Originally published in The Province | LOCAL MUSIC WITH TOM HARRISON
Is there such a thing as idealism in the record business?
Well, yes. It isn’t common, but often a new label will come along that only seeks to promote talent or to serve an area it thinks has been neglected.
It’s actually the history of the recording industry. The few big labels get too big. Too conservative. Too slow.
The motivation of the independent labels rarely is purely altruistic, it has to be admitted, but blues, country, folk or any marginal genre wouldn’t have survived without it.
At a time when the record business is reeling and music is marketed in ways that would have been thought radical a few years ago, there should be no place for idealism.
Alternatively, it’s needed more than ever.
Cue the entry of Bronze Age Records, created by sax player Ra Torchinsky and his son Joe.
In Ra’s words: “Our plan is to produce and release on vinyl recordings stuff we find interesting and worthy, regardless of whether the material is of any evident commercial viability.
“This is not to say that we don’t want a commercial success, just that it isn’t a priority. Furthermore, we intend to produce LPs of real artistic value (old-school style) that can be appreciated as art objects.”
Bronze Age’s first two releases are radically different. They’re both Torchinsky-related, but they give an idea of what Ra means.
Joe Torchinsky is in Hi-Fi Wives, whose album is vaguely a return to new wave recklessness with a Zappa-like irreverence and screw-you attitude. Ra is one-third of a free jazz ensemble featuring drums and another sax released under the name Nouveau Jazz Libre Du Quebec. It’s En Direct Du Suoni Per Il Popolo was recorded live last June in Montreal.
Like most free jazz, this is an exchange of ideas as much as musical notes that pile up in a cacophonous crescendo that can be quite dramatic.
Neither are remotely commercial, but are effective calling cards, a kind of bold test of the water. As Ra emphasizes, they aren’t a vanity project, but a way to learn.
“The graphics on both of these releases was done by Gary Wildeman, a local artist (and drummer) and good friend,” Torchinsky adds. “It is all hand-done; Gary is the last person I know who has never owned any type of computing device.”