April 20, 2016
Our favourite artists can come from many different places: a fast mention by a friend, stumbling onto a page online, a certain sound you’ve spent days hunting down, or just taking a wander through a local event. Talented artists grab our attention, and Longwalkshortdock (LWSD) seizes every drop of focus.
A musician that can provide both a unique sound and a riveting experience live, LWSD (Dave King) has made a mighty splash in Canada’s electronic scene over the last few years by dominating the West Coast festival circuit. The connections built with his audiences through the experience of his live performance have provided a dedicated fan base to support him, and they turn a simple time slot into a fully costumed event. His high-energy and unforgettable shows and style are both complex and distinctive, teasing you with a sound that you’ll find nowhere else. LWSD has become a must-see event, and as a new tour with RimVisuals looms on the horizon to carry the pair throughout Canada and parts of the US, it seems as though King’s splash is fast cresting into a tidal wave.
A taste of what’s to come on this year’s tour.
From Calgary roots, a young King learned sampling skills early by recording pieces of his own piano practice for later use in tricking his parents to think he was practicing. Inspiration for his music career draws heavily from a long-time addiction to video games, a theme that almost serves as the genre for his generally undefinable type of electronic. After moving to Vancouver to attend the Centre for Digital Image and Sound (later known as the Art Institute), and earn his degree in sound production and recording, King’s hobby transformed into an album when he released Casual Tea in 2009.
Both this debut LP and following albums have been released on East Van Digital, with many of the tracks becoming signature LWSD songs. Recurring patterns are contained in his first two projects as the energetic and aggressive notes quickly turn to the stirring of melancholy emotion, only to then spring back to the playful and upbeat. King’s albums often contain a similar assortment of songs—those that he knows his audience will enjoy, some that he takes creative license with, and a few to just try something different.
The playful creative at work. Credit: Third Eye Arts.
Casual Tea, the first, 12-track album brings the listener through a multitude of rises and crashes, and entered into the scene a variety of fan favourites such as “I Will Kill You with Techno,” “Horsefly,” and “High Expectations”. After its namesake, King noted that this album came together casually when a friend mentioned that if he had a record it would be easier to book him, and so King compiled some of his then-current works, many hosting the ballad-like sound that punctuates the album. Following his set at Soundwave in 2008 there was additional motivation to return to the festival with gusto, which brought forth the more energetic temperament that has become so essential to his sound.
2011 saw the release of Bigger Fish Frying, an 11-track album that almost didn’t make it to release following an unfortunately timed hard drive crash. Thankfully, this intense mixture of fast-paced and drawn out frequencies overlaid with animated cries was recovered for all of our listening pleasures. Beginning with lapping waves that bring vivid imagery to your mind’s eye, and heavily featuring the video game synths that identify King’s music, Bigger Fish Frying solidified the LWSD anthems that would string together the audio necessary to create the live experience that fans crave, and have begun to recognize as an event not to be missed.
Constantly evolving, King has grown his live PA performances into a structure of wonder. Involving various keyboards and computers, then completed with his essential and iconic microphone-stuffed shark, this monumental rig is the station that LWSD pilots his growling synths and tortured howls from within. Beside the monstrosity built to rain Longwalkshortdock’s sound down upon our eardrums, we have the madman at the controls with his flailing mop of hair, jumping, zany showmanship, and at times wonderfully nerdy or nightmarish costumes.
One of these many creations, captured at BassCoast 2014. Credit: Prettylips Danceyhips.
RimVisuals has also become a crucial factor in the equation of a LWSD show; touring together since late 2009, they’ve added the cherry on top to this live performance, producing visual pleasures and innovations that synergize with an increasingly intense soundtrack. Their partnership began with King’s desire for the video game influences of his music to come to life around his audiences, and give an experience, “like a spell is circling you.” In 2015, LWSD and RimVisuals toured with a setup that included a multiple projectors and four screens with constant hallucinatory images flashing across them that bring to life the insanity of each song. King performs from between two large, opaque backdrops and two smaller foreground screens that are projected onto using space, shapes, and digital imagery, in addition to the projectors on himself and his equipment, all of which aid in bringing his music to life.
A view of the lightbox visual setup. Credit: Vasho Photography.
An inciting influence throughout his albums has been the impulse towards the sounds associated with video games. Consistently featured in his work are twangs and squeals that would fit into many classic arcade backgrounds. In Squashing Machine, the latest album from LWSD, these noises are punctuated with a much more computerized and forceful, vigorous tone. Depicted on the cover art by Calgary-based artist Tara Handelman, is a bloodthirsty, explosive personification of what is contained within.
Where previous albums Casual Tea and Bigger Fish Frying began with melodic audio sensations and waves lapping on the shore, the third LP draws from a more raw and energetic tone. After a brief loading period, the listener is thrashed with the robotic chomps and snarls of “I’m Forgetful,” moving quickly into the aptly named “Choked by Robots.” “Protest” undulates through the room, void of lyrical effects, and segues into “Addictions” with stuttering dub, playing a balanced middle ground between intense and melancholic tones. Combining hard beats, high plinks and squeals, and his rhythmic vocals, we are given more dance floor incendiary smashes with “Lost the will to Strive,” and “Dark Matter,” then taking on a darker tone for “Wreck It” and finishing with the tormented melodies of “Lackadaisical” and “No Way Out.” This album is the most in-your-face thus far, and a likely precursor for what we will be hearing soon.
Moving forward, we can expect an even heavier drum and bass vibe from LWSD. “Of the hour and forty-five minute sets I’m playing, I’d say about forty-five minutes is now drum and bass,” said King. Expanding on what the future holds for his project, he noted that he is hoping to fill the next while with smaller EP releases rather than full LPs, having more fun with his craft than forcing his creativity. Another outlet has become his part-time alter ego, Zenus, a name that Final Fantasy fans may recognize as another homage to his video game past, with which he had the mission in mind to jam and DJ, playing more of tunes that he loves rather than spending this time in front of Ableton.
The energy of a Longwalkshortdock show makes for an unforgettable night. Credit: Ineo Studios.
LWSD’s music is unique for a variety of reasons. A cascading assault of agitated notes pulls you through each song, and there are few artists that can be as immersive as he. Telling a story by carrying your mind’s eye through the track, powerful lyrics are screamed and sung before being adjusted almost beyond recognition—the result is vocal chords used as a haunting, melodic instrument, as well as a driving rhythm that kicks each song into high gear. Additional surprises are hidden in these lyrics as they slowly reveal themselves to you; there is depth and beauty in some of these warped verses that howl through your mind. Unable to be contained in the restrictive box of a single genre, LWSD ties his tracks together with crashing drops and undulating strains beside his mechanized growls, and appeals to a plethora of tastes with the bass-heavy among them.
Whether you’re seeking an artist to expand your tastes or discover new ones, Longwalkshortdock is a unique brand that can only ever be imitated. Keep an eye open for your opportunity to experience this one of a kind event as performances take place across Canada.