Bitter Fictions
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Bitter Fictions

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Band Alternative Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Critic, defend your art"

You might recognize the name Devin Friesen from his regular New Plastic Ideas column in Fast Forward Weekly, where our bespectacled hero unpacks the latest music releases with his thoughtful, highly critical writing. On the other hand, maybe he berated you after you asked him a dumb question about concert tickets while he was trying to organize Oren Ambarchi records as a sales clerk at Sloth. Point being, dude consumes an enormous amount of new music and, like any of us with that kind of obsession, understands that there’s simply too much of the stuff out there.

With that in mind, why in the hell is Friesen self-financing a vinyl LP from his instrumental guitar project Bitter Fictions? Why add to the clutter? Critic, it’s time to defend your art.

“While I recognize there’s a lot of music out there, I’ve also been frustrated by how it doesn’t really stick,” he says, referring to the bulk of singles-obsessed pop culture as “detritus.” He cites a need to preserve the album as statement in a world driven by 20-second snippets and click-baiting singles.

“Maybe I’m being naive here, but I’d like to believe that the LP carries a sort of weight to it,” he says. “I self-record because it gives a person more control over how their work is presented, and it’s my intention that this is an album which has a narrative progression, even if it’s instrumental — the sequencing is deliberate, and I felt strongly enough about it that I wanted to press it to vinyl.”

Friesen was right, and Bitter Fictions is a stunning eight-track, 42-minute guitar opus, complete with ethereal ambience, warm washes of droning fuzz and the occasional stab of piercing feedback. For his first complete effort, he’s succeeded in presenting a rich, fully formed tableau.

“I refer to my songs as ‘sound narratives’ because ideally I’m trying to construct a coherent language out of feedback, drones, sound decay,” he says, citing an open letter from legendary guitar experimenter John Fahey about prioritizing emotion over composition. “Obviously I’m not Fahey, but I like this sentiment, this idea of composing spontaneously through the emotions on a guitar. This is what I try to do quite often, at least.”

As could be expected, Friesen’s editorial work proved an asset while piecing together his Bitter Fictions material. “I release music in a similar way to how I write, which is to work and edit almost simultaneously,” he explains. “I’m extremely self-aware when it comes to music and writing — I know what I like, and I know what sounds or reads as dumb…. But I’m confident as a critic, and that translates to me as a musician. I wouldn’t release something that I think is garbage.”

Friesen also credits his guitar with keeping him unique. “My Jazzmaster doesn’t even produce sound on four of the strings beyond the 14th fret,” he says, sure to add another dose of cultural criticism. “Even if I wanted to be like every other Canadian guitar-based indie rock band that’s ripping off Pat Flegel, I couldn’t.”

There you have it — along with Bitter Fictions come some bitter truths.

--Josiah Hughes, FFWD Weekly March 21 2013 - FFWD Weekly

"Bitter Fictions - Percolator Glitch"

"[...] Percolator Glitch is a series of electric guitar improvisations processed through Max/MSP. While some people, when thinking about “Max/MSP + guitar” association might come up with the polished soundscapes of Christian Fennesz, Bitter Fictions’ sound is much more raw, often unsettling, interrupted by sometimes brutal glitches and repetitions and well… more improvised. It’s much closer to noise rock than ambient, but never fully entering any of those areas. Instead it stays somewhere in the middle, sudden guitar blasts punctured by constant clicks’n’cuts. - Jakub Adamek, Weedtemple - Weedtemple

"Bitter Fictions - Nos. 1 & 2"

Bitter Fictions is the solo project of Devin Friesen, best known as Sloth Records’ resident curmudgeon and the former host of CJSW’s Each One Teach One. He’s also one of Western Canada’s sharpest music writers — his work appears in Fast Forward Weekly (including this very page) and Tiny Mix Tapes — which makes reviewing Nos. 1 & 2 akin to reviewing Robert Christgau’s backpack hip-hop record. (Which, thankfully, doesn’t exist.) Reviewing Bitter Fictions is daunting: When it comes to music criticism, I can’t possibly outduel Friesen — he’s the type of guy who, you’d assume, lost his virginity to Spiderland. He can, and will, drop Shellac references into Flo-Rida reviews. He likely sets his watch to Drag City’s release schedule. And he’s the type of guy who’d pummel a reviewer for making erroneous comparisons about his own music. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write this review without making a single band comparison.

