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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 18, 2017

Hi friends,

I was lucky enough to catch fantastic Montreal expats Steve Jr (above) last week — they don’t make it up here very often and they totally killed it, as per usual. The night afterwards I also got to see Vancouver punks Cloaca rip it up with locals Rivalled Envy and Total Bliss… trying to get my fix of live music before I head out west to hang in the country with family for a bit. And that bring us to, yep, you guess it, VACATION ALERT: I will not be in the office from July 20th – 31st inclusive. Email if you like, but I will have limited internet access out on Anarchist Mountain. Charts and tracking will resume when I’m back in town. Thanks in advance for your cooperation in helping me and my inbox get a bit of chill time this summer.

Peace
xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 18, 2017

1. united waters – the narrows – drawing room records
2. fiver – audible songs from rockwood – idee fixe CC
3. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
4. guerilla toss – gt ultra – dfa
5. aim low – scratched out – amplitude ambitions CC * Continue reading

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Concert Review: (Sandy) Alex G & Japanese Breakfast @ Le Ritz PDB

I couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate America’s birthday. Kicking things off was Cende: simple, no-nonsense pop music played at a deafaning volume. Bouyed by their youthful energy and unpolished style, they ripped through a short set of formulaic yet enjoyable tunes. Following up, Japanese Breakfast slowed it down a notch with their slinky psych jams, tasteful bass riffs and shiny synth bouncing around underneath the ever-yearning lead vocals.

When the hour was upon us, the chorus of ‘Life is a Highway’ rattled the Ritz soundsystem as Alex and his band rolled onstage. The music hit fast and hard, coursing through the audience and uniting the room within moments with an impressive sense of command, especially for such a relatively young group. The majority of the set was dedicated to his latest album Rocket, including the early standout track ‘Bobby’ and its welcome addition of fiddle to the band’s instrumentation. Though much gentler on the album, the live addition of a stomping drumbeat allowed the song to hit even harder than I thought possible, leaving the crowd torn between head-bobbing and slow-dancing.

The songs are chunky and essential, like semi-polished stones, always build around the core of Alex’s raw voice. He sings mostly through clenched teeth, every measured note spat out, hints of the reserved energy that’s being held back. Only once did the dam breach, during an incredible rendition of ‘Brick’ — an explosive track in which he suddenely erupts in a scream as the guitars howl and rage only to drop away after a minute, giving way to the next piano-driven ballad.

Being an avid listener for years and having followed the group for some time, I can vouch that the presence of 2017 (Sandy) Alex G is immediately undeniable. The band is at its most fluid, less buttoned-down than ever, and with a masterful command of Alex’s expansive discography. They closed out the set by spending near half an hour just taking requests from the audience, not once balking at a buried gem from the depths of his Bandcamp but rather dropping into it confidently at a moment’s notice. The generosity of this final act may have dragged on too long for those less invested in the music, but for the fans it was glorious.

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 11, 2017

Hi folks,

I’ve been lying low over the past week fighting a gnarly cold (do they feel extra wicked in the summer, or is it just me…?)
However, I did make it out for a rad show last week celebrating a friend’s birthday, featuring ßtaß (above) and many others — it was a pretty all-star local crew fitting of the special occasion. Definitely worth leaving the house for!

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
For the month of July, local music-makers and pigeon enthusiasts Parker Finley, Sydney Lee, Rachel Nam, and Jess ManniquinHead (of MagicPerm and Lonely Boa) are hosting the Montreal Sessions. Tune in for a playlist chock full of local bands, ranging from chillwave to new wave to no wave and more. The series will also featuring live performances by Respectful Child, Lonely Boa, and plenty of others that you’ll need to tune in to catch… You know what to do: listen live each Tuesdayfrom 3-5pm, only on CKUT 90.3 FM and ckut.ca

