Episode 46: "Translation IVa" by Unheard Sound Collective's Charles Barabé
A slowed voice intones a descriptive lesson on Canadian geography in both official languages against a warped tape version of the anthem. There’s a menace to the gritty overblown synth melody, layers of dirty drones, crashing cymbals, cavernous drum beats and 2-3 voices in conversation obscured by reverb. The recurrent birdsong enhances, rather than moderates that sense of menace. The entire track has a heavy density that commands attention like a larger than life metal animal beside the road. In the context of Roadside Attractions, I focussed on the bilingual geography voice that sounds like a reel to reel tape I may have heard in elementary school in the early 80s. As a child learning about the scale of the landmass we call Canada, there was no way to really rationalize how large it really is. Even now, we conceptualize the notion of Canadian regionalism in terms of the most reductive, iconic elements: a Cape Breton Lighthouse, the CN or Calgary Tower, a grain elevator, a polar bear. Their cartoon versions in roadside attractions are a sort of shorthand for place, where that place is to large to apprehend at once.