Commanding influences as varied as gypsy field recordings, Greek rembetika, Russian folksongs, Faces, and Black Sabbath, Toronto’s Picastro craft starkly discordant soundscapes where murmured vocals cascade alongside a rich panorama of dissonance and string-laden dynamics.
Picastro formed in 1997 at a time when the Toronto music scene was predominately catering to loud rock bands. Early Picastro sets consisted solely of acoustic guitar and eventually cello. This early arrangement attracted the curious due to the strong dynamics produced from the relatively unusual musical pairing the two instruments.
It was not until 2002 that Picastro released their debut album Red Your Blues on Los Angeles’ Pehr. Stateside, the album began amassing an abundance of critical praise and the album repeatedly sold through pressing after pressing before eventually falling out of print because of the cost of the album’s unique artwork. England’s Monotreme Records picked up the rights to Red Your Blues where the album garnered further critical praise in Europe.
By the time Red Your Blues appeared, the band had evolved considerably, expanding from acoustic guitar and cello to acoustic guitar, cello, electric guitars, piano, and violin. Live performances consisted of anywhere from one member to six members as Picastro played shows alongside Smog, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mick Turner (of The Dirty Three), Cat Power, Elliott Smith, and longtime friends Cerebus Shoal.
In 2005 Picastro released their second full-length, Metal Cares through Polyvinyl Records. The album featured collaborations with Tigerbeat6 artist Dwayne Sodahberk, Jim McIntyre of Sea Snakes, Evan Clarke of Blake and Rockets Red Glare, Zak Hanna of Bush League and Pecola , and Owen Pallett who has recorded with Arcade Fire, Jim Guthrie, and Hidden Cameras in addition to his own projects Final Fantasy and Les Mouches.
Picastro’s third album, Whore Luck, was released in September 2007. The album contains varied and ambitious arrangements, with new members (cellist Nick Storring and drummer Brandon Valdivia) adding a more experimental and chaotic edge to the already meditative tones inherent in Liz’s songwriting.