Patchwork of Thunder 

Using every sonic scrap, Andrew Whiteman's Apostle of Hustle cooks up an ornately far-out experience.

Andrew Whiteman sees no shame in taking ideas from elsewhere. In fact, when he assembles his own work as the master chemist of Torontonian duo (formerly trio) Apostle of Hustle — a project that resembles unencumbered indie rock on the surface but is something considerably more complex and unfamiliar underneath — he needs to use concepts produced elsewhere.

"I'm like a crow when it comes to artistic, musical things," says the multi-instrumentalist, who's especially potent with strings and vocals. "If I see something that looks shiny, I'll steal it. I'll put it in my mouth and take it back to my laboratory and examine it and see whether I can use it or not." As he lives in an overpopulated world conquered by an excess of information, Whiteman's artistic theft is his way of balancing the creative eco-system. "My music is made up of stolen things. That's what it is," he asserts. "Because, you know, there is no room."

Inspired by a trip he took to Havana, Cuba to see his godmother a few years ago, Whiteman first separated Apostle of Hustle from a more traditional rock aesthetic by embedding elements of Cuban rhythms into his work. "I was pretty familiar with Cuban music before I went to down there," he said. "I generally am attracted to Spanish-speaking music because it's more rhythmically interesting." The one particular pattern that became an obsession of Whiteman's is called the clave, a word that translates to "key" and references a rhythm integral to many Latin-American compositions. The Apostle frontman's first exposure to the concept came from listening to "Not Fade Away" by rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley, which led Whiteman to investigate that it came from the New Orleans school of playing. From there, he delved into even further, reaching into its Cuban roots.

What's important isn't where each style came from but rather how everything is connected. While discussing Cuban music, he jumps into analyzing North African sounds and then rembetika, a Greek folk style reflecting the seedier, sadder corners of city life. "One finds [that] rembetika was this kind of music that was made in brothels and hash dens in the Twenties," said Whiteman. "It was totally frowned upon. It was the music of the scummy people. Now, we listen to this rembetika music and feel completely inspired."

Whiteman's skill at juggling subjects and chronologies is tied to how he writes in Apostle of Hustle. Listening to Eats Darkness, the group's May release from Arts & Crafts, is similarly perplexing. For stretches, Apostle unravels soothing, lush rock that basks in starry guitar segments. However, these "regular" tracks are scattered among short sound collages rife with hyperkinetic samples and aggressive, incongruous chatter. When you're expecting docility, all of this is a shock to the senses.

Whiteman throws this havoc in on purpose. He dubs Eats Darkness "an album based on the ideas of conflict and battle." However, it's less of a traditional concept album in the vein of the Who's Tommy but instead is a work that shifts as "the vibrations of the moment indicate what I should do."

He calls the collages "soundscapes," noting that they're rich with details that reveal more about the whole work itself. There are pieces of poetry, sounds produced by roosters and bowling balls, and voice clips from HBO shows appearing in mutated form (to steer clear of legal trouble, Whiteman said he changed 30 percent of the wording). However, most noticeable are the gunshots and sirens, inserted in tribute to hip-hop mix tapes — evidently a major source of inspiration for the songwriter.

"Eazy Speaks," the crowning track from Darkness, is a bouncy, almost breezy ode to Eazy-E, member of legendary rap outfit N.W.A. and someone Whiteman considers "a mangy little badass." In-between calls of Eazy speaks to me, he beckons, Come forward/little warlord." Says Whiteman of his work: "Eazy E is the saint of not turning the other cheek. This is basically a straight-up homage to a hip-hop song. It's a fight song." He's especially excited about bringing the song with him to Thursday's performance at the Fox Theater. "When I get to California, I'm coming home," he enthuses. "Eazy's coming home."

This infinite stream of ideas indicates Whiteman's deep appreciation for Apostle of Hustle's unusual, difficult-to-pinpoint approach. Although he calls the project his "child," as a member of indie rock collective Broken Social Scene, he isn't afforded much time to work on it. However, even prior commitments can't derail the songwriter's imagining of Apostle's future. With a lean two-piece at work, he asserts that it will "sound fucking primitivo, man." Guitar, drums, synth, and the like are wonderful but Whiteman thirsts for something less conventional. In one go, he fires his thoughts out: "The next thing we do is going to be stripped skin and bones. We're recession rock. We're ancestor music. We play the bones of the dead. That's where it's happening. It's not math rock. It's myth rock."

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