Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rich Aucoin - We're All Dying to Live

The democratic nature of the Internet is double-edged: The same level playing field that allows every creative type with a modicum of talent and a webcam the chance to become a global phenomenon also results in an exponential escalation in the fight to be heard. The music industry's increasing obsolescence, compounded by ever-splintering genre demarcations, has decreased the chances of a single individual's ever gaining the cross-platform success that the rock stars of yore once enjoyed, effectively surrendering the airwaves to the mercy of the lowest common denominator and leaving the true innovators behind to pick up the scraps.

Halifax native Rich Aucoin emerged from this borderless band scramble in 2007 with his self-recorded-and-released debut solo EP, Personal Publication, a DayGlo glitterbomb that caught the ear of both the Canadian and American music press, due in no small part to its having been composed to synchronize with the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Aucoin quickly gained a reputation as an amazing live act, a madcap magician dressed all in white, leading his congregation through a 3-D multimedia wonderland beneath a giant rainbow parachute. From the start, Aucoin sought to erase the boundary between artist and audience, performer and participant; his involvement in the same online A/V synching community that birthed the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon phenomenon likely played a role in this, and certainly contributed to his ongoing experimentation with the visual component of his shows. The last three years have seen his career gather momentum at the same pace as his artistic evolution, spurred along by appearances at countless music festivals worldwide, with a magnum opus entitled We're All Dying to Live waiting in the wings.

We're All Dying to Live expands upon the electropop revelation of Aucoin's 2010 Public Publication EP by placing that release's four songs within the context of a classic concept album, painstakingly spliced together to serve as the soundtrack to a video composed of segments from forty different public domain films. The core of the album lies in seven songs spread out over twenty-two tracks, introduced by an overture and held together by interstitial instrumentals that range from breakbeat battles to ambient soundscapes. By Aucoin's measure, roughly 500 musicians from all over Canada assisted in realizing his vision, and We're All Dying to Live boasts a staggering array of sounds culled from studios both professional and makeshift. Combining processed beats with live studio drums, vintage synths and tack pianos propelling Beach Boys harmonies across a minefield of harps, trumpets, and children's choirs, it plays like Wayne Coyne's spiritual heir piloting Arcade Fire's burning carousel to the front door of Daft Punk's beachside bouncy castle to kick off the end-times party of the year.

Sprawling but concise, ambitious but accessible, We're All Dying to Live is a sunburst tapestry of light and color that serves as both an excellent dance record and the perfect salve for a broken heart. The sense of discovery is profound: Melodies both familiar and instantly memorable, drawn from a clear lineage of post-Mangum grandeur, sweep into anthemic choruses consisting of simple but resonant pop mantras: remember what we've been given; we won't leave it all in our heads; we are not dead. The cumulative effect evokes nothing less than the quaking, shuddering majesty of a sunrise seen from orbit, filtered through a lens of half-remembered childhood dreams and multiplied by the sweet agony of your first lost love. Rich Aucoin is precisely the unifying force that this generation needs; at long last, the dance floor messiah we've all been waiting for.

We're All Dying to Live is available now at Rich's website. Help support independent music! Check out the trailer for the album here.