself.”

blank, blank, blank—a partial reference to Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels—will be released by Toronto label Hand-Drawn Dracula, which has taken up most of the active roster of the hugely influential and quietly defunct collective Dependent Music. Hand-Drawn has recently released the new Brian Borcherdt solo disc and Wintersleep’s Welcome to the Night Sky on vinyl. It will be available online at handdrawndracula.com on November 11 and in stores November 12.

With Wintersleep on tour in the US and Europe until Christmas, it’s unlikely there’ll be an official release show until sometime in 2009. “Hopefully we can get a show in before Wintersleep is dominating the planet,” says MacNeil, laughing, “and has to move to a whole other solar system.”

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