Kyross – EP

If you haven’t heard of Kyross, it’s for two understandable reasons: First, he’s 16, and second, this is his first EP. Still in high school, he’s been honing his production skills remixing. You can hear all that on Soundcloud.

With the help of Midwest Collective, Maple Ridge-based Kyross released this 3-track EP that combines R&B grooves with gritty electronica and floating ambiences.

I might also mention that he’s a student at the school I teach at, so I’m proud of him pursuing what he’s passionate about. Listen here, pay what you will at Bandcamp.

Brocken Spectre – Grand Kids EP

Followers of the Vancouver music scene will need to give this album its due this summer, because Brocken Spectre just levelled up. The release of Grand Kids EP is exactly what fans would want: right-on-target studio takes of songs they’ve heard live. The band calls its own offerings avant-pop; It’s Neapolitan in flavour: hopefully it’s the sort of freshness that will save us from the deeply adulterated indie-as-a-genre phase. Stripped down, it’s drum kit, guitar and bass, occasional robotic synths, and a stirring voice.

Either they arranged with Mario and Luigi for a shipment of golden mushrooms this year, or it could have something to do with more live performance experience; gains in confidence for the band reveal themselves in brave explorations of their musical territory. Colin Ablitt traverses the upper and lower (rock bottom) limits of his range, while Colin Campbell (drummer) teaches floor toms the greatness they were destined for.

Exploration is a word that could describe this album. The second EP produced by the band, it is mostly the translation of live songs into studio ones, and that’s pretty satisfying. Sonically it contains strong pieces; some parts are catchy as a fishhook.

All parts played by this four-piece from Burnaby/Coquitlam fuse together to produce the slightly dark oft-performed “Marionette King”, with Ablitt’s strong melody lines and Nic Campbell’s crisp guitar work that make the song stand out.

Opening song “Frost”, a fan favourite at shows, translates nicely into studio with the sense of the drums not being lost, the harmonies of the song resolving as usual from minor-keyed trisyllabics into a full-hearted rouser. “Steam Hands” jungle-drum opening glides unexpectedly into blissful alternative rock a la The Decembrists and reveals some strengths of the band.

Repulsed by redundancy, it’s an album of surprises. Sometimes the vocals have a folksy colour to them and sometimes they’re alt-pop. Spectre is good at locking into a groove and equally skilled at recreating it. Andrew Cleasby’s bass keeps the tracks anchored while Colin Campbell drums interesting and cleverly-placed rhythms.

It’s this final, somewhat-Fleet-Foxes-inspired “Corlioghost” that is most striking. Opening with its three-part harmonies and plodding synths, the track develops awestruck lyrics like: “I’ve been fascinating on you for some time now…lion, come and catch me”. It packs a punch in its diversity, changing and fading only after a drum, bass and guitar interlude that is a concert staple for the band.

“Anteros & I” is unexpected. This grungy piece explores the gravel floor of Ablitt’s vocals and drags a little, but the song upshifts gears and becomes incredibly enjoyable after he takes a turn for his more familiar upper reaches. Tight stick work from Campbell drives it forward; indeed, it contains some of the most memorable harmonies and rhythms on the whole album.

With the release of this EP, new material is to be expected from the band, and as mentioned in my last interview with them, a possible entry into Vancouver’s prestigious Peak Performance Project. In the meantime, enjoy the places Brocken Spectre has explored on this EP.



The Dare – Gina Williams

She’s a singer, a pianist, an actress, and an educator. After shelving her master’s degree in Piano performance for a decade, Gina Williams “dared” herself to perform again at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey, BC, Canada on October 20, 2012. The Dare is a 65-person multi-genre performance. Tickets are available at the door. For all other details, watch!

Gina Williams – The Dare October 20th from Craig Ketchum on Vimeo.

Dear new TWU student

Dear new TWU student,

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. But as a person who has travelled ahead of you on the journey you have begun, I wanted to write to wish you a happy O-day and welcome you to the campus I once affectionately called home. I hope you’ll find it life-giving.

If you like, give me just a moment of your time for a couple pointers.

First things first. Fruit. It’s highly overpriced at the cafeteria. Get it from Willowbrook Farm Market in Walnut Grove. Soup is cheap and sometimes worth the savings so you can stock up on ice cream at opportune times like November when it rains the whole time. But it’s actually way better to just keep exercising. The gym isn’t far compared to other university campuses, even in the rain.

If you sleep well on those sad excuses for mattresses, I admire you. Extra foam mats?

I’m gonna sound like a parent here. That’s because parents have lots of hindsight. In this situation, so do I. If you do your pre-readings for class you won’t look or feel lost; confidence is half the battle: how will you ever feel good about learning if you haven’t applied yourself to your end of the bargain? Finish some papers early and the benefits are amazing. You’re less stressed and you have more time for refining it into work you can be proud of. My roommate created a clever schedule of his papers and dispersed them throughout the semester, successfully avoiding any all-nighters. Every percent actually counts. I didn’t graduate with distinction, but knowing I could have was a bit of a sore spot on graduation day; a mistake I won’t make again if I take further education.

