Ffob plays Sound Symposium in St. John’s Newfoundland

05. July 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Kurt joins the electronic audio/visual performance collective Ffob, along with fellow sound artists Michael Phillip Wojewoda and John DS Adams, and Justin Stephenson on live video projections. Sunday, July 8, 2018. 7pm.

New animation for Palestine Texas

21. June 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

This is a previously unreleased tune recorded way back when with Mark Mariash on drums, Maury Lafoy on bass, David Matheson on piano, and Kurt on vocals and guitars. Engineered by James Paul, mixed by Michael Phillip Wojewoda, and mastered by Joao Carvalho. Written, arranged and produced by Swinghammer.

“Melt” exhibit gets an informed review

21. June 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Full Fathom Five Flattened

Kurt Swinghammer’s Melt at NAC


And icebergs do have their own noises, as they creak and float and melt.

(Nathalie Boisard-Beudin)

Let’s begin by asking a relevant, contemporary question – and very Canadian – question: do you hate the Group of Seven? Or do you hate the “idea” – the miasma of cultural smog, like a Chernobyl of radioactive “culture” – of the Group of Seven?

Who’s actually experienced one in person, even with all the Steve Martin inspired Lawren Harris “love” at the AGO, recently? If you simply encountered the works without preamble or historical / cultural frameworks of support, would you pause and “watch” them? My question is informed by both Aaron Thompson’s visceral critique of the idea of Mona Lisa, as well as Emma German’s recent talk about Slow Art Day.

But what, my exasperated readers ask, does this have to do with Kurt Swinghammmer’s exhibition Meanwhile out on Hudson’s Bay which features Melt: a new series of paintings in the Dennis Tourbin Gallery at NAC? This is currently on display and charms on both a superficial level but also (like an iceberg) has depths of humour, caustic and gentle?

The statement: “It was close to 100 years ago that Group Of Seven founder Lawren Harris painted highly stylized depictions of snow capped Rocky Mountains and Arctic ice flows. As a young art enthusiast, Kurt Swinghammer absorbed this work via reproductions hung in his public school. In his teens, Swinghammer was soaking up library books on the modernist colour field work of Group of Eleven’s Jack Bush along with the British Op Art movement Bridget Riley. These three streams of influence come together in Swinghammer’s new series of acrylic paintings called “Melt.”

Each canvas shows a graphically designed iceberg floating in an infinite body of water. Hundreds of carefully mixed shards of colour achieves a strong sense of depth and has become a signature technique for Swinghammer. The Melt series continues his interest in exploring a traditional Canadian subject matter in a contemporary manner.”

But let’s step away from that historical interpretation for a moment, and just consider what’s in the gallery space. One larger painting is the opening “word” of a sentence that then consists of several smaller ones, though there’s a unity of form, execution and composition that makes them function as a unit, like pages in a book.

These are paintings that are superficially contradictory: they appear flat (often cold colours applied in shapes suggestive of construction paper cut outs) but, on closer observation, the shadows and lighting, the gradations of the scenes of “icebergs” are much more subtle – and much more painterly – than initially “assumed.”

This proffers an interesting formal means by which to consider Swinghammer’s response / interpretation to the mythology – or the monolith – that is the Group of Seven, or specifically pieces like Lawren Harris’ “Lake and Mountains” or “Mountains in Snow” (1928 and 1929).  Often described dismissively as “calendar art” but their prevalence, their insinuation, into the Canadian cultural psyche, can’t be so facilely dismissed. (A conversation I had with a local artist, a very good painter, recently centered on how some aspects of the Group of Seven were simply absorbed into his practice, into assumptions and actions regarding painting, and the realization of this subconscious dogma only became consciously known to him much later on….).

In one way, these works in Melt continue Harris’ exploration of mystical and often pantheistic sensibilities that led him into more geometric abstraction. But let’s ignore that for a moment, all the art historical babblegab: aesthetically, these are lovely works that are so well painted that the images seduce you instead of technique. Considering how similar each is to the other, they all have a unique charm, a simplicity that – as with landscape, and as we even saw with Flexhaug – though repetitive, doesn’t become tiresome. There’s a delightful allure to each painting.

