Music-making in the “northern shitty oil-city” — Dave Ehrenreich’s documentary ‘Rhythm of Cruelty’ follows the Canadian band of the same name, duo and romantic partners Brandi Strauss and Ian Rowley. Ehrenreich shows how Strauss and Rowley are attempting to revise the negative stereotypes which they say are associated with Edmonton by following their dream of touring their experimental punk band.

For one day a week, Ian Rowley sits in a cabin at the entrance to a car park in the freezing cold, collecting the fee from the car park’s customers. And he loves it. “It’s now, like, my favourite job!” he beams in his interview with Ehrenreich, for it affords him the time to do exactly what he wants to do, which is make music and go on tour with his girlfriend Brandi Strauss.

Documentary Rhythm of Cruelty is rich and colourful in both its aesthetic and the characters it follows. Ehrenreich provides a personal look at Edmonton’s underground music scene which is cut off from the quotidian workings of the rest of the city. More specifically, Ehrenreich shows how, in choosing to pursue creative exploits, Strauss and Rowley find themselves detached from the world around them, “living in our own bubble.”

However, this detachment has had a positive outcome in providing the pair the space to try and re-write the negative associations Edmonton has. According to Rowley, Edmonton has a stereotype attached to it as a place where people come “just to make money and then fuck off,” describing it as a “second-rate Calgary.” Though fond of their city, Strauss and Rowley aim at combatting this stereotype by rejecting the 9-to-5 life in favour of making music.

It is not just socially and economically that Strauss and Rowley find themselves apart from life in Edmonton however, for they are also somewhat artistically separated from many of the punk bands they often play with: “We’re always the odd-ball on the bill,” says Strauss. For some, their lack of live drums and inclusion, instead, of a drum machine is not in keeping with the punk scene.

Really, however, the duo don’t care that sometimes people don’t ‘get’ them. Indeed, since the death of a close friend, what has driven them in their artistry is the realisation that life is too short to worry about that sort of thing, and, instead, what is important is to do for themselves what they find fulfilling. This has ultimately led them to leave their previous day jobs behind in search of artistic accomplishment. Ehrenreich’s documentary reflects this approach to life, and is a warm portrayal of a couple bravely carving out their own creative path.

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