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Separating the Sweatshop sound

New tracks from new album refresh live show and sound of West Coast hip hoppers Sweatshop Union



Who: Sweatshop Union

When: Wednesday, Oct. 31

Where: Garfinkel’s

Admission: Free/$10

I don’t know who is more excited about Sweatshop Union’s new album: fans or the band members themselves.

“We’ve been looking forward to it for so long,” said Kyprios, one of the seven Sweatshop Union maestros. “We are tired of the set. We change it up a lot, but we are f***ing tired of it. To have some new material and new blood in a set, well we are all salivating at the prospect.”

The yet untitled album won’t be out until the New Year, but new tracks will make their way into the Vancouver group’s next live concert on All Hallow’s Eve Wednesday, Oct. 31 at Garfinkel’s as part of the Heaven and Hell Block Party.

The new record will be a complete departure from their last album, the critically acclaimed United We Fall released on Battle Axe Records in 2005.

The new album reflects how Sweatshop Union came to be: a collective of many groups. The Battle Axe recording artists began as four independent units: Kyprios, Dirty Circus, Creative Minds and Innocent Bystanders.

Even though the crew now performs collectively, the new album’s tracks highlight each artist’s compositions separately. With some members living in Victoria, others in Tofino and Vancouver and focus shifting back and forth between music, new families and touring with other groups, trying to get the Sweatshop Union collective into one recording studio for three months was impossible. But with producing credits on almost everyone’s resumes (Kyprios is the exception), instead of trying to surmount the impossible, the crew decided to compose their own individual tracks.

The result was too many songs with each artist’s track challenging the others to up the ante.

“There wasn’t a lot of cross pollinating,” Kyprios said. “What really happened in this one is that guys from different groups made their music and sent it in. Somebody would bring a great song, we’d hear it and everyone got excited. You’d think, ‘I’ve got to match that level of musicality.’

“This record more than ever, the groups have concentrated on their individual efforts… With this record, we got the privilege of an excess of material, so we really got to pick the best. Songs lived and died by the committee. We didn’t want to go too far from what we are like when picking the music. We do want to have a distinctive sound.”

What distinguishes this Juno-nominated seven-member union is their socially aware music that speaks out against senseless consumerism, racism, poverty and other social ills through a harmony of textured wordplay and MC harmony.

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