Back in 2002 when composer and self-described band-boss Mike Smith began dreaming of an instrumental jazz group, he was fascinated by nature films featuring the mighty muskox. Attracted to the idea of a band as a “giant hairy and stinking mass,” Smith named a few pieces after the beast. When the band formed in 2006, the name “Muskox” surfaced and stuck.
Five years later the six-piece band (on tour now as a quintet) is scheduled to play the Out Like a LION Festival Saturday, March 26. Though Muskox has changed members and instruments many times over the years, the band retains the organic implications of its namesake. But rather than the wild, eclectic sound you might expect, Muskox’s signature takes the form of disciplined rhythms with odd meters and interlocking repetitive patterns.
For Smith, inspiration can come from any genre, resulting in a mix of jazz, prog and ethnic folk music. “In general, fascinating rhythm is what turns my ear,” says Smith, who recently came off a major calypso binge. The former University of Toronto jazz bass student has groomed his band mates’ wide instrumental range into a minimalist style that includes banjo, harmonium, guitar, electric piano, drums, double bass and flute.
Muskox’s Halifax set will be heavy on the five tracks from their new EP, 5 Pieces. Taking notes from the instrumental palate of early prog rock and the avant-garde Cantebury sound, Smith composed the album in an effort to realize his teenage sci-fi fantasies.
Muskox member and bass player Pete Johnston will reunite with Halifax’s Quatrain on Friday, March 25 before performing with his Toronto-based kidnappers the following night.
Saturday at 1313 on Hollis Street.
Muskox goes on at 8 p.m.
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