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 11, 2017

1. corridor – supermercado – michel records CC *
2. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
3. guerilla toss – gt ultra – dfa
4. v/a – pentagon black compilation no. 3 – pentagon black CC *
5. best fern – covers ep – self-released CC * Continue reading

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Free Samples: Kendrick Lamar’s Poetry and Politics

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I decided to take a page out of Kendrick Lamar’s book with this article. Much like the Compton rapper did with his fourth studio album, DAMN., after completing my first three pieces for CKUT, I took more time than usual to craft the latest instalment of Free Samples. (The fact that I was on vacation for the past two weeks with limited wifi access obviously had nothing to do with it). However, unlike DAMN., I doubt this article will go on to win a slew of awards, sell millions of copies, or leave a lasting impact on its genre and pop culture as a whole. Just a hunch.

Known for his clever lyricism and bold subject matter, Kendrick has sampled everything from a 2015 Fox News report to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic,” making him one of the most unique and prominent voices in rap today.

 

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Song Sampled: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys (2009)

Almost a parody of sorts, Kendrick puts his own spin on Jay-Z’s love letter to the Big Apple. Borrowing the beat and hook from the smash hit featuring Alicia Keys on vocals, Kendrick paints a gritty picture of the notorious LA suburb, while also making it clear that he’s “just a good kid hoping [he] can spread love.” Kendrick reworks the chorus of Jay-Z’s track from “In New York/Concrete jungle where dreams are made of/There’s nothing you can’t do/Now you’re in New York/These streets will make you feel brand new/Big lights will inspire you” to “Compton, concrete jungle where dreams are made of/There’s nothin’ you can’t do/Now you’re in Compton/These streets will make you or break you/Expire or inspire you.” Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: July 4, 2017

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Hello friends,

Montreal was lucky enough to get a repeat appearance from Les Filles de Illighadad last week, joined by a special guest drummer from Mdou Moctar’s band. Gig of the year? It definitely set the bar pretty high…

xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – july 4, 2017

1. le fruit vert – paon perdu – three:four CC *
2. the pink noise – subtext – not unlike CC *
3. not you – misty – fundog CC
4. jessica moss – pools of light – constellation CC *
5. forest swords – compassion – ninja tune  Continue reading

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Concert Review: Alan Licht at Suoni Per Il Popolo

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Alan Licht is one of those extremely prolific avant-garde musicians who keeps re-emerging in different musical contexts. Since the beginning of his career, Licht has explored large tracts of musical territory with endless collaborators and a consistently refined yet elusive style, one that resists description – ephemeral might be the best word for it. Whether he’s atonally plucking a subdued guitar with Loren Connors on Two Nights, or diverging into drone remixes of disco anthems on Plays Well, all of his output is confident and fascinating. Given this diverse discography, I was quite curious to see what Licht would play when I arrived at La Vitrola on June 3rd for his Suoni Per Il Popolo show.

The evening began with two strong performances from two very different guitarists. The first was local solo guitarist Vicky Mettler, who I’d never seen before. Mettler got the crowd’s attention with her loud, distorted acoustic guitar; any other sound in the audience was barely audible amidst the heavy tones she produced. Playing an assortment of atonal chords, Mettler sung and wailed alongside the creeping tones of her instrument, harmonizing in a foreboding and ominous way – a promising start for the night.

The second opener was an Icelandic guitarist by the name of Kristin Haraldsdottir. Her music, in direct contrast with Mettler’s, was hushed and lingering; Haraldsdottir let her instrument breathe in between notes, the guitar exhaling over empty air or a backing track of oceans, rivers, and various other hydrologic manifestations. Unfortunately, some of the effect was lost due to (in Licht’s words) a particularly noisy ‘polka-disco’ party underway downstairs. But despite the potential distractions, Haraldsdottir’s performance was captivating, and I hope she makes her way back to North America sometime soon.

By the time Licht went on, the room was quiet, the music from downstairs finally having subsided. Licht entered the stage quite unceremoniously, acoustic guitar in hand, and without skipping a beat he sat down on a chair centre-stage and began playing.

