The Montréal quartet helmed by Constellation co-founder Ian Ilavsky (guitar) and multi-media artist Brad Todd (vocals) gets vinyl reissue treatment for its 1997 full-length CD release Grey with a companion album of songs culled from two self-released 1995 cassettes.
Source Crossfire is a searing, brooding collection that documents the recorded output of Sofa, one of Montreal’s most shadowy, notorious, captivating underground art-rock ensembles of the mid-90s, and the first band to be released on Constellation.
Anchored by the raw metronomics and pummeling syncopation of Keith Marchand (drums) and Scott Clarkson (bass), Sofa was one of the city’s tightest and most kinetic bands, always seeking uncharted pathways in the cracks between established punk/rock sub-domains.The bi-amped Gibson SG Firebrand of guitarist Ian Ilavsky relied on 2 rudimentary pedals (distortion; overdrive), combining with the singspeak of vocalist/lyricist Brad Todd to paint a twitchy, frenetic sonic foreground of controlled chaos. The band was equally known for its unapologetic and sometimes heterodox slow-tempo alter ego, mining ascetic slowcore territory – but also more lush, nostalgic, empty-ballroom balladry with Marchand playing behind the beat in torchsong swingtime and Clarkson weaving deft melodious lead lines on bass, as Todd switched gears from rapid-fire glossolalia to baritone croon.
This deluxe 2x180gLP re-imagines Sofa’s 1997 album Grey (the only full-length CD release from Constellation’s early years yet to be given phonographic treatment) in a re-sequenced vinyl edition, along with a companion LP of tracks culled from the band’s two self-released cassette-only albums from 1995. All newly remastered by Jace Lasek and Harris Newman and with all new artwork by visual artist (and former Sofa vocalist) Brad Todd,Source Crossfire charts the quartet’s febrile evolution through the sonic palettes of North American post-hardcore and slowcore admixed with early UK post-punk, goth and dark lounge.
In the words of one music writer of the era:
“Like Slint and Big Black meeting for a Joy Division reunion.”
2x180gLP / DL
Release date: 17 September 2021
GENRE: Post-Punk, Post-Hardcore, Slowcore, Goth
RIYL: Drive Like Jehu, Scratch Acid, Big Black, Lungfish, Swans, The Birthday Party, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Shipping News, Rodan, Bedhead, Codeine
LP 1 • Side 1 (Grey)
4 The Fence
LP 1 • Side 2 (Grey)
9 Medicine Hat
LP 2 • Side 1 (Town Unsafe / Record)
11 City Of Laughter
12 Just A Walk
LP 2 • Side 1 (Town Unsafe / Record)
14 Radio One
15 So Around
16 String Of Lights
2x180gLP audiophile pressing from Optimal (Germany) in 350gsm gatefold + 300gsm printed inners (all on Arktika artboard with UV-EE inks) + two 12″x24″ pull-out art posters + DL card. Artwork by Brad Todd.
What began as a straightforward Grey vinyl re-issue project soon evolved into an opportunity for something just a little more considered than “album-plus-bonus-tracks”. Record #1 reimagines Grey with vinyl in mind, newly sequenced to create distinct loud/fast and soft/slow sides. Record #2 mirrors this, with four tracks of louder (and mostly faster) pitch-black material on Side One and three signature examples of the band’s sombre early balladry on Side Two—all originally self-released on the Town Unsafe and Record cassettes in 1995.
Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes, Breakglass Studios) and Harris Newman (Greymarket Mastering) teamed up with Constellation co-founder (and Sofa guitarist) Ian Ilavsky to give all of these cuts some thorough remastering attention. Sofa recorded everything live off the floor: the cassette material is entirely live mixes of the band performing in an empty warehouse space, captured direct to two-track with basic mix effects dialed into the signal path and zero overdubs or post-production. Grey was similarly tracked in a single weekend on a 2″ 24-track machine, with minimal overdubs and effects, and using only analog tape compression. All the Source Crossfire remastering treatments work from the original stereo mixes—nonetheless resoundingly bringing Sofa’s music to renewed life.
Sofa’s intense 5-year trajectory of constant local $3 DIY shows and no-budget recordings—supported by soul-crushing minimum-wage jobs, spirit-awakening alter-globalisation protests, and the coterminous existential edict to create meaningful work at any cost—included performances with innumerable regional Canadian bands of the era (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Wooden Stars, Do Make Say Think, The Dinner Is Ruined, Bliss, Picastro, Phono-Comb, Hangedup, Wren, The Nils, Pest 5000, Seppuku, Steak 72, Secret Agent, Bite, Tinker, Stellar Dweller, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and dozens more) and shared stages with the likes of Polvo, Dead Moon, The Geraldine Fibbers, Chrome Cranks, and Windy & Carl, to name a few. Sofa broke up shortly after the release of Grey, thereafter becoming more widely known outside eastern Canada thanks to being championed by select fellow-travelers, and through the subsequent rise of the Constellation label.
Source Crossfire aptly gestures at the mix of genres and influences distilled in Sofa’s cauldron—a treat for fans from the era and for anyone interested in the fertile crosscurrents of US + UK post-punk, post-hardcore, slowcore, goth and art-rock that spawned such a diverse slate of unsung bands with distinct energies, personalities, and hybrid sonic identities across so many local scenes in the 1990s.
Scott Clarkson • Bass
Ian Ilavsky • Guitar
Keith Marchand • Drums
Brad Todd • Voice