When the Fragments hold its CD-release party on Friday at the Ironwood Stage and Grill, it will include some intriguing visual aids.
Courtesy of a power-point presentation, all 14 songs on the Calgary indie-pop band’s fifth album, Winter Wasp, will be represented by corresponding artwork by local artists. Some songs have multiple visual interpretations, which run the gamut.
“It’s a group of 10 visual artists in Calgary who have been listening to these songs for last couple of months and creating paintings and collages and mixed-media things to show their interpretation of the songs,” says the Fragments’ singer-songwriter, David Martin. “That’s been really exciting for me to see how other people have been inspired by songs and maybe have a slightly different take on them than I do.”
Last fall, painter and retired Mount Royal University professor Irene Naested approached the four-piece band about the idea and eventually recruited Calgarians Cassandra Arnold, Sharon Fortowsky, Isabelle Hunt-Johnson, Corinne Keough, Donna MacDonald, Sharyn Miller, Connie Ptasinski, Patricia Roome, and Tammy Watt to apply their artistic sensibilities to Martin’s wonderfully eccentric tunes.
The sly, slow-burning drum-and-bass tune Reservoir Light, powered by luminous harmonies by Martin and keyboardist Natasha Sayer and drummer Innes Cheung’s stately marching beat, inspired everything from Arnold’s gorgeous acrylic on canvas landscape to Fortowsky’s rock-and-wood mixed media interpretation.
The sprightly Stone Guest, which draws on the story of Don Juan, led to an inukshuk-inspired work by Roome, and Miller’s oil and cold-wax work representing Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni.
It’s certainly a unique take on the traditional CD release party. Martin has done enough of them to mix it up a bit this time around. Formed in 2012 and now five albums in, the Fragments have had an unusually long and prolific life span for a Calgary indie band.
Martin, whose Alberta oilsands-themed debut book of poetry Tar Swan is a finalist for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, has a tendency to draw inspiration from some far-flung sources for his lyrics and music. Ideal Kink Bands, for instance, is actually based on a geological term despite its seemingly spicy title.
“When there is pressure on two sides of a rock formation, it can lead to these strange angular bands, what they call kink bands,” he says. “I started using that as a metaphor to think about teenagers and the pressure they are under and these wacky teenage hijinks. There is the geological but also teenage side to it. But the interpretations on that one from the painters to that one were pretty interesting.”
Martin is the sole remaining original member of the band — singer-songwriter Emily Triggs and former Postmedia scribe and Ruminants bassist Mike Platt were part of the earliest incarnation — but the lineup has remained steady for the past five years.
Sayer also plays in Calgary’s Magnolia Buckskin and has released a children’s album. Bassist Chris Gaston and Cheung both play in the Westwinds Community Jazz Band alongside Martin, who plays trombone in that ensemble.
While none of the songs on Winter Wasp could be considered jazz, its influence certainly colours some of the tunes, particularly on the smoky duet Stop the Presses that Martin croons with Sayer.
“I wrangled some jazz players into playing some pop and rock,” Martin says. “That keeps me on my toes, too. I want to find things that are interesting for them, musically. I’m always looking for new ideas or new rhythms to challenge them and keep everybody engaged.”
The Fragments will hold a CD release party on April 19 at 9 p.m. at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. An exhibition for the artwork will launch at Calgary’s Loft 112 starting May 14.
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