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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two Nights of Canyons of Static

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The hardest part of being in an instrumental post-rock band isn’t composing meticulous, 10-minute songs, says Canyons of Static guitarist Ross Severson. It’s naming them.

“It’s the worst process,” he says with a groan. “We just recorded a new record, and we have enough material for a second record that we’re going to be recording this summer, and all of those songs are unnamed. It makes working on them really difficult, having to refer to them as the short song, the long song, or the song with that one part. Being an instrumental band, there’s pressure to put as much meaning into the song titles as we can, so naming them always turns into us with a notebook picking from hundreds of words. It’s a painful process, and it usually involves a lot of beer and internal arguing.”

Canyons of Static is preparing for a busy few months. In addition to the new records, the band is preparing a split 7-inch with their Milwaukee neighbors Group of the Altos, readying a music video and headlining two nights at the Borg Ward this weekend. The flurry of activity will precede a short hiatus: keyboardist Aggie, Severson’s wife, is due to give birth in July, so the band is getting its affairs in order before some postpartum downtime.

Tentatively titled Wake, the new record “is going to be a bit more ambient than the last record,” 2008’s The Disappearance, Severson says, “but also a bit more heavy in some spots. It’s a better mixture of the two, kind of a cross between the ambient stuff Brian Eno did in the ’70s, mixed with the crazy, heavy Mogwai-type stuff.”

The group will play the entire new record over the course of its two sets this weekend, with Friday’s show dedicated to the band’s more subdued material, and Saturday’s reserved for the band’s heavier side. The co-performers each night also reflect that divide: Friday offers supporting sets from Group of the Altos, Nomia and This Specific Dream, while Saturday’s louder bill features United Sons of Toil, King’s Horses and Absolutely.

It’s a sign of how strong Milwaukee’s post-rock scene has become that Canyons of Static now has plenty of like-minded bands to play out with.

“When we first started playing out four years ago, the scene was really small and nobody seemed too into it, but now there’s all these really great bands coming up,” Severson says. “Group of the Altos seems to be getting really big, and Collections of Colonies of Bees has always been there, but they’ve really started playing out live a lot recently. Peter Woods has been doing a ton of projects, just great stuff, and there are bands like This Specific Dream, just these fantastic new bands.

“It’s weird,” Severson adds. “For the longest time, we used to play shows where all the other bands were singing, and we were the odd man out. With most of the shows we play now, though, it’s rare if there’s a band with a singer included on the bill.”