Review: Dymaxion by Garbageface and Wolfagram

Peterborough rapper delivers a stark vision of technological alienation on latest record

Years ago, the Peterborough-based DJ and rapper Garbageface started receiving messages in his Soundcloud inbox from a Toronto musician who goes by the name Wolfagram.

Garbageface — whose real name Karol Orzechowski — describes himself as a “doom rapper,” and his lyrics are often rich with a web of allusions that can feel cryptic.

Dymaxion was released on vinyl in April 2021. Artwork by Laura Thompson.

In his messages, Wolfagram dropped hints that he was picking up Garbageface’s references. “It was kind of a secret handshake,” Orzechowski recalls, one that was intended to say, “I know what you’re up to.”

In February 2018, Orzechowski and Wolfagram started collaborating. Wolfagram emailed beats to Orzechowski, who would then write lyrics to accompany them, retreating at night to his studio in the attic of Sadleir House to record rough sketches so he could listen back to them and refine them.

Writing and production took two years, and then the record was delayed by the pandemic. But last month, Garbageface and Wolfagram released Dymaxion, a 12-song LP.

On Dymaxion, Wolfagram supplies a set of well-crafted beats, over which Garbageface tells an intricate series of interlocking stories drawn mostly from the post-war history of the United States. In each of these sketches, themes of technological failure and the broken promises of progress emerge.

“They got me working weekends way way down in the deep end for the promise of something better,” Garbageface raps. “We were promised everything … and then left to our own devices in a crisis.” Even more evocatively:

You see progress
I see a countdown clock
You see a stepping stone
I see a butcher’s block

The song structures on Dymaxion are simple and streamlined (Orzechowski says the goal was to create “bangers”) and they provide a solid foundation for the dense and enigmatic lyrics that Orzechowski spent years crafting — his most ambitious writing to date.

That means there are a couple of ways to engage with Dymaxion. I’ve sat down with the liner notes multiple times to studiously connect the dots in Garbageface’s lyrics, revealing an expansive vision of government betrayal and human alienation. But this is also party music — you can put down your notepad and pen and appreciate it simply for its energy and vigour, if you prefer.

That side of the music would likely shine through best in a live setting, and Orzechowski loves to tour, but the pandemic has deprived him of travelling from city to city to share this music.

Typically, touring is also how he sells his records. So for Dymaxion, Orzechowski decided to make fewer copies than he normally would, because he was worried he couldn’t sell them without touring.

He made 100 copies. “When you make 100 records, you have to sell every single one to break even,” he says. “I feel extremely privileged and lucky, because I don’t use music to pay my rent. That gives me a lot more freedom to do stupid things like press 100 records and break even on them. But for a lot of musicians, that’s not an option.”

When Orzechowski tours, it’s usually to small venues where he shares a bill with a local act. But as the pandemic has worn on, he’s watched as these venues disappear one after the other.

We’re in the middle of “a small venue apocalypse,” Orzechowski observes. “I think at least a half-dozen, or maybe even ten venues that I used to play regularly are just gone now, just in the last year.”

The loss of venues doesn’t just mean less concerts for music lovers. It also means fewer opportunities for musicians to network, learn and make money.

“The pandemic has changed the independent music scene in ways that we’re going to be feeling for years and years,” he says.

“I don’t think people are going to realize it until things start opening up, and there’s nothing left but the hyper-commercialized side, and then, somehow, the cockroaches who have survived the bomb blasts and are able to crawl out from under a rock and keep going.”

You can stream and purchase Dymaxion on Bandcamp.

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