Veda Hille returns to solo recording career with Love Waves

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2013.

Berlin.

An artist’s retreat of sorts.

Veda Hille starts plunking away at David Bowie’s “Teenage Wildlife” and thinking how devastated she’s going to feel when it comes time for Bowie to leave the earthly plane.

She’s so moved she creates her own, slightly-rewritten cover of the song – framing it as a conversation between her, Bowie and her younger self – and records it for her forthcoming album.

Yet again, Veda Hille is ahead of her time.

It’s been some 25 years since she first turned East Van’s underground art scene on its head with her furious, jagged, piano-playing, found fragments of lyrics, dissonant jazz passages and contrasting beautiful, heart-rending melodies, ultimately fashioning one of the most wildly original and profitably obscure music careers in Canadian history.

Now, she is releasing her first new original studio album since the birth of her son seven years ago, Love Waves, and it’s the sort of complex, fearless reflection on maturation and motherhood that only an artist like Veda could create.

Produced by John Collins of the New Pornographers and featuring an adventurous sonic palette of beats, reverb and synthesizers, it’s also a one-of-a-kind homage to synth-pop that registers as at once retro and extremely forward-looking.

It opens with “Lover/Hater,” a reflection on a shift in a life-long relationship and the helplessness of having so little to do about it other than write a song.

Next is “Wildlife,” Veda’s statement about the loss of teenage idols.

The title track, named for the particularly destructive sideways rolling motion of certain earthquakes, is about the life-altering love one experiences for their children – and the complexity of that love, which can manifest in dreams of murder as well as completely absurd happiness.

And “Charismatic M.F.” – that’s short for charismatic mega fauna – is a song for Veda’s husband, Justin Kellam (of P:ano and No Kids), which is named for the poster animals of the environmental movement, such as sharks and pandas. Veda describes it as a song about being married to someone so charismatic, annoying and adorable and all the complicated things that go with a marriage.

Some of the found lyric fragments on Love Waves come, sweetly, from Veda’s now seven-year-old son, Anders, such as “I love you like a lion, sticking to a bear” from “Titanic.” And the album contains two other Vedafied cover tunes besides “Wildlife”: a fantastic synth pop version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sun Whose Rays” and an elongated version of Brian Eno’s “By this River,” because the original song is short, and Veda wanted more of it.

Much of the album was written in Berlin three years ago, where Veda journey to rediscover her own artistic voice – if indeed she still had one – after giving birth to her son and steering him through infancy and toddlerhood while continuing her eclectic career composing for avant-garde musical theatre.

About Veda Hille

That career has allowed Veda to earn a full-time living by pushing musical boundaries far beyond anything that could traditionally get you nominated for a Juno – though Veda’s last album, This Riot Life, was long-listed for the Polaris Prize.

Her multi-disciplinary collaborations began in 1996 when she composed the music for Mascall Dance’s acclaimed “The Brutal Telling” (now called “Traces of E. Carr), a dance performance based on the life of Emily Carr. She reprised the repertoire in 2011 with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, she has enjoyed long and fruitful collaborations with Theatre Replacement, the Arts Club, and Neworld Theatre, and her collaboration with writer/director Amiel Gladstone and writer/broadcaster Bill Richardson, “Do you Want What I Have Got: A Craigslist Cantata,” was a bona fide hit, staged by theatres across Canada – including The National Arts Centre – to rave reviews. Veda and Amiel’s new work “Onegin” (an adaptation of the Tchaikovsky opera) is currently taking Canadian theatre by storm.

Veda’s personal discography of some 20 albums – Love Waves is number 20 – includes a song cycle commissioned by the Vancouver Folk Music Festival for its 25th anniversary; a song cycle about nature and the north, commissioned by the Yukon Arts Centre; two indie rock kids records with her band of family and friends, Duplex; two outrageous vaudeville recordings with her duo The Fits; an album of totally unique Neil Young and Buffy Sainte-Marie covers recorded with the CBC Radio Orchestra; a collaboration with experimental sound artist Christof Migone; and three records for Ape Records, the imprint belonging to XTC’s Andy Partridge, including the aforementioned Polaris long-listed This Riot Life, an album that saw Veda coping with a period of intense grief by turning religious texts and iconography into experimental rock and pop. This summer Veda begins a new recording collaboration with avant-garde composer and poet Harold Budd.

In fact, so singular and varied is Veda’s career that even this lengthy news release utterly fails to do it justice.

One can only add that those who have followed her career since the early days will welcome Love Waves as an adventurous new installment in her canon, a moving statement on the complexity of growing older that is as musically exciting as anything she’s ever done.

And for those who are new to her work? Well, to put it bluntly, this will blow their minds.

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