Change is exciting, with many opportunities to learn new things and the occasional awkward moment. Trevor Refix’s album The Hard Problem of Consciousness is a testament to this. The heavily synthesized tracks discuss the glory and perils of coming of age in a digital world. Meanwhile, the sometimes-clumsy composition of the work itself shows the difficulties faced when working in a new genre, as former house DJ Refix embarks on his new indie-electronic project under the name of Texture and Light.
“For me, this is a lot more honest, challenging and rewarding [than my work as a DJ]. Healthier, too… It’s about creating a whole experience from the ground up and completely putting myself out there. It’s about challenging my fears. This is easily the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Refix says. This shift was inspired by a departure from a lifestyle DJ and an event promoter in Vancouver and the interior of BC, as well as relocating to the small Sunshine Coast town of Powell River.
The Hard Problem of Consciousness was created entirely by Refix, including the writing and recording of track vocals. “My voice appeared on some of my house productions but it was always glitchy and pitched out,” he says. “This was my first time singing. It feels really good.”
This forte into lyrical form has some very strong points. “17 + Heather” is a nice love song that captures the exciting energy of fresh attraction, and “A Quiet Place” does a good job of speaking to the sort of helpless longing that happens before a leap of faith, no doubt a reflection of Refix’s exodus from the city environment during the period he developed this album. It’s no wonder that “A Quiet Place” has been in the Top 3 of CBC Radio’s R3-30 Indie Chart for the past six weeks.
Refix offers a charming and unique voice. Unfortunately, it gets lost behind the masks of synthesizers and post-production tweaking, distancing the listener from the person behind the lyrics. And like many new writers, in some cases Refix defaults to clichés instead of searching for the space between the words. For example, in “The Fall,” listeners are serenaded with over-used sentiments including “Let’s bring the city to its knees,” “It’s the perfect day to start things over,” and “Lovers disguised as friends/ Does the mean justify the end?” I enjoyed the clever use of “It’s a long way down between the high notes” in “Electric Behaviour,” which paints a pretty decent picture of the late night underground rave scene we call home. But then this song alienates itself completely with the final verse, which promise “I’ll keep rocking out/I’ll keep on rocking out/ I’ll keep rocking out with you.” As any electronic music lover will tell you, it’s just weird to talk about “rocking” in an electronic song, especially one about raving (unless it’s pitched up several octaves to chipmunk level).
Refix’s background in house music production is apparent in the richly woven synthesized melodies that give the impression of a room full of hardware. In actuality, he says, “There’s … only one synth on the album- a Korg R3. I heavily edit and customize the patches and then layer them like crazy. I play a lot of things through stomp boxes and do a lot of waveform manipulation as well. I have a Ronald MC307 that is featured heavily on the album.” The use of heavy synthesizers was especially interesting in The Hard Problem of Consciousness’ closing track “How We Bend,” which is about the isolation created by technology. The lyrics are strong, but a break from the modulation in the last half to allow Refix’s clear voice to ring through would have been an inspiring way to conclude both the track and the album itself.
Refix will introduce Texture and Light’s next manifestation as a collaboration with other Powell River musicians Clare Mervyn, Lyell Woloschuck, Kevin Turpin and Tony Colton on January 25th at Studio 56 in Powell River, BC. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is available now. Listen below.
By Liz Goode