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Album Review: ken – Destroyer

Alright folks, it’s that time again for your favorite eclectic, Destroyer, to release a new album! And boy, does he release a new album. Dan Bejar, a veteran whose presence on the music scene has brought us some of the best New Pornographer tracks and eleven previous Destroyer LPs, has recently bestowed ken onto our plebeian ears. As is his style, ken diverges from the previous Poison Season, harkening back to the Kaputt (2011) era instead.

This latest Destroyer album delivers a more accessible dosage of Bejar’s signature esotericism, replete with 80’s retro-pop references and less lyrics to wade through than usual. Still, Bejar’s nuanced and complex production style is present in all its glory, and while ken may be more aurally accessible, it definitely takes some attentive listening for those who wish (and, really, who doesn’t?) to finally understand the enigma.

Bejar has mentioned in interviews that for this album, as with most of his albums, there is no external agenda he hopes to accomplish; the man is creating music simply because it pleases him. While there are hints of an anti-conformist attitude peppering his prose, it may just well be Bejar fulfilling his duty as a well-known shirker of music societal norms. Take, for example, his frequent, almost habitual use of repetitive lyrical phrases, which normally could be written off as a lazy tic or a blundering attempt to shove a song’s meaning down the listener’s throat.

Instead, Bejar takes seemingly banal lines (“I’ve been working on the new Oliver Twist”) and, through repetition, gives them a haunting sense of profoundness that lasts long after the final notes have faded. His instrumentals serve as a vehicle for his lyrics, creating a musical tapestry that pulsates and breathes, as if Bejar has birthed a fully sentient musical thing from a combination of synth and drums.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the album is best served as a whole: I have to recommend listening from beginning to end in one fell swoop, and then maybe several times more. There is a joy of discovery to be had in taking your time with Destroyer’s works, and ken proves to be no different. Of course, some tracks can be lauded individually for their particular prowess. Take the opener, “Sky’s Grey:” it’s an easily-digestible opener, and a good reintroduction for those who may have taken a break from Destroyer. The instrumentals echo the title perfectly, capturing a grey sheet of clouds that cast a somber, brooding pall over the day. Bejar’s vocals here are, as with all of the tracks on ken, the focus. 

“Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” is the first throwback to the 80’s, with a sharp drumline and, bless, tambourine to provide a snappy syncopation. The saxophone shines here, which is nice, because it is regrettably absent on most of the other tracks. Light synth melodies prepare a pleasant contrast from the darkly self-referential lyrics. “Saw You At the Hospital” is a ballad if I’ve ever heard one, wistful and brooding, with piano and poetic lyrics providing a natural ebb and flow. “A Light Travels Down the Catwalk” features more synth, this time dissonant and powerful to start; Bejar is using something other than his words to grab the listener’s attention. The instrumentals on this track seem to shadow Bejar as he sings, creating a sense of intense urgency that keeps you on your proverbial toes.

“La Regle de Jeu” is the final track on ken, and puts forth more questions than answers. Firstly, it’s pretty much a dance track, which seems out of character for Destroyer’s usual M.O. But who am I kidding, it’s Dan Bejar! The track ends in a fury of swirling instrumentals before fading out, leaving this reviewer wondering what Destroyer’s next move will be. In the meantime, I think I’ll take another listen…

Album released: October 20, 2017

-review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Concert Review: Alvvays @ Club Soda

If you weren’t dancing and singing along at the Alvvays concert on Friday, you were missing the entire point.

The concert was a joyous event. The Toronto indie pop band played almost all of their songs from their latest album, Antisocialites, and some fan favourites from their first album. Fan favourites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Not My Baby” caused loud singing from the audience, with the audience practically screaming lyrics back at the band. While most songs provided an opportunity to dance, the dancing reached its ecstatic peak during “My Type.”

The most powerful moment of crowd participation came during “Forget About Life.” I’m going to be honest: “Forget About Life” (the last song on Antisocialites) was not a song that stood out to me when listening at home. On Friday night at Club Soda, I got it. When Molly Rankin stood underneath the blue stage lights and sung “Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?” the whole crowd answered her back. This was the rallying call for everyone at the concert. During the chorus, the crowd almost over-powered Rankin’s voice as they sung back:

Did you want to forget about life?

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

Underneath this flickering light,

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

I have now been playing that song nonstop and can still feel the sense of oneness and camaraderie I felt in that crowd on Friday.

