Madame Tussauds would not be happy with Hamilton-based Wax Mannequin: he shape shifts as readily as a wizard’s wand on a day off in the country. That’s not usually a desired trait in a sculpture of wax.
Wax Mannequin, the stage name of indie singer-songwriter Chris Adeney, embraces a genre he calls “Strange-Folk”, and it’s clear he’s not losing sleep trying to fit into someone else’s definition of what makes a successful touring music act. And therein lies the beauty: the freshness of Wax’s writing is unencumbered by presumption and pretending. His lyrics – sometimes abstract, other times apparently just absurd – show a mind ready and willing to step outside the circle of “same-old, same-old” in order to capture whatever is needed to continue the ever-expanding scope of expression Wax obviously enjoys.
Like any good recording artist, Wax’s early work consisted of four-track recordings made with nylon-stringed guitar and circuit-bent electronics (that’s when you take some toy like a “See ‘n Spell” and tweak its electronic innards until it emits controllable squawks that can be used in music-making…). And when he started playing bars in the southern Ontario region in the early 2000’s, that’s the type of music he put on display – very much a performance artist as well as a musician. His second album, entitled and Gun, came out in 2003 as Wax started travelling outside his standard geographical playing locations.
As his music-touring region grew, so did his volume of expression; by 2004 Wax was waxing eloquent with distorted electric guitars and “bombastic” electronic accompaniment. The shape shifting was underway. His two albums from that period (2004’s The Price and 2007’s Orchardand Ire) are full band-backed records that reflect that louder passion.
2009 saw another shift, with a record entitled Saxon that was decidedly contemplative when compared to Wax’s previous two albums. A focus on melody and deeper lyrics overshadowed the loud energy of earlier work, and the album earned a growing following for Wax Mannequin in Europe. The following is growing so much, in fact, that Saxon was re-released on Germany’s Artful Sounds record label.
The latest album from Wax’s arsenal, No Safe Home, reflects an even more intense shape shift to a wandering muse theme, and is even a further move along the scale away from loud electric to ambient acoustic. Wax’s own PR writing calls No Safe Home a “…hauntingly spacious, sparsely produced acoustic record”, and it’s clear even from the album title that Wax has found more resonance in travelling with his music than he has in staying home.
From a 2009 interview in Exclaim! Canada: “For nearly a decade, Hamilton ON's Wax Mannequin has toiled in relative obscurity, bringing his amalgam of electro-folk and post-modern classic rock to different continents and as many real and makeshift venues as possible. That hard worn, roundabout path brings us to the masterful Saxon, an earnest batch of songs, most of which are performed on classical guitar and blend Wax Mannequin's trademark theatricality and darkly humorous perspective like nothing he's ever issued.“
And Wax Mannequin will make his StreamingCafé debut on July 28th. This seems like a perfect match: an acoustic yet electronic singer-songwriter taking stage on the folk-ish wood-wall stage of SC and being streamed digitally live around the world.
Well worth the trek to Streaming Café! Live in person at 596 Leon Ave in Kelowna, or online at streamingcafe.net; in either case, it all happens at 7pm Pacific time. Hope to see you there!