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Bloomistry, “To Be” (2015 Remaster)

To Be

For the 6th Bloomistry album I turned, as so often before and after, to the poets to get my ideas. To be or not to be, that was the question. And the answer was “Let’s be, and let’s make another album.”

But I didn’t want to make just another Bloomistry record. So I indulged every crazy idea, the crazier the better. I recorded twenty-minute songs, atonal compositions, and tunes with invented time signatures. I filled the studio with things that I banged together, in an attempt to make music without conventional instruments. Some of it was pretty interesting, at least to me, but other than Arrow of Time (which was my attempt to sound like the band Califone) the weirder stuff didn’t make it to the record.

Some of the songs, like Feet On the Mountain and Medley, were in fact ground-breaking for me. I don’t think there’s anything like it on the earlier records. And Never Gonna Nadia was the first Bloomistry song I could imagine hearing on the radio—and then one day, in Montreal, I did hear it on the radio. That and High Beam, a clearly Lennon-esque song—though I didn’t consciously intend that—were in college radio rotation for a time.

The 2008 recession was digging in, and To Be was a record about the rot of politics and rogue capitalism. The song Roses was dedicated to Anne Rogovin and its lyrics alluded to Rose Schneiderman as well as to the poem “Bread and Roses.” I was not very happy at this time, for a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with living in a staid bureaucratic city (as I saw it) where it seemed to be winter ten months a year. Maybe that’s why this record bogged down.

I’ve never been able to decide whether or not these songs are any good, or whether they work as a whole. The middle section—Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom—were taken from another project, Laketown. I call this section of the record the Tape Hiss Trio (listen and you’ll know what I mean) and it bothers me to this day that it’s there. Still, this is the most polished of my records, and I did a lot of interesting trickery in the studio to pull it off.

Simon Meilleur overdubbed the drums on Never Gonna Nadia and The Wars. I was never a strong drummer (I learned to play drums as I made these records!) so there was always timing issues. His contribution took things to a new level. And Edith Boucher’s artwork for this record was the first time I actually thought about such things in a serious way. So this is also my best-looking album.

On February 16, 2009, I started recording The Gutter and the Gut, as it was called. Phil Bova mixed the album on August 12–13 and we mastered on September 22, two weeks after I had mixed Laketown with Dave Draves. I took three songs off that record and substituted them on To Be. The rest is history.


1. High Beam
2. A Crack in my Cup
3. Four Leaf Clover
4. Wine and Women
5. On Top of the World
6. To the Bottom
7. Never Gonna Nadia
8. Feet on the Mountain
9. Broken (Medley)
10. Arrow of Time
11. Roses
12. The Wars

Bloomistry, “Late Bloom” (2015 Remaster)


The third Bloomistry album, Late Bloom, was recorded from January 4 to March 31, 2007 and released on August 28—14 months after its predecessor, Ca Marche. In the coming 14 months, there would be three more albums worth of new Bloomistry material. This was the “bloom” to which the title referred.

As the preceeding suggests, this would be the most autobiographical of the early Bloomistry records. The opening track, Late Bloom, rehearses the project’s background: “It started years ago, in a basement in our town.” It was the 1980s, the town was St. Catharines, and I was in a band called The Shade, hauling a Fender Dual Showman amp head that my cousin Al had integrated into a customized maple cabinet. (The song mentions a Fender Twin, but my Showman was just as back-breaking all the same). The next track, When Time Was on Fire, recalls the same period. Come Down Easy takes an ironic and self-deprecating look at the musical aspirations of those days: “Your face/Never on a magazine/You never made the hipster scene.” This is rock and roll seen from my 42-year-old perspective.

I asked my friend Ken McClelland to do the piano overdubs. We were in The Shade together, and it meant a lot to me that this nostalgia album of mine would have him on it. I felt like I was doing with Bloomistry what I’d been unable to do with The Shade: find my voice and my own writing style. “Oh well—better late than never” was the basic philosophy of this record.

(Ken’s parts were recorded on Sunday, March 4, 2007. That’s him playing the organ and piano on the songs Late Bloom, When Time Was on Fire, and Walk On. I especially love the piano at the end of When Time Was on Fire: so, so simple, and yet I can’t imagine the song without it.)