I have always enjoyed Alvvays music, but this concert made me fall in love with them. Their lyrics are easy to sing along to, all while expressing deep, emotional truths. Their melodies are catchy and easy to dance to. Their songs invite (and command) participation.

– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: November 21, 2017

Hi folks,

Well, it’s true – some of you have already heard the news, but for those who haven’t, I’ll be leaving the Music Coordinator job at the end of the year. It’s been a great five-year run in this wacky office and getting to work with all you rad music folks has made it all the more glorious. I’ve got a couple exciting new things in store so keep an eye out for next week’s charts, which will have an update on where to find me in 2018… in the meantime, apply for this sweet gig, whydontcha?

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
We’re hiring a Music Coordinator. Got the chops to succeed in this kickass role? You know what to do.
:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – november 21, 2017

1. fever ray – plunge – rabid records
2. julie & the wrong guys – s/t – dine alone records CC
3. deerhoof – mountain moves – joyful noise
4. godspeed you! black emperor – luciferian towers – constellation CC *
5. john carpenter – anthology: movie themes – sacred bones Continue reading

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Album Review: Sharon Jones – Soul of a Woman

Whenever I talk to relatives or family friends about music, I’m often besieged with the common complaint of how “they just don’t make music like they used to.” It’s true that many new genres and subgenres of music have developed over the past several decades, but if people are complaining about the lack of “old-school” music in the modern day, then it’s clear they have not heard about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

Grammy nominee and subject of acclaimed documentary Miss Sharon Jones!, Sharon Jones had an awe-inspiring career as a soul singer before her tragic death almost exactly one year ago, on November 18th, 2016. Jones and the Dap-Kings released seven studio albums over the course of 17 years, each one encapsulating the raw, Aretha-like authenticity that Jones made a standard in her work. The release of the group’s newest album Soul of a Woman almost exactly one year after Jones’s death is a sad yet significant reminder of the inspirational power possessed by this incredible woman.

Soul of a Woman relates directly back to the title as a reflection of album’s thematic context. The tracks vary in subject matter, ranging from elements of love and break-ups to the importance of hard work and in some cases even religion, yet they demonstrate the day-to-day experience of a modern woman. Every lyric of this album is relatable to a level that is almost uncanny. While listening through this album for the first time, I often found myself believing Jones was singing directly to me about own experiences — something I can honestly say I’ve never experienced before.

The album begins with the strong opening of “Matter of Time,” a song rich with gospel-influenced call-and-response elements. The simple harmonies add invigorating, but not overpowering, dimension to Jones’s dominant voice. The track is upbeat and light-hearted and sets the listener up for what seems to be a fun, bluesy journey. Interestingly though, this is not the case; while many of the earlier songs on the album are upbeat, the tempo goes through a notable downwards trend as the album progresses, with songs becoming more impactful in terms of orchestration, shifting genres from blues to soul to gospel, and finally coming to rest with its inspiring terminus “Call on God” and its optimistic chorus “Call on God/and He’ll carry you through.” It carries the message of Soul of a Woman in a soft yet powerful manner and is the perfect closing to an album about love and loss.

The climax of this album, in my opinion, comes with the second to last track “Girl (You’ve Got To Forgive Him).” Jones takes on the role of an instructive friend: her vocals, laden with intense emotion, are laid over heightened orchestral sound, which will leave this song echoing in the listener’s mind for the rest of the album’s duration.

If you’re looking for an empowering album that perfectly captures the spirit of ’60s and ’70s soul, then this album is a must. Soul of a Woman not only succeeds in proudly carrying the torch of what many incorrectly consider to be a dying genre, but also encompasses the enormous spirit of Sharon Jones herself.

– Review by Madison Palmer
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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: November 14, 2017

Hi everyone,

I’ve been under the weather for the past week and have consequently missed a string of really good shows here in Montreal: Colleen, Do Make Say Think, Circuit des Yeux, Aim Low, the list goes on and on… Instead, I have been opting for extra sleep, cold meds, and plenty of soup to try and kick this bug. Got any secret remedies that unfailingly bring you back to life when cold season hits? Send ‘em over.

