Many people file King Cobb Steelie in the “Where are they now?” file. However, a more appropriate filing should be “What could have been.” Al Okada knows this filing system all too well. In his seven years as a founding member of King Cobb Steelie, Okada had the esteemed pleasure of working with seminal producers such as Bill Laswell and Steve Albini. Furthermore, KCS’s Project Twinkle was nominated for a Juno in 1994 for Best Alternative Album.

Fans of Okada didn’t have to wait long for the release of new material; in 2001 he collaborated with Tamara Williamson under the Microbunny moniker. Gigging like crazy and getting their music out on a variety of television programs, including ‘ZeD’ and ‘The Shield,’ things were definitely looking up for Microbunny. Now, with the release of 49 Swans, their latest full-length, the future is looking ever more promising for Okada and Microbunny.

49 Swans is a record that must be felt as much as it needs to be heard. It’s a warm, inviting listen, full of patient, emotive harmonies that evoke as many images of soft sunsets as it does harsh, invigorating winters. Electronically-heavy but never overwhelming, 49 Swans draws influence from the mechanical beauty of Portishead and the evocative undertones of classic, lounge-room jazz. Consider ‘Blue September Blues,’ easily one of 49 Swans standout tracks. Here, the haunting vocal stylings of Rebecca Campbell seduce listeners, drawing attention to the deft players behind her, working their way through a dream-jazz tune as big as this very country itself.

But it’s not all lofty tracks. Okada gets back to his roots on the opener, ‘Gravity and Air,’ a loose, grunge-influenced track that is as nimble as it is powerful. Records like 49 Swans aren’t for the faint of heart; this is a record which one must make time for. But surely, listeners will be rewarded tenfold for their efforts. ‘Voodoo Slippers’ features some eclectic use of electronics, while ‘Evergrowing Rust on a 1967 Corvair’ looms with the threat of the monster under the bed that we all hoped never existed. Finally, ‘Embers’ is an aptly titled track, as the rich percussion and twisted, bluesy guitars will linger long after its last listen.

Don’t write 49 Swans off as an electronica record, however. Okada plays all the instruments on the record, opting for real time spontaneity. He adhered to his ethics; Okada only used analogue instruments and source samples available that pre-dated the “Digital age.” Computer technology was only used as a means to capture, edit and mix 49 Swans. Bearing these factors in mind, one begins to appreciate what an immense accomplishment the album really is. It’s one that haunts, persists, inspires. But mostly, it stays, and cements the importance of Al Okada as an artist.

For music and more info please visit: www.microbunny.com and www.myspace.com/microbunnymusic

Toronto CD Release Party:
Friday, April 2nd, 2010 @ The Rivoli
Microbunny w/ Mean Red Spiders and Huelepega Sound Sound System
DJ David Dacks + General Chaos Visuals
$10 or $15 w/CD