All of the Bloomistry albums were recorded in my basement home studio, often between midnight and 3 am, at very low cost, with me playing all the instruments, unless otherwise noted. Bloomistry albums are all lo-fi (I actually consider them demos and hope to re-record the better songs one day with a professional studio band) but with Late Bloom the production took a step forward.

It was also at this time that I performed the songs live for the first time, in a pub called The Manx. It would be over a year before I formed a band, with Ottawa musicians Dmitri Koev, Terry Calder and Scott Terry (on drums, later replaced by Simon Meilleur). But the band never recorded, even though that was my eventual plan: all the albums were solo projects, made in the same Hull, Quebec basement studio.

Late Bloom was mixed on April 14–15, 2007 by engineer Dave Draves (who also overdubbed, while mixing, the Vox organ on Hook and Eye and the Mellotron vibraphone on Interstate) and released on August 28.


1. Late Bloom
2. When Time Was On Fire
3. Come Down Easy
4. Walk On
5. Left Behind
6. Sault Ste Marie
7. Hook and Eye
8. Bone Club
9. Interstate

Bloomistry, “Laketown” (2015 Remaster)


In theory, Laketown was the 7th Bloomistry album. It quickly followed To Be, with recording taking place on August 21–23, 2009. But with To Be absorbing most of my attention, and getting all the promotional focus, Laketown remained in the background. It was lost in the flurry. In fact, I raided it for three songs to put on To Be: Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom.

The sessions for To Be—from February 16 to August 9—were long, drawn-out, and frustrating. Enough material was recorded for three or four albums, but much of it was unreleasable. Many of the songs simply didn’t work, for one reason or another. The irony is that I was being really ambitious on To Be, writing songs with key changes and odd time signatures  and movements. It was my prog-rock album! But the songs that were making me crazy were the three-minute, conventional pop tunes. Some I abandoned, others I re-recorded from the ground up, two or three or more times. One of those songs was Fallen Leaves, picked up once again for the Laketown session. The version on this album is one of many, and while this song never quite came together, the idea never lost its interest. I am still wondering how to get that one right. It’ll be amazing when I do.

This album was a return to the approach of All I Know Is The Skin Of The Earth—making a record in a marathon weekend session. After the exhausting mess of To Be, the appeal of the recording studio had somewhat diminished. I didn’t want ten months of pain—a weekend was enough. The record was also in a sense a return to the first Bloomistry album, Galetta Street Wharf, which has always had a soft spot in my heart. Both were based on a fictional town, and both were made without any concern for conforming to an overall album style or genre. As a result, Laketown ranges in style from rock to country. At 18 seconds in length, the final song “In Summary….” is a musical jest as well as a Reader’s Digest take on pop music: “I love her, but she don’t love me.”

Laketown is uneven and rough, and some of it makes me cringe, but it features three gems in Port Aurora, Fear, and Another Day. It was mixed by Dave Draves on September 8, 2009, two weeks before the mastering of To Be on September 22, at Bova Sound studio.


1. Beautiful Posers
2. Over and Under
3. Fallen Leaves
4. Fear
5. Another Day
6. Port Aurora
7. Deep As a River
8. Wake Up
9. In Summary….

Bloomistry, “At The End Of A Difficult Day” (2015 Remaster)


Recording of the 5th Bloomistry album began on Wednesday, November 21, 2007, at The Underground in Hull, Quebec—three months after the previous album, All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth, was completed.

The working title of this record, The All American Five, provides a clue to the approach of these sessions. “The All American Five” refers to the tubes commonly found in US-made tube radios, and that’s what this album was intended to be: an American record, grounded in American sensibilities and sounds. Also, I was a gear junkie at this point, buying vintage amps on eBay. So I knew a lot about vacuum tubes.

Everything Bloomistry was tongue-in-cheek. So of course I opened my Americana album with a quintessentially British snippet from the Beatles 1965 Rubber Soul sessions. At the time The All American Five was being recorded, I was reading Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and listening to the four-track sessions of the Beatles early recordings. I really got into studio work in a big way. The intro to “Has Been Blues,” which I recorded on May 26, 2008, features a Scouse exchange between John Lennon and a recording engineer I lifted from the 4-track beds for the song “Run For your Life” (“Okay boys?” “Okay Johnny!”). The reference pays tribute to the album that came out the week I was born—also, coincidentally the album that made me want to record music.

