controller.controller: Feature

<span class="small">by Allan Mendoza</span><br /><div><p>Toronto’s controller.controller’s reliance on a steady disco kick drum pulsing on top layers of gritty post-punk guitars makes it easy to assume they’re another New...

by Allan Mendoza

Toronto’s controller.controller’s reliance on a steady disco kick drum pulsing on top layers of gritty post-punk guitars makes it easy to assume they’re another New York band. However, lyrical clues from front woman Nirmala Basnayake on “Disco Blackout” make it clear that the band is unabashedly Canadian.  “Do you want to hear about parallels?/How about the 49th?/What brings you down there?” Basnayake sings. 

There’s a pattern of one-upmanship coming from Toronto. Label mates Broken Social Scene have proved that it’s possible to make intelligent pop music; the same methodology lies behind controller.controller’s debut History The band’s take on dancepunk demonstrates that there’s also room for melody and singing ability, not just banged-out dissonant chords and a guy with a voice shaped by too many parties.

A year and a half ago, controller.controller formed when bassist Ronnie Morris recruited guitarists Colwyn Llewelly-Thomas and drummer Jeff Scheven. Morris’s guitarist friend Kaija and vocalist Basnayake later rounded out the band’s current roster.

After jamming with cover band Detroit Cobras, the band started crafting their own songs, ones that eventually landed on their debut History (clocking in at 24 minutes, Kaija says it’s either a long EP or short LP).

It’s hard to argue that the record was released at just the right time. In cities such as New York and Toronto, people had stopped responding to even the most upbeat music as if they were staring at a Pollock painting. Bands like Radio 4, !!!, The Rapture (in the case of !!!, forcefully) forced people to dance like it’s 1963 in London, 1978 in New York, or 1984 in Manchester

 It’s been both a blessing and a curse with the band receiving attention, but not without the requisite comparisons. Kaija, however, is not surprised.

“We grew up listening to the same post-punk records from the UK like [bands from New York] all did. We get compared to the Rapture all the time. I like The Rapture a lot, but I personally don’t think we sound anything like them. You could lump us all into the dancey post-punk [genre].”

They see themselves and the explosion of dancepunk as a result of a natural progression in music. Kaija explains, “by the disco era, music got split into music you can sit and listen to and music you can dance to. During the 90’s, some great electronic artists got into the mainstream and educated everyone.” He fondly remembers during club nights in Toronto during the 90’s where people enjoyed dancing to a stack of Cure or New Order.

Even though controller.controller have been playing the same six songs for a year, they’re still not sick of playing them much the same way people haven’t gotten sick of hearing [insert 80’s night staple here] at an 80’s themed night in a club. I’m sure that 80’s night isn’t a universal concept.   Maybe it’s in part that people have been dancing, which Kaija says is one of the most rewarding things.

To keep the audience from just staring at the band, controller.controller have red spotlights to block out a good view of the band, leaving dancing as the only thing left to do.  “It’s sort of the idea that it takes away the idea as a band as spectacle, and focus on the music, to create an ambiance.”

Granted, a six song EP doesn’t have much of a shelf life as a full album but it won’t be too long until we hear from them again. Controller.controller is planning to record a full length album in November or December, slated for a March 2005 release on Paper Bag Records.

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