Sled Island returns: A how-to guide
One of Canada’s most prestigious & enlightening music festivals returns for it’s tenth year
By Alec Warkentinm, Staff Writer
Calgary unfortunately (and inaccurately) gets ragged on for its lack of music history and scene when compared to the usual suspects of Canadian hotbeds. The Sled Island Music & Arts Festival that takes place every year on the last week of June is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious and experimentally-stacked collectives of international musicians, artists, and comedians you’re likely to find anywhere else.
With each new rendition of the festival featuring artists picked by a guest curator (an indefatigable roster of past alums include post-rock pioneers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, riot grrrl punker Kathleen Hanna, and ambient soundsmith Tim Hecker), this year’s edition is set to blast eardrums, melt faces, and whip up an experience unlike anywhere else.
This time curated by electronic powerhouse Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison), Sled Island 2017 should rank high on any aficionado’s list as the place to spend a beautiful summer week.
While buying tickets to a festival of names big and small is daunting, it is highly recommended to any music lover wanting to experience the festival’s eclectic range that passes are attained, but for the squeamish or yet-undecided, The Reflector is here to provide you with a how-to guide into getting into Sled Island and all the magic the festival has to offer:
Arguably one of the greatest things to come out of contemporary noise rock, Ohio’s Cloud Nothings have been unstoppable since breaking onto the scene a few years ago. Hot off the release of their latest album Life Without Sound, vocalist Dylan Baldi and crew mix loud, melodic anguish and swelling guitar licks with talent and bravado to spare.
Perhaps best known for their vicious 2001 metal-core classic Jane Doe, Converge has found themselves on a pedestal generally perceived to be unachievable in the hardcore scene. Fans of brutal, abrasive sound and wickedly technical aggression should not miss out.
Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield’s beautiful mix of pop and melancholic millennialism has thrust the singer into the limelight with 2015’s acclaimed Ivy Tripp and a solo set in any venue is sure to astound.
Alt-minimalist pioneers Low, fronted by the enigmatic Alan Sparhawk, have had a storied history in the past 25 years since their inception, and anyone into beautifully glacial, hauntingly spacial “slowcore” (a term the group themselves condemns) should check out their 1994 record I Could Live in Hope and 2001’s Things We Lost In The Fire for a brief glimpse into their downtempo spectacle.
50 years in, and pioneering psych-rock /electronic group Silver Apples are testament to the staying power of influential music. Check out their first two releases Silver Apples (1968) and Contact (1969) for a brief glimpse into their five-decade majesty.
Wolves in the Throne Room
For those with a taste for the dark and atmospheric, the forebodingly-titled Wolves in the Throne Room from historic Olympia, Washington have constructed a black metal universe all their own. For fans of doom and gloom with bouts of ambience, 2011’s acclaimed Celestial Lineage makes for as good a place as any to submerge yourself in these spectacular black metalists.
Equal parts cacophonous and intimate, Weyes Blood (nom de plume of Natalie Mering) has made quite a name over the past seven years. Beautifully exploring harmonies and melodies alike, fans of Fiona Apple and Cocteau Twins should check out Weyes Blood’s 2016 album Front Row Seat to Earth and bask in gorgeous waves of Mering’s piercing vocals.
Land of Talk
Having just announced her first album in seven years, Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell made waves in 2010 when she disappeared from Canada’s music scene altogether. A Sled Island alum, having played last year, Powell’s set will be a greeted as a triumphant return. Check out 2008’s Some Are Lakes and 2010’s Cloak And Cipher and get excited that a hotly-anticipated new album will be out in only a few short months.
While this is only a brief glimpse into the first wave line-up (which also includes Hailu Mergia, Daughters, Thor & Friends, EX EYE, Mothers, and more) Sled Island boasts over 250 artists in their repertoire performing each year — keep an eye out for future announcements on their official website, where you can also buy passes and individual tickets.