We begin this entry with the final song and the EP title track from our timely trilogy of interpretation, Emergency. If you’ve been following us along on our journey from one synchronicity to the next of our previous cover songs, Burn the Witch by Radiohead, and We’re In This Together by Nine Inch Nails, the breadcrumb trail of interesting oddities and co-incidences lead us to our experimental artrock rendition of one of our favourite songs by The Tragically Hip from one of our favourite albums, Day for Night.
The Hip – as everyone has called them since we first heard them in high school – is a national treasure, if such things exist. Within the imaginary borders of what we all agree to call Canada, The Hip are an icon. A poetic force of nature to be reckoned with, going incognito as an unassuming bar rock band from Kingston, Ontario in the process of continually reinventing itself. Successfully. Every. Single. Time. In this country framed by water and wilderness, The Hip are immortal. Gods of rock who have influenced us since puberty, moving our bodies, minds, and spirits, speaking to our bookish personalities with their specific brand of je ne sais quoi? They even have their own stamp!
The album, Day for Night, had a number of stellar singles, although Emergency wasn’t one of them for some reason. It’s a deep album track buried in the sequence at 12th out of 14, but it’s always appealed to us just like any single. The mood the original song initially conjures in its intro with the sombre bass line and what sounds like a field recording of a rainstorm (outside the Baby Bar, perhaps?) sets the stage and carries the capacity for the weight of the words the listener is about to endure. If the intro was accompanied by a saxophone and a narrated voice over of a detective, it could be the lead-in to any film noire scene: at night, rain pouring down on the Baby Bar’s neon lights, illuminating the repeating horizontal pattern of venetian blinds in the windows, all of which is shot from an angular worm’s eye view looking up the street towards the bar.
The listener ends up in this outside overview of the scene again at the end of the song for a brief moment, but between these bookends and before addressing the endless cyclical nature that underlies the relationship, the song’s delivery instantly changes to the interior perspective of the protagonist within the catchy framework of a rock song that literally keeps you coming back for more. It’s almost as if the vantage point has changed from the exterior street scene to inside the bar where the band is playing live on stage, soundtracking the ethereal conversation “that just keeps on coming up again and again” in dreams where the subconscious speaks. Hear, have a listen…
Like the other cover songs from this EP, and the original tracks from our previous EP, The Labyrinth, this was initially something that we had started some time before the events of the last 2+ years began to unfold. And much like all those other songs, it has also taken on an extra layer of significance because of those events, not to mention it delayed most of their release dates by a couple of years.
How Emergency specifically came about to being the lead single and title track from this EP is an odd synchronicity, just like all of the others…
One day in early 2015, after attending a Swans concert supporting their album, To Be Kind, at The Phoenix in Toronto, we were intensely inspired and the 2 of us found ourselves in our studio space exploring ambient sonic soundscapes as we were warming up. Tara was playing drums and singing while Sködt was creating loops with guitar, bass and synth for a body of work we’ll be releasing after Ultreya, but more on that next year…
A moment of this inspired sound exchange turned into an experimental interpretation of the book, Watership Down, which we made a video for paying homage to both the (nightmare of a) story and the psychedelic Swans album that you can watch here. We occasionally post these experiments of ours for those rare folks who love the deep dive into random content, but we don’t promote them in any way, so we’ve always wondered why our SoundCloud post – a platform popular for hiphop and pop artists – of this odd/strange/weird ambient ‘song’ in German had hundreds of listens, and who those ears belong to.
Another aspect of this inspired aural adventure turned into the live improvisational demo for our version of Emergency. This abstracted conceptual improv piece is also documented, as we posted it years ago to our Soundcloud so we wouldn’t forget to revisit it at a later date and flesh it out. It’s also a reminder that SHE knows The Code (it was written on a polaroid photograph, incase yer wondering). Have a listen to our initial idear here…
As you can hear, Sködt is completely immersed in creating all sorts of ambient loops and textures on his guitar when Tara drops into the lyrics of the song. Unbeknownst to the guitarist awash in swirling soundscapes, the key of the jam they were in the midst of was a half step up from the original which became embarrassingly obvious when he strummed the main E minor 7 chord of the song (that’s why you only hear it once). If you listen very carefully, you can hear his cheeks turn red.
The intention was always to return to and expand upon this framework that began as a response to the abstracted, sliced and diced delayed loop patterns that sounded like a various host of alarms going off at once. Their number suggesting an emergency to the both of us. We loved the concept, but back in 2015, the timing to record and release this track didn’t seem right given the material we were working on, so the idea went on the back burner, awaiting the opportunity to return to it.
We’ve certainly been given ample opportunity to do just that during these past few years, living in an endless emergency without end. It’s synchronous that Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip’s main vocalist, joked that The Hip, as a band of individuals overcoming its collective differences in an effort to create art, was a model for the United Nations to follow, when it was the United Nations World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic of what was imagined at the time to be a new and “deadly” strain of SARS back in March of 2020 that lead us to revisit our cover of one of The Hip’s songs.
