Sound/s/Lab was the cumbersome name given to a project that was going to focus on an electronic sound, using various live synths, plug-ins, and DAW based synths. Many of the tracks featured guitar and bass too, it seemed like a good idea but, many North Americans who had the imagination of a tree stump called it retro, and after 3 albums, it was no more.
After getting hold of a Roland Gaia Synth, and later a Korg Vocoder, and influenced by New Order, the third album by Editors, Handsome Furs, and many others, the debut album, Empirical State, was recorded, mixed, and mastered in Calgary, and released May 31st 2011.
It’s not easy getting reviewed, but here is some feedback for Empirical State: “he has strung together eleven great tracks, throbbing with well crafted melodies, moody and reflective”, “His lyrics are smart, thoughtful and passionate that delve below the surface into heartfelt realities” – Beat Route Magazine, “impressive” – Exclaim Magazine, “a very British sounding pop/electronic album”, ”everything has a sort of atmospheric tinge to it” – Music Emissions Editorial review. “You can hear his English influence in the music, Bowie influence for sure” – CJLY 93.5FM BC. It also made the end of year polls in Beat Route magazine, named by the editor in his local albums of 2011.
The album picked up airplay at college radio around Canada, making the top ten on several campuses. Below is an interview with Beat Route
Video for the first single You Are Electric
Work on the next album began in 2012, with a focus on a tighter production. Fugitive Colours was released almost 2 years to the day after the debut album on May 28th 2013, far more ambitious in scope, it garnered heavy support from RevivalSynth.net, clocking up hundreds of plays.
Music Emissions compared it favourably to Eno era Bowie and said of it “this is an album Hot Chip or Cut Copy would give their eye teeth to release”, CKUA described it as “colourful and cinematic.” The album garnered across Canada airplay, including CBC Radio 3, the single All Alone ended up in the Top 30 songs of the year on The Johnny Normal Radio Show, and the song A drop in the ocean was favourited and made track of the month on RevivalSynth.net.
The Low-Fi Hotel Demos E.P
Whilst holed up in the Matrix Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta, in the midst of Winter (-30) in December 2014, with a laptop, a mini acoustic guitar, and a few hours of profound boredom overnight, about 7 songs got recorded, 4 of which were released as a free download, title track This City garnered a featured track honour at Revivalsynth.net. This would be the last enjoyable record made by Sound/s/lab.
The Difficult Third Album
A long drawn out writing and recording process made album three have a messy gestation period, one that in hindsight perhaps, should have led to a more stringent quality control. Released on September 22nd 2015, The Future of Extinctions suffered from a lack of focus and would become the final album by Sound/S/lab
The first full song to be previewed was Everything Under the Sun, uploaded on August 24th to Soundcloud. Another track Always Stepping into the Fray was released September 4th and became the featured track on the much loved website Revival-Synth.com The track Everything Under the Sun got the first airplay when it was featured on The Johnny Normal Show on Radio Warwickshire in the UK on September 9th, Music Emissions said of the album “the band creates atmospheric music with these instruments and vocal styling” and “The lyrics are interesting with excellent variety in subject matter and lots of room for interpretation” and “The techno beats and electronic sound of Sound/S/Lab remind us of the technologically driven age we inhabit, the vocals are a throwback to Bowie” and “All in all, a tailored and well constructed album.” Music Street Journal said “It’s energized and rather catchy.”, “a lot of energy and some poignant lyrics”, “There is some real charm and magic on hand here.”
In truth, there was a fair amount of negative reactions to the album too, a reaction that McCarthy could not only agree with but eventually contributed to the project coming to an end. “I’m very proud of Empirical State, I’m immensely proud of Fugitive Colours, I feel that I achieved everything I wanted to achieve with this project on that album, there are some great songs on there, Airstrip One, Glass Knives, All Alone, A Drop in the Ocean, Satellites, I’m very proud of that piece of work. The third album, in retrospect was a mistake, I should have taken another year and weeded out the things that just did not work, but you learn from your mistakes.”
A final release, on Bandcamp only, was the free downloadable “best of” album entitled Recycle. This put and end to this project. A failed experiment, but one worth trying.