Rats Drifting Through the Music of Our Soul

While perusing through a back-issue of Wire magazine from January 2006, I came across a fascinating article showcasing the artist-run record label Rat Drifting. Since then, I have been hard pressed to find any additional information about Rat Drifting or the artists featured on the label, short of the label's website and a few reviews scattered throughout the web. Therefore, I felt that it would be fitting to provide some more exposure to this enterprising label on Eclectic Grooves.

Rat Drifting is essentially the brainchild of Eric Chenaux, the singer and guitarist who plays in several of the bands on Rat Drifting while overseeing the operations of the label along with co-founder Martin Arnold. The seeds of Rat Drifting were planted when Arnold was visiting York University to collaborate with Casey Sokol on the production of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning. During this time, Arnold met up with two of Sokol's students, Ryan Driver and Doug Tielli, and eventually crossed paths with Eric Chenaux, the former bassist of indie pop band Crash Vegas. This friendship with Cheanux blossomed into the beginning of the formation of the Rat Drifting label in 2002.

This enigmatic collective of musicians from Toronto have started to make a name for themselves by way of a loyal underground following who eagerly await each live performance with bated breath. These performances are considered to be real "happenings," where a sense of community is established, and the crowd feel like they are an integral part of the performance.

The Reveries performances in particular are astoundingly original. Sketches of classic jazz standards are skewed by an interconnected set of cell phone speakers hung inside each member's mouth, thus projecting the sound of their instruments into each other's mouths via a contact mic. Since each member is using their mouth to play an instrument or sing, a series of psychedelic wah-wah effects are created when the mouth cavity changes shape. Those of you who are familiar with the "talk box" sound popularized by Peter Frampton and Sly Stone in the 70's will undoubtedly be intrigued by The Reveries.

Presently, Rat Drifting has been moderately successful with building a roster of like-minded musicians who have a community spirit reminiscent of the the late sixties "Jazz loft" scene. The label features a dizzying variety of music: from the improvisational vocal jazz excursions on the Reveries "You've Changed", to the straightforward melodic folk on The Silt's " Here We Go"; from the "slow waltz in a fever dream" sound of Michelle McAdorey and Eric Chenaux's "Amazing Backgrounds" to the hypnotic, mind altering aural tapestry that unfolds in Josh Thorpe's "Flocklight". There is literally something here for all types of music lovers to enjoy.

Since all of the recordings are available to be purchased via the Rat Drifting website, I am only featuring tracks from a few of the bands to give you an idea of what to expect. I hope you enjoy what you hear and are introduced to a new world of truly unique music.

The Reveries: You've Changed
The Silt- Here We Go
Michelle McAdorey and Eric Chenaux- Amazing Backgrounds
Josh Thorpe- Flocklight


reservatory said…
THANKS for these! Just discovered Chenaux and his crew last week. Since the world tends to diss Canada in general, there really isn't much info out there. If you're interested, there's a site called Rocket Science that has posted the sole CD from his Fugaziesque 90s band Phleg Camp as well as a DIY singles collection. I found a 45 from his post Phleg Camp unit Lifelikeweeds in Denmark. You wouldn't happen to know anything more about them, would you? I'm really drawing a blank... Thanks again for helping spread the word.
Kevin said…
Thanks for your thoughts on Rat Drifting, and for letting me know about that site Rocket Science. I will definitely check that out. I never knew Chenaux was in a band called Lifelikeweeds. I had only known that he was a member of Crash Vegas and Phleg Camp.

Now you have me very curious about Lifelikeweeds. What do they sound like?

Thanks again for puting in your two cents on this. I really like to hear what folks think about the music I post.

Best, Kevin
reservatory said…
Lifelikeweeds seems to be even more obscure than Chenaux's other projects. Supposedly a guitar duo, but the only track I've heard has drums. Shiny Grey Monotone blog has a comp called Smitten, with one track. Sounds like? I dunno, maybe Slint or some such. Brooding, circular riff, whispered vocals. I REALLY like this one. Have been digging for other info to no avail. I ordered a 45 from Denmark, but can't find anything else. Unless the 45 is a total bore, I plan to post it and the Smitten track @ Lucky Psychic Hut. Wish there was more...
jakew65 said…
Rat Drifting has been moderately successful with building a roster of like-minded musicians who have a community spirit reminiscent of the the late sixties "Jazz loft" scene
maemaipleng said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
maemaipleng said…
Nice post! I'm actually preparing a related thing on my blog (http://endofworldmusic.blogspot.com) that speaks of how the Rat-Drifting aesthetic is really emerging from a deeper current within the Toronto music scene!

Rat-Drifting as "world" music ;-)

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