DOMINIONATED started as a reaction against the unrelenting PR machine that hyped up exclusive premieres and the notion that information overload is the best and only way to get one’s music heard. As we approach the one year mark, our low like count and relatively few followers is a good indication that we’ve successfully disconnected from the hype machine. Maybe it’s to our own detriment, but I can confidently speak for each of us who work on DOMINIONATED that our faith and fervor for Canadian music has grown stronger this past year because we’ve worked hard to connect with independent, underground Canadian music makers that might have otherwise been drowned out by the PR noise. I’m still getting press releases and the occasional promo CD in the mail, but more and more, I’m inspired to write about music that’s come my way directly from the artist working away without the benefit of publicity.
It’s the reason why I feel a personal connection with Montreal band The Famines and their DIY record label experiment, Pentagon Black. In March 2016, they unceremoniously launched Pentagon Black Compilation No. 1, a collection of 23 previously unheard songs from underground bands across Canada, in the form of a double-sided 20×30″ newsprint poster with download codes for the songs. The only way to get the compilation was to buy the poster from the participating artists at their shows; no streaming or downloading available anywhere else. Pentagon Black Compilation No. 2 came out this past April, featuring two dozen new songs by some of the best underground artists working in the country today. (Just as this post went to press, a third Pentagon Black compilation of 16 tracks recorded live-to-phone dropped.) In an excellent Chart Attack piece about the first compilation, The Famines’ Raymond Biesinger summarizes the rationale for the Pentagon Black project: “Music is hard and nobody really has a solution. There’s a certain decentralization of where music is going now, but the one thing we do know is that if someone wants to listen to this whole thing, they need to give a band $10. And that feels like an important thing at this time, when so many musicians are burning out or reducing the geography they can cover when touring, or touring less and spreading their art around less because the resources just aren’t there.”
A collective project like Pentagon Black’s offers artists like Ottawa’s Bonnie Doon, Montreal’s Pale Lips, Winnipeg’s Microdot, and Regina’s Oiseaux the chance to build a fanbase, while at the same time working to establish a cross-country community. Our annual DOMINIONATED covers compilation share a few artists in common with Pentagon Black’s collections, so we’re happy to be playing a small part in an important conversation about the state of Canada’s music industry.