Lastly, don’t give into the tendency to take your environment for granted. Look around – life is beautiful. Don’t allow yourself to complain: you have the most freedom you’ve had in your life up until this point, hopefully you’re studying something you’re interested in, and you’re part of the world’s 2% most privileged demographic. Keep perspective!

Have a blast. I look forward to hearing some stories one day.

Recommended classes:

The beauty of TWU is its liberal arts approach. You get to take a smattering of great electives!

POLS 101 – Intro to Political Thinking (Cal Townsend)

SOC 101 – Intro to Sociology (Gordon Chutter)

RELS 102 – New Testament (“RELS 102 with Kent Clarke changed everything for me.” – Jonathan Gibson) Prepare to have your faith cross-examined by a professor who won’t let you take your beliefs lightly.

ENG ___ (Holly Nelson / Lynn Szabo). The entire English faculty are world-class. Plus, they teach you how to write well, which pays off in every other course you will ever take, and for the rest of your life.

RELS 465 – Christian Thinkers of the Western Tradition (Cal Townsend)

HIST 403 – Engendered History (Robynne Healey). All the history professors at TWU are outstanding. You will have your eyes opened to the world like never before.

BUSI 280, 342, 377 (recommended by Business Administration student Jeremy Cockrill) I (Craig) didn’t take business, but I really wish I had.

Brocken Spectre Sets Their Sights

An interview with Craig Ketchum, Burnaby, BC

After opening in Burnaby, BC for talented Vancouver outfit In Contra this summer, Brocken Spectre’s Colin Ablitt, Nic Campbell and Colin Campbell purveyed a local pizza shop with me to talk beginnings, middles and ends.

How did the band meet?

“These two (N. and C. Campbell) are brothers, obviously,” Colin Ablitt jocosely informs me. “They met when they were born, covered in slimy goodness. But the three of us met at college.  Nic was doing a pastoral program and Colin and I were in the music program. Nic smartened up and switched into music. We saw each other’s talent and agreed we should start a band together.”

Nic Campbell responds, “Being in some of the same classes, we realized that our philosophies of music would easily intertwine. We’d hear each other’s answers to questions and totally resonate with them. I got thinking about being in a band.”

“When we are on stage”, Colin Campbell adds, “we are quite similar. There must be a common strand in why we play music, as well as what we are passionate about and the way we express it. There has to be a common striving for something; the passion you have behind music and what drives it over time will make or break a band.”

Where do you want to be in the future?

Brocken Spectre has set their sights on Vancouver’s Peak Performance Project, a survivor-style project that picks the city’s best unsigned talent, connects them with concerts and training sessions on image, business, and performance, uses audience selection to choose winners, and awards them prize money to record and get a start making larger waves in the music business.

The band tells me they’ve been tracking some of the bands who were in the project this year and seeing what they can learn from them. “It would be such a honour to be granted shows in front of big audiences, and to attend the training sessions they put on. We are new and inexperienced and we crave mentorship”, Colin Campbell remarks.

“It’s a long shot, but we would most love to play with We Are The City. They are talented and super creative and we just blossom when we hear the creativity of others. They would teach us a lot. We would love to be mentored by them. I suppose it’s possible. We do have mutual friends”, adds Nic.

“I’m excited to see what potential that could have for our band”, muses Ablitt. “We would also love to play with In Medias Res.”

What’s taking place in your songwriting right now?

“I feel that we’re getting to a place where we’re not settling” Colin Campbell states. “We hear boring rock and challenge each other to switch it up.”

(We’ve been so engrossed in conversation that we haven’t even looked at the menu, so as the server reappears to take our order, the band quickly defaults to pizza-shop standards: Italian, Meat Lovers, Hawaiian).

What does the writing process look like for Brocken Spectre?

“Colin or Nic will write a song, but the original is always far different from the final product, the band says. “Parallel dances, for example, was performed months ago on acoustic shortly after Colin wrote it, and he said it was the most quiet, melodic Sufjan-Stevens-folk tune he had ever written. After bringing it to the band it totally metamorphosed several times and took a totally different shape. The songs come form our personal challenges, the lyrics come from literature, from movies, from life experiences. The song Parallel Dances is a string of vignettes that illustrate how constantly, all around the world, there’s such a flurry of different, even conflicting actions. Somewhere in the world, there’s a girl being filmed at the beach while someone is being hit by a car somewhere else.”

Though the songwriter may write something subdued, the band finds when they bring it to Colin (drummer) clarification takes place. He brings the skeleton, providing the backbone. “Our songs go through many reincarnations, many lives. Are we Buddhist?” muses Campbell out loud. “The new song is called ‘Steamhands’, written months ago but not fully arranged until June.”

Rapid-fire Q&A:

When and where are you inspired to play?

CA: When I write I take it from literature and movies and snippets of conversations. I usually practice in my bedroom and that’s where a lot of the music is born.

NC: I mostly find I’m inspired at live shows. I get amped up halfway through the show and I’m dying inside because I want to go and do something about it. For two months I was so dry and then fifteen minutes into the Bon Iver show last month I was just brimming with artistic drive.

