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OAKK: Old school, new school, no school rules

Wednesday 01st, March 2017 / 08:32
By Kevin Bailey

Repurposing the connotations of New Wave for a modern crop of electronic music in Calgary.
Photo: Michael Benz

CALGARY — Spearheading the aptly named New Wave residency at the Hifi, Cole Edwards — A.K.A. OAKK — is representative of something fresh and original taking place in Calgary’s electronic music scene.

The new night, taking place every other Thursday night at the Hifi club and co-hosted by fellow selectors Silkq and Letr.B, aims to focus on styles that often go overlooked in a city where a few well-established genres tend to be in focus. Rather than a rejection of those styles, however, the night will focus on what remains when one looks at what happens outside their margins.

“I grew up by going to these dubstep, D’n’B, and house raves that Calgary has always offered, and it’s influenced the sound I’ve created for sure,” the 23-year-old Calgary native explains. “However, I never found myself fitting in, or really wanting or needing to. That’s why we wanted something like New Wave in the city. Some of the music is a little more approachable for the average person, and gaining that trust can allow us to present more weird music.”

An explanation like that begs the question: what constitutes ‘weird’ music when the heavy-hitting genres that dominate the musical landscape are constantly reinventing themselves, often in pretty strange ways?

“The sound we’re looking for is anything related to beats,” says Edwards. “Anything spanning across hip hop, halftime, trap, footwork, dub, dancehall — we don’t want the night to be genre specific… It’s a spectrum of all the genres we love.”

If this sounds vague and all-encompassing, that is a reflection of both the artist himself and a macro-level shift in electronic music. Edwards’ production style represents the ubiquitous post-Dilla sound that goes beyond sample-heavy true-school hip hop into something more dancefloor friendly, while not falling into the formulaic methods of established genres like trap or house that it sometimes echoes.

“Defining my sound and putting a name to it has always been a struggle,” he admits. “I’ve recently come to use the term, ‘Future Beats.’ But it’s even confusing for myself as I consciously try to make all my songs sound different, but with recognizable nuances for the listener to be able to say ‘that’s OAKK.’”

Edwards started making tunes with an MPC he bought as a 15 year old, using them as a platform for him and his friends to rap over. But things really started to take off for him when he got a job as a busboy at the Hifi club a couple years ago, and management showed faith in him and pushed him to hone his craft.

“I got my first opening gig about 4 months into the job after they found out I made music, and were upset that I was holding out on them. After that everything snowballed a lot faster than I expected,” says Edwards, who’s coming out party took place later that same year when he slayed a set at the Sled Island block party.

“That speaks volumes on the club and management. There is a reason that they’ve been open for just over [12] years and still have regulars from day one coming in.”

It’s safe to say that the legendary institution’s investment has paid off, and it will be a fun ride seeing how far OAKK, Silkq and Letr.B take their vision for the club, the night, and the city itself.

“We’ve always had a strong and diverse scene here in Calgary, across all music, not just electronic. We want to get our sound out and build a community in the city that doesn’t quite exist yet.”

 

Check out New Wave every second Tuesday at the Hifi Club.

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