Tomorrow night at Café Alt, Roberta Bondar is releasing a new album. Just for clarification, I’m talking about the Ottawa band named Roberta Bondar, not the Canadian female astronaut. I wonder if that’s a coincidence.
In either case, Roberta Bondar is about to become a pioneer, not of outer space this time, but of a musical medium that some had said would never again be relevant. This medium, of course, is the cassette tape. Belonging to a bygone era, the cassette tape was once the standard for mass-produced music. These days, the cassette’s utility is confined to less respectable items, such as the oft-mythologised romantic mix-tape.
But, as Alex Maltby (a member of said Roberta Bondar) insists, there is still a place for this outdated compendium of wheels and magnetic tape that is the cassette. First off, it’s being produced by Bruised Tongue Records, and tapes are their main export. But for Maltby, there’s something special about the cassette. “There’s something about the analogue nature of it,” he says. “There’s almost a grimy quality to it.” And for a band like Roberta Bondar, experimental grimy, distorted, off-kilter – these are all things that fit well with the band’s image.
And for those who aren’t still clinging desperately to their Walkmans, the album, appropriately called “Hiss EP” comes with a download code. The tape, it would seem, is much more a physical artifact of the album – something to be placed on a mantle, or framed.
Maltby says that this new album, which the band plans to sell for 5 dollars, represents something of a new tone for the band. “This new album is pretty vicious. The songs are shorter, everything is a lot louder,” he says. Where their previous efforts had more of an ambient flavour, Hiss EP is a little more intense. “We’ve tightened things up,” Maltby says.
Roberta Bondar, a band which consists of no few than four people—Lidija Rozitis, Alex Maltby, Tyler Ivan Goodman, and Gary Franks – is planning to debut the new album at probably the most appropriate venue possible for a band like this. Café Alt, once only a very, very hip place for very, very hip students has begun opening up its student federation funded arms to the community at large. Its first main push into venue-being has been the Café Alt Concert Series, of which this concert is the last show – and it’s happening tomorrow night! Among the bands which appeared on the bills of the several nights of the series were Scattered Clouds, John McKiel, Yuri Bakker, the Elwins, James and Blackburn, and many, many more. Some of the acts were well known in Ottawa; others were not. In either case, the musical buffet consistently provided exceptional entertainment.
As it happens, Maltby manages Café Alt, and was very much involved in the erecting and maintaining of this ambitious concert series. It was an undertaking: “We put a lot of energy into the aesthetics of the events,” says Maltby—each event was adorned by a unique art instillation. And it seems that they did it for the right reasons—it was about the music: “It’s nice to do well financially, but if we don’t have a full room, I’m not worrying about the ticket sales, I want to make sure that the musicians that are here to have a great time.”
Whether or not you make it out to the Roberta Bondar show tomorrow night, you can at least look forward to seeing more excellent shows are this new and compelling venue. Café Alt is, if nothing else, relaxed and friendly. And, for me, that makes for a good atmosphere in which to enjoy music.
Roberta Bondar debuts their new album at Café Alt tomorrow night. They are joined by WTCHS and Couples. Doors at 8pm. $5 Cover. Kitchesippi beer is $3.50.