Emergency cover art by Sködt
As we’ve explained in a previous post, we had already planned on releasing our cover of Burn the Witch in 2020 as a bridge between our EP, The Labyrinth (inspired by a trilogy of esoteric sci-fi/fantasy films from the 1980s) and our forthcoming album, Ultreya (inspired by our time on the Camino Santiago de Compostela) due to the conceptual crossover in the themes of magick, witchcraft and the sacred feminine. We also noticed the same synchronous crossover with Emergency, too, as The Great Burn was a definite hundreds year long emergency for women, magicians, the sacred feminine and free thought alike that echoes to this day.
Interestingly enough, every song from The Labyrinth EP was inspired by a film where an existential emergency was the call to action for the hero’s journey that became a catalyst for positive change. In the David Bowie film Labyrinth, Sarah’s baby half-brother Toby was kidnapped by the Goblin King, much like our childhood innocence was in 2020. Despite initially wishing for such events to transpire, Sarah was having none of that when Jareth actually granted her wish.
“You have no power over me.”
The NeverEnding Story was centred around Bastian/Atreyu saving the world of Fantasia from being devoured by The Nothing, a force of despair and sadness, reminiscent of the tell-a-vision programming and political propaganda of the last few years. It was his enduring love and hope which preserved a single grain of sand from that world, allowing it to be completely restored.
“People who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has the control, has the power!“
And finally, in Dark Crystal, a prophecy spoke of how the Crystal of Truth had to be healed by being united with its broken shard to free the land from the Skeksis, a cruel species of alien vampires draining the planet Thra of its life force in their foolish quest for physical immortality. We have the same problem on this planet with myopic billionaire CEOs who are still taking their cues from the era of the Rockefeller Robber Barons and the banking cartel that backed them. So where’s our Crystal of Truth to transmute these parasites? Well, that seems to materialize with every passing day, doesn’t it?
As optimists, we see this present emergency and the dark path we’ve been lead down as a revelation for all to see the decades and centuries of collusion coming to the surface of society. Big Money can’t hide its authoritarian nature from the public forever. Each dawn seems to shine new light on the corruption of the Machiavellian magistrates. Our full length album, V is about this impending revolution of consciousness. It’s in the stars that a brighter future lay ahead for us, provided we face our real problems together first, of course.
And that brings us to the suspiciously ubiquitous phrase, ‘We’re In This Together’ and its variants spreading around the globe like a real-time sequel to Wag the Dog. Almost as if to mask the regressive 2-tiered citizenry foisted upon us, literally and intentionally dividing us. It was like we were being given the signs by the Uni-Verse to release our NIN cover and our Hip cover alongside our Radiohead cover because all 3 had somehow conceptually converged to become an organically aligned trinity through the synchronous framework of our rather out of the ordinary passage of life events these past few years. Well, that’s just far out. We’d officially only released one cover to date (of fan-favourite from our live shows, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane), and that was a while ago, so releasing a bunch of other people’s songs all at once isn’t really how we roll, however…
The writing was on the wall, so we hunkered down in our bunker of sounds to record a dark, moody and claustrophobic reinterpretation of The Hip’s, Emergency. We also went back to film the music video there since our studio is a little cramped, complimenting the conceptual theme nicely.
Speaking of film, here’s another odd synchronicity that we just learned about our version of this song that has to do with Canadians, a virus (and of course aliens and a UFO)…
The pulsing fuzz bass pounding like an exerted heart in our cover of Emergency was the last bit of musical arrangement that we added to the track before we sent it to our friend, Dean Marino, to get mixed. We took inspiration for this simple, hypnotic approach to bass from a William Orbit remix of Sarah McLachlin‘s song, Black, that appeared on the X-Files: Fight the Future film soundtrack – a movie filmed predominantly in BC [spoiler alert] about an alien virus that features a scene where a UFO breaks free from the ice in Antarctica (pictured below). Because that’s what’s next up, right?
Wouldn’t you know it that as the mythology of The Hip stands, Emergency was a song that Sarah McLachlin sang backing vocals on, but it was never released by The Hip on the album, Day For Night. Instead, it appeared 4 years later on a compilation benefit album for the 30-Hour Famine project which you can hear here. You’ll notice the framing device of the film noire intro is missing, as it cuts to the chase.
Prior to adding that fuzz bass final touch to the track, we returned to the inspired improvisational demo (and put a capo on the 1st fret) in an attempt to recreate a similar approach to what we had captured years ago.
Think subtle alarms that have been going off for so long, not only are you unbothered by them, but actually embrace them as they lull you into a hypnotic trance, pulling you deeper and deeper into the conditioned state of emergency. One that becomes normal and endless due to its familiar depths.
All of the subtle, signalling alarms are problems that were ignored along the way. The same alarms that have been sounding repeatedly to the point where they’ve actually become accepted as the new normal. It’s become your identity. The claustrophobia is comfortable. Freedom is slavery. The alarms feel warm. Inviting. Intoxicating, even. There’s a hypnotic dreamlike seduction to it all as your amygdala expands from over stimulation preventing you from thinking straight. It’s an emergency without end.
iTunes/Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/5th-projekt/76828529