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Local duo Nyon is a force to be reckoned with: drawing equally from the realms of noise, drone, and free jazz, these expert sound-benders have carved out a truly unique space within Montreal’s experimental scene. Together J. Goddard & C. Scott bring their eclectic and often harsh sonic worlds to the masses every Wednesday in November for our If You Got Ears residency, and you’re cordially invited along for the ride. Stream it live from 12-2pm and gear up for some of the most out-there sounds on the dial.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – november 14, 2017

1. mich cota – kija/care – egg paper factory CC *
2. chad van gaalen – light information – flemish eye CC
3. blue hawaii – tenderness – arbutus CC *
4. cold specks – fool’s paradise – arts & crafts CC
5. alvarius b – with a beaker on the burner and an otter in the oven – abduction Continue reading

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: November 7, 2017

Hi folks,

I’m still reeling from an amazing 27th Hour live broadcast we rigged up last night at Barfly featuring performances from local rippers Nuage Flou (above) and Boar God. If you weren’t among the lucky folks who got to enjoy the gig in person, check out the full audio here and don’t skimp on the volume.

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
We’re very excited to welcome our friends at Blue Skies Turn Black into the studio for our November edition of the Montreal Sessions. BSTB was founded in 2000 by Meyer Billurcu and Brian Neuman. In the early days, the company operated as both a record label and a promotion company. In 2007, however, the label ceased operations so that BSTB could shift its primary focus on concert promotion. A decade after its first humble event — a DIY screening of Fugazi’s film ‘Instrument’ — Blue Skies Turn Black has become an essential fixture in the Montreal musical landscape, having worked with a wide array of international and local artists in venues of all sizes throughout the city. Its team of employees continue to strive to find exciting up-and-coming bands while also concentrating on the hundreds of bands and artists the company has cultivated relationships with over the years. Catch the crew on-air every Tuesday in November from 3-5pm or download the full archived audio here.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – november 7, 2017

1. deerhoof – mountain moves – joyful noise
2. blue hawaii – tenderness – arbutus CC *
3. mauno – tuning – idée fixe CC
4. mich cota – kija/care – egg paper factory CC *
5. asiko afrobeat ensemble – winners never quit – self-released CC Continue reading

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Concert Review: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith @ Bar Le Ritz PDB

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith played at the Ritz on Saturday October 28th, the weekend before
Halloween — but not actual Halloween, so pretty much a grey zone for those who embrace festive costumes. I opted for regular attire but a solid third of the audience appeared to be dressed up, which created a great atmosphere right off the bat. I believe someone even pulled off sparkly galaxy-themed face paint à la The Kid album cover, which was super clever and may end up an iconic costume because this album is nothing short of spectacular.

Hush Pup got things started with synth, bass and impressive vocal stylings. Their songs have a
familiarity and straddled the line between dreamy and haunting. Next up, Rêves sonores performed beautiful and sophisticated cinematic ambient scores alongside complementary live visuals by Lilith. Despite its minimalism, their set achieved an immersive fullness and pulled my mental state into a pleasant fog.

After Rêves sonores cleared the stag,e all that remained on stage was a wall of hardware that would give even the most experienced synth master sweaty palms. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s setup is positioned on stage at a 90 degree angle, giving the audience a profile view of both Smith and her Buchla, which acts as a harmonious extension of her body. After humbly addressing the crowd, she was busy for the duration of her set as both hands performed a perfectly choreographed routine of patches, dials, buttons and keys while she sang into a headset microphone. The continuous motion is mesmerizing, like watching a cross between an ASMR video and a familiar waltz performed by longtime partners.

Her vocals were heavily processed, pitch-shifted and multiplied to create a organ-esque effect, yet they folded seamlessly into the pulses and rhythms of her modular sounds. The visuals evolving on the screen behind her complemented the textures of music perfectly: brightly coloured bubbles and liquefying shapes matched the momentum of Smith’s sonic collage.

The audience was enveloped in the panning chimes, percussion, and at times, flocks of bird
chirps. Some moments induced a frozen trance while others led to involuntary sways from the crowd. This performance demonstrated by far the most accessible of Smith’s repertoire, including dancier songs like “An Intention” and “Until I Remember.” Playful and unpretentious, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith had a great energy and generous stage presence while taking the audience through a narrative experience like a safari through the human condition.

– Review by Julia Dyck

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Album Review: Reptaliens – FM 2030

With the Montreal winter fast approaching, it’s not difficult to find oneself reminiscing about the long-ago September heatwave in addition to the ever-present summer nostalgia that hazes our memory. Who among us doesn’t wish they could perfectly articulate this? The newest album from Portland, Oregon band Reptaliens FM-2030 was released on October 5th and brings a dreamscape aesthetic that draws the listener into this seasonal fantasy with them.