The previous album, All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth, was recorded over a weekend. At The End Of A Difficult Day, as it finally came to be known, was finished in 10 months, on September 21, 2008. On that day, tuba and piano overdubs were added to the track “Diane,” and the album was mixed by Dave Draves two months later, at Little Bullhorn, on November 21 and December 2, 2008.

Beginning with the album At The End Of A Difficult Day, Bloomistry recording sessions tended to be chaotic, multi-tasking affairs. Several parallel records were conceived and in the works during this period, including two recorded but unreleased EPs—one called Yes! and a second with Ottawa musician and friend Flecton Big Sky, recorded on December 14, 2007. This would be even more the case with the next album, To Be.

Despite the chaos, At The End Of A Difficult Day is, I think, one of the most cohesive and focused Bloomistry albums. It would also feature, as its closing track, the song I consider my best. I remember listening to the mix of River Wide Road for the first time and being blown away by what Dave did with it. I also really like the lyrics. They’re playful, ironic, and clever—but also a fundamentally sad reflection on the reality of disappointment:

You know, the poets had it right:
They left it to their verses,
And either filled their beds at night
Or filled their lead with curses.
I guess there’s many ways to cope with bitter sorrow,
And when you’ve had enough of hope
There’s always hoping for tomorrow.


1. Has-Been Blues
2. I Guess I’ll Need A Miracle
3. You’re So Lyrical
4. Over The Moon
5. Near You
6. Symphony For The Street
7. Ragged Doll
8. My Meija
9. Diane
10. The Majesty
11. Sunday Afternoon
12. River Wide Road

Bloomistry, “All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth” (2015 Remaster)

Bloomistry Cover

2007–2008 was an incredibly productive musical year for me. Recorded over three days (August 17–19, 2007), All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth was the 4th full-length Bloomistry album, following Late Bloom by only a few months. By the fall of 2008, a fifth album—At the End of a Difficult Day—would be finished.

Late Bloom was an album about returning to recording and live performance at age 40, after a long hiatus. All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth is a line from a Pablo Neruda poem. The working title, A City Like Me, reflected a growing desire to find a new place to call home. I was getting sick of Ottawa. Also, most of the songs for this album were written in hotel rooms, as was the case with Ca Marche and Late Bloom, adding to the album’s overall feel of restlessness.

All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth was made in a weekend marathon session and recorded to eight-track tape. That’s the best way to do it, in my opinion. The most focused and ambitious of my first four Bloomistry albums, it was self-consciously retro, featuring 60s instruments including most notably the combo organ. I imagined myself playing the soundtrack to a hip movie in 1962, kind of like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Phil Bova mixed and mastered the record at Bova Sound, in Ottawa, on March 24–25, 2008. This remaster builds on this earlier version.

The album began as a series of stories told by characters (the pirate of “Sand and Sea,” the Casanova of “Bitter Sense of Melody” and the eponymous Undertaker) and in some cases real people that I knew. “On the Western Trail” tells the true story of an acquaintance of mine who was taken to Spain—kidnapped I would say—by the country’s poet laureate. “Higher Cloud” rehearses the sad story of Harold Funk, an attorney who suffered from mental illness and became a local legend by putting conspiratorial leaflets on the car windshields of Ottawa. There is an actual recording of Funk shouting at the US Embassy that I made on my walk to work one day and mixed into the song’s bridge.

All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth came closest to perfecting the post-punk, 60s-pop blend that was my aspiration. The next album would explore Americana, turning to lap steel guitars, banjo, Les Pauls and 50s amps and instruments. I regard this album as my best work. It was massive fun to make, and when it was done I had the best sushi dinner ever, at Wasabi in Ottawa.


1. The Found Cause
2. Via Maria
3. Another Other Life
4. The All About A Girl
5. Winter’s Summer Song
6. On The Western Trail
7. Sand And Sea
8. Mosquito
9. Bitter Sense of Melody
10. A City Like Me
11. Higher Cloud
12. Beatrice
13. With The Violins
14. The Undertaker

Happy Birthday, Compact Disc! (I’m glad you’re dead)


THERE ARE SEVERAL dates you could propose as the birthday of the compact disc. Among them is March 1, 1983, the day the CD was launched in Japan and North America as a successor music storage format to the cassette tape and the long-playing vinyl record, whatever those are.

Here are some remarkable CD facts.

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