Album Review: Chiwawa – Watermark (including a whacked-out video by us!)

September 10, 2010

Chiwawa - WatermarkTitle: Watermark
Artist: Chiwawa
Label: Satellite Records Canada
Released: 15 September 2010
In one word: Insane

Chiwawa have one the daftest band names around but their music is a whole different kind of crazy: crazy good. I’d never heard of this band until collecting a copy of this, their sixth album, on Wednesday evening from the MV mailbox. A rather obscure band, sure, but from the opening howl of “Runaway Train” and the scatty, demented 3 minutes 16 seconds of bizarreness that follows, I was instantly hooked.

Based in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, a little east of Montreal, Chiwawa are a duo who are true indie underdogs. They haveovercome many obstacles since releasing their first album The Sick World Of Yona in 1998. Laurie Gordon, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, met Krassy Halatchev, who was born and raised in communist Bulgaria, while auditioning for Krassy’s Bulgarian band Ping-Pong. Fresh off the boat, Krassy soon found himself being deported, so the pair got married out of convenience in order for Krassy to stay in Canada. The duo’s relationship later developed into the real deal, and they’ve been a legit couple ever since… but the trials and tribulations did not end there. A week before the release of their first album, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer but she continued to perform with Chiwawa into the next decade and eventually made a full recovery. Chiwawa’s back-story is truly endearing: the 2010 release of Watermark is a triumph over adversity, and their journey has been harder than that of the average indie rock band. Only a really tough band could survive this long, and the end-result of all that hard graft is a fantastic album.

Chiwawa have a lot of colours in their musical palette. Watermark has 14 tracks of keyboard-driven alt pop that is chockfull of imagination and good beats. The sound is as eclectic as it is manic, but it’s the quirkiness that holds all together – it’s same kind of musical Krazy Glue that holds together such bands as Portishead, Nick Cave & The Bad Sees, The Pixies and Guano Apes. When Laurie Gordon holds a long note it reminds me of ‘Apes singer Sandra Nasić, ableit mellower, but equally as manic. Krassy Halatchev handles a lot of the vocals on his own, though they harmonize too, with the lyrical vibe wavering above and below a cool melancholy drone.

Watermark goes in many directions throughout it’s 14 tracks but the manic, head-spinning theme continues throughout. “In My PJs (I’m The DJ)” is a mellow, grin-inducing trip well backed by acoustic and electric guitar, with the latter breaking into a subtle little solo at the choice moment. “Let It Snow” is another enjoyable song based around one odd vocal hook, while the song titles of “Blue Is Power”, “Chase The Clouds” and “Cuckoo” should provide some clues to the other strange places that Chiwawa lead you to throughout this record. Meanwhile, spacey keyboard grooves provide the perfectly askew backdrop for “Don’t Twist My Mind”, my favourite track of the album. Watermark closes with a couple of instrumental tracks, including the art-rock-guitar-meets-spasmo-electro “Afghanistan”, with some steel drums thrown in for good measure.

Chiwawa are a band that will warm the cockles of your indie music heart, and with this album being available digitally right now for just $2.29, it’ll also put a smile on your face without damaging your pocket. An indie gem that I’m very happy to have discovered.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

Still not convinced of the merits of Chiwawa? Check out “Don’t Twist My Mind” below, with a suitably crazy video inspired by the music and shot by yours truly using Apple’s Photo Booth. Chiwawa: a band to cut your hair to! Enjoy…

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Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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