For those familiar with Bitter Fictions’ earliest work, which excellently straddled the line between overblown noise-rock and ’90s slack-pop, this tape might come as a surprise. This, like Friesen’s recent work in Percolator Glitch and Looper Pedal Blues, is instrumental and largely improvised; what’s surprising, however, is that Nos. 1 & 2 is Friesen’s most accessible work yet. Relying heavily on the delay pedal, each track begins with minimal guitar strums, with Friesen continually piling on scraps of texture and feedback; as a result, each track feels like it’s in perpetual motion, ending far differently than it began. Most pleasantly, though, each track possesses a distinctive tone: Shimmery openers “This is How it Started” and “The Little Lantern” are calmingly psychedelic; the shuddering “Adriano Meis” is mechanically soothing; “A Bit of Fog” turns feedback into a menacing, ugly soundscape. Indeed, Friesen’s firm command of mood is what makes this so listenable — and at times, it’s hard to believe Nos. 1 & 2 was improvisational at all. And that’s why you should listen to Devin Friesen. - Mark Teo, FFWD Weekly - FFWD Weekly

"Bitter Fictions - The First Book of Electricity"

Disquaire, journaliste musical et DJ à CJSW nul doute que Devin Friesen engloutit une diète hyperprotéinée de musique expérimentale. Redoutez-le donc lorsqu’il exerce ses muscles musicaux avec son projet solo Bitter Fictions. L’impressionnant The First Book of Electricity c40 explore une palette musicale sans égal, fondant un peu de chaque genre dans une espèce de super-alliage-expérimental. On y retrouve le art-rock déconstructiviste de Chrome incorporé du détachement et du rythme flâneur propre au rock alternatif du début des années 90. C’est un album qui parvient à se remettre en question continuellement sans dévier d’une trajectoire solide. Ne reste plus qu’à savoir quel est le lien avec apprendre les fondements de l’électricité aux enfants.
With a CV that includes music critic, record store clerk and CJSW show host, there can be no doubt that Devin Friesen feasts on a high protein diet of noise-rock. Incidentally, beware the flexing of his musical muscles for solo moniker Bitter Fictions. Friesen’s impressive debut c40, The First Book of Electricity, offers an expansive musical palette, melting a bit of each genre into some sort of experimental super-alloy. Chrome’s deconstructionist art-rock comes to mind, yet channeled through the detached, sluggish pace of early ’90s alternative. Here is an album that manages to question itself while maintaining a rock-solid focus. Somehow, it all relates to teaching kids about electricity. - Gabriel Jasmin, Weird Canada - Weird Canada


Bitter Fictions LP (full length LP, Shaking Box Music, March 2013)

The First Book of Electricity (cassette/digital album, Shaking Box Music, 2010)
Looper Pedal Blues (cassette/digital album, Shaking Box Music, 2011)
Percolator Glitch (cassette/digital EP, Shaking Box Music, 2011)
Nos. 1 & 2: Music for Guitar, Feedbacker, and Looper (cassette/digital EP compilation, Shaking Box Music, 2012)



Bitter Fictions is the solo project of Devin Friesen, a Calgary-based, internationally-published music critic/journalist, record store clerk, and former noise-rock radio host. Friesen's approach to the guitar casts a wide net, creating sound narratives which traverse through bedroom feedback-laced indie rock, psychedelic drones, ambience, and improvisations for looper pedals and/or max/msp.