Licht’s guitar tone was clean and bright; you could hear each note reverberate as if it was a bell chime. He strummed his guitar, up and down, in a straightforward rhythm, and kept fingerpicking techniques to a minimum. There was no dissonance, no distortion – Licht was simply playing his guitar in the same way someone might play in their room at home, strumming chord after chord, thinking that maybe this progression would hypothetically sound good in a band someday.

Despite these rudimentary tools and straight ahead style, Licht did not fail to deeply impress. Throughout the show, he continuously convinced me that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that he was doing it well. Early on in the set Licht confided that, after reading Keith Richards’ biography, he was inspired to write a lot of these songs in open G. The tuning allowed him to hit all six strings of his guitar with every stroke of his hand, creating a real fullness and depth to the sound.

The songs themselves were like hurried meditations on hypothetical childhood memories, not nostalgic, but rather invoking in me the same sense of solipsistic optimism that I used to feel when I was a kid. Rather than leaving me with the chills, Licht’s gave me a warm feeling, like the one you get in your stomach when seeing a friend after many months apart. In a way, it felt as if Licht had turned La Vitrola into his own living room, and the audience members were his welcomed guests as we sat there and watched him play.

Licht didn’t linger on stage once he finished, instead hurrying over to the merch table, leaving his audience to find our way back to reality. The concert had been an exclusive peek into another world, Licht’s performances like bedroom renditions of the best rock songs never written. Eventually, I begrudgingly got on my feet to leave, feeling as though I was arriving home from a vacation, the sound of Licht’s guitar still repeating over and over in my head.

– Review by Rudy Quinn

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Album Review: Rocket – (Sandy) Alex G

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(Sandy) Alex G is more a storyteller than an autobiographer. Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli has released his much-anticipated sixth full-length release, Rocket, and it is as murky and expansive as ever. A lo-fi prodigy, Giannascoli has taken this opportunity to stray from terra firma and embark on an exploratory foray into the “country et al.” genre. His incorporation of banjos, sleepy swing rhythms, and Molly Bermer’s wistful violin have brought him into a new territory entirely. Accordingly, he takes his time to explore, meandering from Americana (“Bobby”) to noise (“Brick”), auto-tuned grunge-pop (“Sportstar”) to the cocktail free-form jazz (“Guilty”).

In Giannascoli’s opinion, the more esoteric a lyric, the more powerful the song. He’s of the mindset that once lyrics are explained, they are stripped of power and meaning; in his eyes, it is better for the listener to develop their own individual interpretation of his music. In addition, Giannascoli cheekily refrains from admitting which tracks are autobiographical in interviews, though he has admitted that he is prone to write multiple character narratives (cf: “Bobby”) that span multiple albums.

To the untrained eye, Rocket may seem cobbled together, a hasty amalgamation of different genres. Below the surface, however, Giannascoli has subtly created a tryptic of genres: his foray into country, experimentation in grunge and noise, and development of a more rounded lo-fi sound. Rocket acts as a foggy window into his writing process, helping his fans to understand that often, the musician’s process involves the willingness to transcend traditional genre labels. On this album, Giannascoli delights in keeping listeners on their toes as he moves among a myriad of sounds and genres.

Rocket begins with a classic Americana track, “Poison Root.” Here Giannascoli incorporates the Sufjan effect, with muffled, nearly incoherent vocals over a pleasantly twangy banjo and quick-paced, layered instrumentals. A gorgeous crescendo signals a build in intensity, with the addition of a hurried violin, before the track ends abruptly. On “Country,” he cleverly masks dark lyrics with the use of a drum brush, smooth jazz instrumentals, and sing-song vocals.