In Atwood’s book Survival, she offers that “There is a sense in Canadian literature that the true and only season here is winter: the others are either preludes to it or mirages concealing it.” Although I’m also a proponent of the Wacousta syndrome, as Atwood is, Swinghammer offers a more hopeful, more positive, presentation of “winter.” After all, the show is called “Melt”, and the colours of the waters are rife with vibrant shapes that suggest activity and life.

These are delicate and disciplined paintings (when taking a photograph of one, I saw that what I presumed to be glare from the lights was, in fact, Swinghammer so perfectly capturing light in his painting that I “assumed” it to be “real”). They can be appreciated historically, or simply on an immediate level of aesthetic joy, of colour and contrast and shape and form. There are ideas at play that deepen their effect: and like Rothko once asserted, “a painting is not a picture of an experience; it is an experience.”

Melt, a new series of paintings by Kurt Swinghammer (which was part of a larger installation titled Meanwhile out on Hudson’s Bay) is currently at Niagara Artist Centre, and on display for two more weeks. This Friday, May 11th, you can experience those works as well as Emma Lee Fleury’s Sprout and About (Plate Glass Gallery) and a new exhibition, Bevan Ramsay’s Lesser Gods.

Loon #7 by Swinghammer

21. June 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

48″x48″ acrylic on canvas, 2018. Currently on display at INabstracto, 1160 Queen St West, Toronto. 416 533 6362

Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs still getting ink

28. May 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

DAVID REED: An audiophile’s dream

By David Reed, Belleville Intelligencer

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 12:52:09 EDT PM

Lori Cullen – Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs

(True North Records, 2016)

Kurt Swinghammer and Ron Sexsmith have been friends for decades and the two decided to co-write an album of songs for Lori Cullen to sing. Her exceptional voice delivers and interprets the twelve songs with such sincerity that one could easily believe that she wrote them herself. She drifts and floats effortlessly through challenging melodies and complex chord changes like a butterfly in a colourful garden, and Swinghammer has planted a sonic garden beyond compare.

Known as a gifted composer and recording artist, Kurt Swinghammer channels elements of Burt Bacharach (a confessed hero), Brian Eno and Antonio Carlos Jobim – all the while staying completely original. The extensive instrument list includes guitar, piano, bass, rhodes, wurlitzer, B3, omnichord, string machine, vibraphone, marimba, clarinet, English horn, bass clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, harmonica and percussion…plus some stunning backing vocals by Mia Sheard and Jen Foster.

Listeners looking to challenge their ears beyond mainstream formula pop would be well-advised to seek out Swinghammer’s complete catalogue. I am particularly obsessed with Another Another (2017), Turpentine Wind (2011) and his great masterpiece, Vostok 6 (1999).

Ron Sexsmith is a respected singer-songwriter with sixteen albums to his credit and a loyal fan base that includes Paul McCartney, Elton John, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and Chris Martin. His lyrics are often described as “melancholic” and poetic. Those who are unfamiliar with Sexsmith’s work should start with Blue Boy (2001), Cobblestone Runway (2002) and Exit Strategy of the Soul (2008).

For this record, Sexsmith has crafted some of his finest lyrics. Throughout the songs he has woven references to gardens, trees, plants, colours, sunlight, stars, rain and water. The songs truly feel like a suite of connected stories.

The convergence of prowess between Sexsmith and Swinghammer creates a magical collection of songs for Lori Cullen to make her own. While I’m aware that some readers may easily bore with comparative analysis, I can’t help but comment on the Joni Mitchell moments that creep up in certain songs. Cullen’s voice has an ethereal clarity in the upper range that any good Canadian would likely compare to Mitchell.

Some Part of Me almost sounds like a Carpenters song but the chord changes are more unexpected and the melody takes some pleasantly unpredictable twists. This song is curiously compelling.

Off Somewhere is a duet with Ron Sexsmith (his only appearance on the album). The lyrics are timeless and thoughtful, with the lines “memories I’ll unpack in time / retrace the pages of my life / for now I refuse ‘cause I’m off somewhere / you are on my mind.” Cullen and Sexsmith drift in and out of harmony like characters in a story, their melodies interwoven with love.

Other highlights include Miracle Home, This Morning, Something Right, Strange is This Life, and True.