CC: Drumming is the place where I feel close to God. When I do it for him, I can’t get any closer. When I’m dried up, nothing else will suffice. I know God will meet me there. It’s a way he speaks to me.

Who are your influences?

CA: “Kanye West? Just joking. Man, i grew up with all the poppy CCM bands, you know the ones, who still had some substance to them, like Switchfoot, Relient K, and Thousand Foot Crutch.”

NC: I’m too ashamed to say who I grew up listening to. Recently I’ve been so caught off guard and impressed by Local Natives. I’ve been listening to Ceremonials (Florence and the Machine) and I love the fresh percussive elements. I notice when I’m writing with Colin, it’s great and we can create stuff, but it can ends up being so wishy-washy and I yearn for the percussion to come in so we can make some sense of it all and have something solid to work with. Until then it’s floppy, you can’t even hold it in your hands. It’s like a slinky. A slinky covered in silly putty.”

Do you have any nicknames for each other?

Colin Campbell laughs and exclaims, “Oh man, not appropriate for recording purposes!”

NC: “It’s mostly on the spot, like, this is exactly how I am feeling about you and so that is what I am going to call you, and they stick for just about that day.

CA: If you’ve seen I Love You Man, I call Nic “Broseph Wiggles” every so often and he calls me…”

NC: “…Tico Brohun.”

CC: “Sometimes we call Colin Campbell ‘James’ to differentiate from me. Or CJ, but he hates that because it sounds like a Backstreet Boys name.”

Favourite shows?

CA: My favourite was Cottage Bistro, this little bar on Main Street. We played there with a group of friends and it was a real warm, inviting night, not too serious. We even played without a bassist. We played without a bassist for quite a while before we found Scott. Once we involved bass, the foundations of the songs were solidified and hit you harder, they had weight to them.

CC: When you hear the music, you can cringe because of the volume, but that’s where you feel it, in your chest and in your stomach. When you go to clubs, you sense all the emotion is in the bass.

Have you had any bad moments performing?

CC: Oh man, tonight I totally forgot one of my parts – and it’s an old song too – and I was supposed to start the song and that was very embarrassing. I was trying to sing the song in my head because my part syncs up with the vocals and I couldn’t even do that!

NC: At our first Roxy show we stepped out of our style and did a cover of Jamie Woon’s “Lady Luck” and did something R&B and random. We had fun and surprised the fans. It was a good moment.

What’s your motive for making music?

CA: It’s a passion. We all love music and we love each other and we can’t not do this. Who knows what life will hold, so we’re gonna play.

NC: I could never not do music, even if I use horrible grammar. I love the band dynamic. If I write a song a certain way and I take it to these two, it doesn’t have to be that way. They can adjust it and make it mean something to so many people.

CC: It seems so prideful to think your music can change people’s lives, but I guess that’s what we, and anyone, want.

FYI: Brocken Spectre [brock-un spec-ter] gets their name from a haunting natural phenomenon observed on Mt. Brocken in Germany. It’s not a misspelling.

Anchor Guitar Studio, Vancouver

Anchor Guitar Studio: Home of an inventory of Sparrow Guitars and the new Anchor Guitar line. All guitars are assembled and set up in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Anchor Guitar Studio manufactures guitars, carries guitar parts and has a full in-house repair shop. The studio also supports the local Vancouver arts community. They are involved in music, photography, design, and film projects.

Located in the heart of Railtown Vancouver, the Anchor Guitar Studio was born out of a love for music, guitars, and community. We are a shop who values quality in all areas. The Studio is a place where you can check out some guitars, get your guitar repaired, play some music, or collaborate on a creative project.

Created in 2010, the Anchor Guitar Studio focuses on the highest quality products. Every guitar is handcrafted in Canada, and built with a high commitment to quality. Our guitars boast unbeatable tone, superior cosmetic appeal and playability second to none. You will cherish your Anchor Guitar for years.

We have an inventory of Sparrow guitars that are finished, assembled and set-up in our workshop. We have also been manufacturing a line of jr’s and teles that are built from the ground up. Each one is constructed here in Vancouver.




103-339 Railway Street, Vancouver, B.C.

Plus, they have the most amazing shirts: I’m sportin’ one… you should consider it too. (Pictures courtesy of Anchor Guitar Studio)

Brocken Spectre @ Converge Magazine Social

Brocken Spectre (Colin Ablitt, Nic Campbell, Colin Campbell, Scott Bjerkness) played our Converge Magazine social on Saturday, June 2, at the gorgeous Five Stones Church in New Westminster (exposed brick, hardwood floors, right on the river).

Playing an unfamiliar venue to a largely-unfamiliar crowd can be a big challenge. Being a social event with appetizers aplenty and drinks flowing, everyone is already pretty chatty. But halfway through their first song, “Parallel Dances“, something magical happened. A stillness was setting over the room; everyone was tuning in. A couple minutes later, and a big round of applause for a band that barely anyone in the room knew (yet).

Brocken Spectre will be playing a show with In Contra and Aida Saturday, June 16 at the Southside Community Church venue. Doors open at 6:39. Tickets are well-worth it at $10.