Driven Element (Various Artists)
From around 1982 until about 1991 (dates are unclear) Marcel Dion ran a weekly Electronic/Experimental/Avant-Garde radio show on CJSR (campus/community radio station in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) called Departures. It’s always unclear with campus/community radio how large your audience is and so it’s unknown how popular the show was. However, what is clear is that it became a beacon for the local electronic/experimental music community in Edmonton at that time. As such, in 1988 Marcel decided to produce a compilation of local talent fitting the vision of his show and created the tiny private press cassette Driven Element.
The cassettes were pressed in two runs of 84. The covers were made by hand by painting a huge water colour piece of paper and cutting them into 2″ x 4″ rectangles, making each cover unique. The compilation boasts 17 songs ranging from analog driven electronic noise (not unlike the Barton Smith Reelizations LP reviewed here) to orchestral avant-garde to synth-pop and goth/dark-wave, with the majority of tracks (and all the good ones) by local Edmontonians.
The true marvel of this compilation is that Marcel managed to get local talents who had no association with electronic/experimental music to contribute some fantastic work, the best of which is by Jim Serediak (second song in the clips) who submitted a wonderful drone piece. I knew I recognized Jim’s name when I was reading the tracklisting and a quick search brought up his EZ/Snoozy private jazz record I’d seen around town. The same goes for the submission by “The Bugs”, a local bluegrass brotherly duo who managed to break the mold and submitt a beautiful new age piece.
The compilation also features the extraordinary local electronic artists Bruce Atchison. Bruce, who is nearly blind, writes prolifically about rabbits and electronic music. His writings have been featured in underground “zines” around the world and he has recorded over 20 albums of electronic music since the 80s. Bruce is tucked away in rural Alberta but has a wonderful website linked here. His track (the first in the clips) is a nice electronic drone piece with added drums (from a drum machine) and noises created from putting marbles and a microphone in a desk drawer.
The Cassettes were distributed mainly by hand, via word of mouth. Marcel told me one sold at Sam The Record Man. Marcel occasionally put on shows, some of which were “black shows” (or “blank shows”, I can’t remember) where they basically just played material through the PA. They were unfortunately usually sparsely attended, but what can you expect for a backwater town like Edmonton. Marcel’s radio show is also partly responsible for BEAMS (Boreal Electro Acoustic Music Society), at least as much for it’s name if not for the motivation to create it.
As for Marcel, he is doing well. I had the pleasure of meeting with him to talk about the local scene and his radio show. Despite not being as active in the electronic/experimental music community as he used to be, he is still into the music and has not stopped acquiring new releases. Oddly enough, since meeting with him I keep seeing him at the Goodwill’s when I’m digging.
Owing to the micro-pressing of this cassette it is unlikely if you will ever see this in the field, but if you do pick it up. A wonderful snap-shot into Edmonton’s tiny electronic/experimental music scene at the time.
Complete Track List
Wilfred Kozub – RPV
Bruce Atchison – Move It Out Now
Jim Serediak – There’s No Harm In Trying
Evan C. Jones – Retrospection
The Legion of Irrelevance – Almost Catholic
Jamie Philp – BLack Finger (excerpt)
Chris Taylor – A Four Minute Exercise
John Oparyk – I Wish I’d Never Read Franz Kafka
George Arasimowicz – Bohater
Guerilla Welfare – Growth?
Shawn Pinchbeck – A Promise To Keep
Dan Cramer – House
Scott Alloy – Gimli Grog (exerpt)
Killers Lose In The Parking Lot – Polyester Pope
The Bugs – Cats
Jay Styles – Themes
Mark wasarab – #4
Donovan Reimer – And Into Order