“Brick” is a harsh contrast to the preceding tracks, providing an immediate sense of tension and urgency. Dissonant, competing guitars fight for melodic attention before the track explodes into heavy drums, distortion, and bass; Giannascoli’s droning shout fights to float over the melée. The track is violent, aggressive, and short, ending as abruptly as it begins, but is one of the most intriguing tracks on Rocket; if Giannascoli ever wanted to transition into noise rock, he has an in. In a delightful contrast, “Sportstar” begins with a wistful piano melody before heavily-produced guitars begin to fade in and out, with auto-tune providing an interesting contrast. When Giannascoli drops it, the lyrics are much more impactful: “I play how I wanna play, I say what I wanna say.” A subtle “Nikes” reference sends a wink towards Giannascoli’s involvement in Frank Ocean’s 2016 Blonde.

The titular track is the apex of the third theme of Rocket, and shines as the singular instrumental track on the album. A mix of Americana and lo-fi, the warm melodies of banjo and piano act as a bittersweet maypole. “Powerful Man” follows directly after, and signals a return to (Sandy) Alex G’s more classic sound. Giannascoli’s vocals enter at the forefront after an introduction of finger picking, but they are slowly and methodically overtaken by the building up of piano, violin, and drums until only the instrumentals remain; a signal that this carefully crafted story arc is coming to a close.

Album released: May 19, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam

 

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An Interview with Christopher Kirkley from Sahel Sounds

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Christopher Kirkley is the founder of the Sahel Sounds record label based out of Portland, Oregon and the man responsible for bringing Les Filles de Illighadad to Montreal during the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival in June 2017.

Louis Rastelli, director of ARCMTL (Archive Montreal) and resident CKUT DJ (Montreal Sound Ark on Fridays 3 – 5 pm), invited Kirkley for a conversation at Archive Montreal’s archive centre in the Mile Ex district a few days after the Filles de Illighadad concert on June 21.

There is a local connection to the Sahel Sounds label by way of the old underground record co-op Backroom Records, which ran from the mid 2000s until 2015 in a back alley just south of the train tracks in the Mile End. That’s where Warren Hill, local record collector and Backroom Records founder, began putting out cassette and LP compilations of old blues, gospel and music from around the world on the Mississippi Records imprint. Around 2009, Warren began visiting Portland regularly to coordinate Mississippi Records releases with the local record store of the same name. A chance meeting in the shop with Christopher Kirkley led to the first Sahel Sounds releases. Just a few years later, the label boasts a catalogue of around 50 albums, documenting dozens of Sahel musicians and acts whose music would not likely have ever been preserved otherwise. Among the best loved of these records are two volumes called Music from Saharan Cellphones, compilations documenting independently produced musicians and bands whose recordings were mainly shared through memory cards on cellphones.

Rastelli spoke to Kirkley about how this all began and about how he discovered Les Filles de Illighadad. By the way: don’t forget to catch them on their second swing back in Montreal this Wednesday June 28 at Sala Rossa!

L: I’m curious about the challenges you face dealing with the kinds of artists you work with. For example, all the stuff that you copy off of people’s memory cards, it must be a huge range of digital files?

C: Yeah, I try to copy as much as possible, and I use that to source a lot of material for the albums, because a lot of time they only exist as MP3 and there’s no higher quality version. When I was first doing that for the Saharan Cellphone compilations, they were basically found MP3s. I thought I’d find the artists and contact them to get the master files, but there were no master files.

L: Were you able to contact a lot of them?

C: Yeah, everything on there was fully licensed and I was in touch with everybody, which presented its own difficulties — just finding people based on an ID3 tag on an MP3. Nobody was putting their phone number out there, which they really should be… If you don’t exist on the internet but you’re using this underground network of distribution, it needs some sort of tag or some way to verify that your name is attached to the file. What would happen is you’d have local cyber cafes, and they were the most savvy ones because they knew how to use computers, they would take out the ID3 information and replace it with the name of their own cyber cafe, so for a long time I kept zeroing in on the cyber cafes.

