Making sense of winter

As temperatures plunge, many Yukoners find themselves beating winter blues by gravitating to the warming sounds of folk and rock.

As temperatures plunge, many Yukoners find themselves beating winter blues by gravitating to the warming sounds of folk and rock.

Not so for Yukon musician Kyle Cashen. When he finds the rivers freezing around him, he releases an album about a town that kills itself through isolation.

“For me, the way I deal with things is by getting introspective and reflective, chilling out and coming into my space and shutting the world out — letting the layers of sound swirl around me,” said Cashen.

“That would depress someone else, but for me it’s what I need to process things — it makes the winter make sense to me,” he said.

Mellow is the first order of business on They Built Houses Here, the first full-length album by Cashen’s group Crash the Car.

Folk, acoustic and rock guitar all take their stand on They Built Houses Here, but they do so amid the album’s tight framework of pleading vocals, ethereal soundscapes and low, low tempos.

It’s a concept album, following the dark spiritual journey of an isolated phosphorus mining town.

“The surreal element is that they’re mining phosphorus — it doesn’t make much sense,” said Cashen.

“Eventually these people isolate themselves to the point where they just can’t relate, they can’t connect to the rest of the world, so they just completely cut themselves off,” he said.

Yet while the album stands best as a unified whole, rather than a collection of songs — don’t be constrained by the phosphorus-mining-town narrative, says Cashen.

We Don’t Always Have Light, for instance, could be a perfect description of Whitehorse in December, instead of the desperate pleas of a dying town.

Besides, the lyrics play second fiddle to the album’s other sound elements.

“The vocals are not up front on this record, if you want to hear the words you’ve got to work,” said Cashen.

It’s art music, not pop music, said Cashen.

They Built Houses Here is best suited to a quiet night alone with a pair of headphones, rather than a car’s CD player on the way to work.

In the upstairs room of an empty house, hundreds of metres from the nearest human settlement, and surrounded by a treacherous moat of ice, Kyle Cashen comes to make his music.

“There’s so many opportunities to have 100-year-old houses host musical workshops — Whitehorse is pretty unique in that sense,” he said.

“There’s none of the typical get-a-warehouse-in-the-back-of-a-grocery-store-and-seven-bands-go-splits-on-it.”

A plethora of keyboards lie strewn about the room like lumber at a construction site. A rich assortment of pedals lay in obedient silence on the floor. Cashen sat at an old-fashioned wooden drum kit.

“My writing process is really solitary, I don’t play with many other musicians, and often you’ll notice that my band configurations are pretty minimal,” he said.

Crash the Car itself is a fluid entity, imbued with a steadily rotating cast of musicians.

Everything in the room is a machine for making sound, even if it doesn’t seem so at first glance.

A pile of old-fashioned suitcases against the far wall give the room the feel of a 1950s train station.

“They’re really useful because they’re indestructible, so I can use it to carry gear to a gig — and then once I’m there I can put a microphone in it and use it as a drum,” said Cashen.

Cashen picked up a former elementary school PA microphone and demonstrated that by clicking the ‘talk’ button while singing, it lends a staccato percussive quality to the voice.

A spherical yellow Hudson’s Bay Company vacuum cleaner seems to defy any acoustic possibilities, until Cashen popped open the top, grabbed a pair of drumsticks, and played it like a steel drum. The appliance is surprisingly melodic.

They Built Houses Here is laced with a wide variety of tiny sound intricacies that may very well escape the notice of the average listener, be they vacuum cleaners, suitcases, delicate female vocals or floor stomping.

But it’s not their fault, it’s the medium’s.

Cashen has essentially created an album built for vinyl whose subtleties are lost in MP3 and CD compressions.

Portability always pre-empts high-fidelity, says Cashen, but it’s important to be aware that you’re not getting the full product.

The entire album is available online, a move Cashen took to help eliminate the scourge of unappreciated CDs lining music collections across the country.

It’s also a non threatening way for newcomers to access Cashen’s unique style without having to commit to a $10 polycarbonate disc.

With every second of They Built Houses Here simply waiting to be sampled for free online, users can independently decide whether it fits into their own musical tastes. The power of hype is vanquished, be it from reviewers, friends or colleagues.

“I don’t want it to sit on a shelf somewhere, or for someone to buy it and feel ripped off … I want the people who buy it to be interested in it and legitimately like it,” he said.

Crash the Car’s official launch of They Built Houses Here is Wednesday November 19th at 8 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read