I would be negligent if I did not praise the sound of this album. The production is pristine and the mix is stunning. Maury Lafoy produced and David Travers-Smith mixed and mastered. This is one of the best-sounding records I have ever heard, especially on good headphones. Rawcus Magazine called it “an audiophile’s dream.” That is a perfect summary.

War Racket wins Best Music Video Award

19. May 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Swinghammer’s animated video for Buffy Sainte-Marie’s track War Racket won at the Indigenous Music Awards, held in Winnipeg, May 2018.

Meanwhile Out On Hudson Bay

25. April 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Solo exhibition of a new series of paintings called “Melt”, on display at the Niagara Artists Centre, 354 St Paul Street, St. Catharines. Opening reception April 27, 8-9pm. Show is up for one month.

New Review of Swinghammer’s Another Another album

23. March 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

DAVID REED: Add this to your collection

By David Reed, Belleville Intelligencer

Thursday, March 15, 2018 3:39:38 EDT PM

Another Another – Kurt Swinghammer

(Cultural Engineering, 2017)

In the liner notes to this latest offering, Toronto musician Kurt Swinghammer reveals that “Brian Eno’s Another Green World and Music For Airports have been two of my favourite albums since they were released in the mid 70s.” Upon reading that I immediately took some time and listened to those two wonderful records again before sitting down to experience Another Another. These three albums make a compelling listening trilogy, and good headphones are essential.

The creation of this record was influenced by Swinghammer’s stint as the very first artist in residence at the National Music Centre in Calgary. Daniel Lanois and Kid Koala have also held the same honour. While working at the NMC, Swinghammer was able to “access their incredible collection of rare electronic gear…to explore the Ondes Martinot (1928), Novachord (‘39), Clavioline (‘47), and Raymond Scott Clavinox (‘52)” as well as a Mellotron, Wurlitzer, Optigon and two dozen other instruments.

Admittedly, I had to look up a few of them but suffice it to say that these early synthesizers are groundbreaking and unique in their sonic palettes. Swinghammer manages to deftly integrate a plethora of sounds while maintaining a focus and balance that never sounds cluttered. The album is truly a sonic journey of exploration that doesn’t sound like anything else.

Most of the lyrics on the album were written shortly after the death of his mother, and Swinghammer presents the listener with an intimate sonic photo album.

On the track Jack Layton and Grace Appleton, Swinghammer tells the story of how his mother died on the same day as Jack Layton, and draws honest and touching comparisons of character, hope and influence.

Song About an Instrumental describes how Swinghammer chose to play Music For Airports in the chapel to create a calming ambience during his father’s funeral and how his mother mentioned the “unusual music on the stereo.”

Dear Old Soul shares his mother’s love of gardening and describes her yard as “a symphony of photosynthesis, her flowers were switched on in psychedelic bliss.” Swinghammer goes on to tell of spreading his mother’s ashes in the garden as “Mother go to Mother Earth, back to the ground” and then she rises in the springtime with the flowers. It is a touching moment.

She Needed More Loops is a slowly-evolving revelation of language, exposed in tiny parts and looped for nearly a minute before the body of the song kicks in. It is curiously compelling from start to finish.

Another has some spacey Latin overtones and waves of vocal harmony atop the synthesizer soundscapes.

There are two instrumental tracks that are particularly meditative and Eno-like. Pickering and 1919 both shimmer and blossom in ways that beg for repeated listening (again, with headphones).

The Random House closes the record with Swinghammer reading/singing a series of synonyms for “grace” (his mother’s name) as found in a thesaurus, through a vocoder. The result is simple yet profound.

Of particular interest is the series of animated videos Swinghammer created for each song on the record. Get onto youtube and check out all of the videos and then purchase a copy of Another Another.

This is a very special record that belongs in your collection.

Loon #6 by Swinghammer

19. March 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Recently put on display at INabstracto, 1160 Queen St W, Toronto. Between The Gladstone Hotel and The Drake.  48″ x 48″, acrylic on canvas. Signed and dated on the back.

Red Canoe #39 by Swinghammer

19. March 2018 • Category: Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Recently put on display at INabstracto, 1160 Queen St W, Toronto. Between The Gladstone Hotel and The Drake.  48″ x 48″, acrylic on canvas. Signed and dated on the back.