I spent about two years travelling around West Africa writing the Sahel Sounds blog. I was over there on a one-way ticket just travelling and recording without any commercial angle. When I got back to Portland, that’s when I walked into the Mississippi Records shop with a bunch of CDs of recorded music that I was passing around, and I dropped one off at Mississippi Records, primarily because I wanted it in the store and I saw that they were selling music from that part of the world, some of the Sublime Frequencies releases for example. And I thought, “what do these guys know about West African music? Here’s a CD…” But I wasn’t really looking for any label or anything, I was just looking for people to share the music with and talk about it with. Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: June 27, 2017

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Hi folks,

Had a busy weekend of friend hangs, a wedding reception, and a truly excellent afternoon noise show on Sunday featuring a great set by CKUT’s own Tamara Filyavich (above). I’m also gearing up for Les Filles de Illighadad to make a second appearance in Montreal tomorrow night — their show last week was really special, so it’s exciting to have the opportunity to see them again. If you’re in town, don’t miss it!

xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – june 27, 2017

1. do make say think – stubborn persistent illusions – constellation CC *
2. couleur dessin – s/t – fixture records CC *
3. she-devils – s/t – secretly canadian CC *
4. house and land – s/t – thrill jockey
5. best fern – covers ep – self-released CC * Continue reading

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Album Review: Benjamin Booker – Witness

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Benjamin Booker is soulful garage-rock at its finest. His characteristic blues-meets-punk style, alongside his distinct husky voice, results in a unique, gritty sound that one might stumble upon in a New Orleans bar. On each track of Witness, Booker’s highly anticipated sophomore album, he croons on a number of subjects, from faithlessness to police brutality, resulting in a record that is emotional, raw, and highly intimate.

Production-wise, the album’s opener “Right on You” sets the tone for the record. Heavily panned right and left channels serve to isolate the instruments and Booker’s voice. This decision is consistent in every track on the album: there is no song on Witness where everything feels centred. The audience enters a unique kind of listening experience as the intricately balanced isolations allow for more instrumental clarity. One can hear the way each particular element adds to the song’s arrangement as a whole rather than focusing on how they all work together simultaneously in the track. Booker unabashedly introduces listeners to this novel sonic environment of Witness — he invites them to stay, yet remains nonchalantly uncaring if they don’t.

“Right on You” blends into “Motivation,” a track with a lo-fi vibe that begins with a tape-saturated acoustic guitar and a syncopated bass groove. In the chorus, slightly distorted violins swell in the left channel, offering an unconventional type of orchestration that brings an interesting contrast to the acoustic elements within the song. In “Believe,” the listener hears the soulful elements of Booker’s music: the background vocals are akin to a gospel choir, and they harmonize with Booker as he yearns to find a resolution in his search for faith: “I don’t care if right or wrong / I just want to believe in something / I cannot make it on my own.” The title track, “Witness,” is a commentary on police brutality and racial issues in America. Resonant lines such as “Thought we saw he had a gun / thought that it looked like he started a run” make this the album’s most poignant track by highlighting Booker’s strongest lyrics on the record.

Besides “Witness,” the most memorable songs on the record are the ones emphasizing Booker’s well-crafted guitar riffs. In “Truth is Heavy,” the guitar lick isolated on the right side and the bass riff isolated on the left create a unique melodic blend, exemplifying how the producer’s decision to include heavy pans augments the music’s emotive abilities.

Booker’s strength is his bluesy and garage-influenced guitar work, as it allows him to create groovy, head-bobbing rock tracks without being overly flashy. However, most tracks on the album offer only subtle dynamic changes; additionally, since the drum patterns tend to remain steady and simple, at times the songs on Witness seem to drag. Nonetheless, Booker delivers this static feel exceptionally well and this may have been his intention: he emphasizes movement and repetition so listeners can hone in on the pulse of the music in order to lose themselves within it.

– Review by Francesca Pastore