"Peterborough, Ontario Skyline" by Suzanne Schroeter is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Here are the 13 records local musicians produced in February 2021
Will Pearson  - 
March 4, 2021

The rules of the Record Production Month (RPM) Challenge are simple: record an album of original music in the month of February, and release it by March 1st. 

Founded in New Hampshire in 2006, the RPM Challenge has grown into an international movement that encourages risk-taking and creativity during the shortest and (in Canada, at least) bleakest month of the year. 

“It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s rewarding,” states the RPM Challenge website.

Rob Hailman, a Peterborough musician who participated in the challenge this year, says having a deadline helped him to be more productive, and also took away some of the pressure of being creative.

“There’s a really cool culture around the RPM Challenge of lowering the bar to motivate people,” Hailman says. The idea “isn’t to make the greatest record ever. It’s just to make something, because you can.”

Hailman also appreciates hearing the work that his peers in Peterborough create through the challenge. 

“So much of the stuff that gets made in Peterborough is just so far out,” he says. “And that’s really exciting. It’s really motivating. There are so many ways that being a musician and making a record can express itself, and we’re all doing it.”

Artists in Peterborough have been participating in the RPM Challenge since at least 2017, says Jill Staveley, the director of programming at Trent Radio. Trent Radio has served as a hub of support each February as local musicians rush to complete their recordings. This year was a bit different, Staveley explains, because the pandemic meant all programming had to be held remotely. With the pandemic throwing up barriers, less local artists participated in the challenge this year than in previous years.

But Peterborough is still one of the most prolific Canadian communities to participate in the challenge. With 13 records officially submitted this year, Peterborough is matched only by St. John’s, NL, and Dawson City, Yukon, for the most per-capita records completed.

“I’m always blown away with RPM,” Staveley says. “We have some pretty incredible musicians in Peterborough and we don’t have enough opportunities to celebrate them.”

For musician Sara Shahrazi, this year’s RPM challenge provided an opportunity to produce and record her own solo work for the first time. Shahrazi says February 2021 was a difficult month for her, and having a musical project to focus on was a relief.

“The only way that I could have gotten through this month was by working on the RPM challenge every day,” she says. “I played and recorded the most music I ever have in my life during this incredibly intense, chaotic time.”

“I was trying to communicate a lot of catharsis,” she says of her record, she​/​they​/​zameen.

Without further ado, here are the 13 records produced locally this year as part of the RPM Challenge. From quiet piano vignettes to sprawling post-rock instrumentals, there’s a little bit of everything.


{AN}EeL

Dynamic Postures and Instant Regrets

A mind-melting collage of strange synthesizer sounds, field recordings and vocal character work introduces listeners to the disorienting world of {AN}EeL. Listen on Bandcamp.

Borek Patty

Uncentredton

A seven-song suite of instrumental guitar music with plenty of twang. Uncentredton was recorded “in my basement where the gaatars and pedals dwell,” writes Borek Patty. Listen on Bandcamp.

Dhedbeats

Algonquin

Bursting out of the gates quickly, Dhedbeats posted their new single Algonquin on February 8, making them the first local act to complete the RPM challenge. Algonquin is three minutes of sunny beats and bright guitar chords. Listen on Soundcloud.

Bryar Gray

Ode to Kitty Boy

A portrait of one musician’s domestic life during COVID, this record captures Gray experimenting with his various instruments at home, even allowing his cat to sing along. Listen on Bandcamp.

Rob Hailman

Shift Change in Zone Five

Rob Hailman describes his record as “weird electronic bleep-bloop pop,” but that belies the intuitive song structures and musicality that makes this such an approachable listen. Made with Hailman’s growing collection of modular synthesizers — including one he built himself! Listen on Bandcamp.

Oliver Matthews-Hanna

Sliding Down the Street

Perhaps the most pop-oriented of Peterborough’s RPM submissions, this five-song record will have you grooving. Listen on Soundcloud.

Morgellon

AM

“We usually make ambient heavy metal,” Morgellon write of themselves in their RPM submission, which raises more questions than it answers. But on AM, the modus operandi is clear: instrumental post-rock with driving basslines and subtle synthesizer and vocal flourishes. Listen on Bandcamp.

Nick Procyshyn

Piano 1. Improvisations and Momentary Stories (A Pawn)

A suite of meditative piano improvisations that shimmer with musicality and grace. Listen on Bandcamp.

Rock and Roll Princesses

Sisters

“Sometimes my sister gets on my nerves. Sometimes she makes my stomach turn,” sing Charlie and Meara Watson on the opening track of their RPM contribution. “I still love her,” they continue. 11-year-old Charlie and 8-year-old Meara call themselves the Rock and Roll Princesses, and they received a little recording help from their mom, Jill Staveley. Listen on Bandcamp.

Shahrazi

she​/​they​/​zameen

“I’m trying to create the world that I feel like I live in through sound,” says Sara Shahrazi of this record. On she/they/zameen, Shahrazi layers percussion, poetry, loops and electronics into a strikingly lush sound universe. Listen on Bandcamp.

STATIC EYE RAZOR BOOGER

Thujone TV

A blistering set of short and to-the-point metal songs. Listen on Alonetone.

Jill Staveley

From the Vault RPM 2021

Jill Staveley dug into her archives to surface songs from her past for this collection of lively piano ballads. Listen on Bandcamp.

Spencer Wells

Here, Now, For The Time Being

Spencer Wells led a series of music production workshops during RPM this year, yet also managed to produce this album of house music as his own contribution to the Challenge. Listen on Soundcloud.


To learn more about the RPM Challenge, and to browse through more of the 2021 submissions, click here.

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