The duo behind the band, husband and wife Cole and Bambi Browning, base their band’s sound in the surreal indie-pop psychedelia that is omnipresent throughout the album’s 35 minute span. As a concept album, FM-2030‘s central theme is concerned with love and obsession, as evident in lyrics such as “If you want to get high/find your love/get it right” from “If You Want” and “Back at his home/told her ‘they’re not alone’/and they gave all their love to the lord” from “Satan’s Song.” It should be noted that in order to experience the full effect, FM-2030 should be listened to in one sitting with no interruptions.

That being said, there are several stand out tracks on this album that deserve an honourable mention, including the vaguely sinister “666Bus,” mainly because of the blunt lyrics “Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus while I was dreamin’ of falling in love/Or maybe I’ll fall in love and die of a broken heart.” “Nunya” has a easygoing, catchy groove to its melody, which echoes in your mind long after the song is over.

As a fan of love-orientated cynicism, this album was a dream come true. The songs all sounded related but not similar enough for them to become boring or repetitive; rather, the tracks faded into each other perfectly with a balanced flow, drawn together cohesively by synths that set the mood for the whole record.

Those unfamiliar with this band’s prior work (especially their 2017 EP Prequel/Olive Boy) it may seem as though FM-2030 is simply be a conglomeration of similar, if not identical, bedroom pop tracks. When listening to the album, however, it becomes clear that there is a significant variance and complexity to each of the 11 songs. The heavy summer-in-suburbia atmosphere is an extended metaphor woven through the album brings much needed warmth to the rainy Montreal weather.

– Review by Madison Palmer

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Album Review: A flame, my love, a frequency – Colleen

Call it a precursor to the winter blues, call it a product of my New England upbringing, call it a weird morbid streak: as soon as a chill hits the air, all I can think about is the cycle of nature. Walking around the streets of Montreal, with all the natural beauty it has to offer, it’s not hard to romanticize something as trivial as falling leaves. Enter Cécile Schott, the the French multi-instrumentalist behind Colleen, who released A flame, my love, a frequency just in time for some contemplative hibernation.

Schott has been on the music scene for almost two decades, quietly releasing EPs and full-length albums – this is her sixth studio album – that feature the Baroque-era trebel viola de gamba. While she only recently started including vocals into her music in 2013, Schott has always been fascinated by 1970’s Jamaican dub music, as well as loop pedals and synth. On A flame, she takes the opportunity to explore the latter; the viola de gamba is barely heard.

A flame, my love, a frequency uses highly produced instruments to create rich and detailed depictions of nature, all without much vocal assistance. Instead, the scant lyrics act as echoes for the instrumental landscapes, adding details to the conjured imagery. Schott, who is an avid bird watcher, describes various winged animals, and frequently uses layered arpeggios that mimic the flight patterns of birds. There is a return to simplicity on A flame, both in the presence of classical music structure and a focus on the absence of sound. Schott embodies the saying “Less is more,” choosing to use sustained notes and hypnotically repetitive sequences to create a vast soundscape.

The album is best heard listened in an uninterrupted sequence, because the tracks have a natural tendency to flow into one another, creating one long 45-minute track. However, a few tracks deserve noteworthy mentions: “Separating,” for example, is a seven-minute track that almost exclusively contains looped arpeggios that subtly move between keys, with timbre changes sprinkled here and there. The track appears as a rainstorm might: while initially only raindrops appear, the storm soon builds to a deluge before subsiding again. Schott employs vocal distortion techniques that transform her voice, briefly, into a beacon that pierces the instrumental fog.

“Summer night (Bat song)” features long, drawn-out synth tones that leave room for Schott’s breathy vocals, which describe the flight patterns of a bat in simple observational phrases; what seems like an uninteresting field journal entry is in actuality a transformative, hypnotic still life. “The stars vs creatures” captures the isolation and wonder of space while detailing a discussion between animals about the night sky. Schott expertly contrasts the yawning cosmos with the intimate delicacy of a conversation; low synth shifts as tectonic plates might, while arpeggios flutter about, seemingly suspended in air.

Album released: October 19, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: October 31st, 2017

Hello everyone,

Happy halloween! In a seasonally-appropriate move, our picture for this week’s charts is a throwback from a few years ago when CKUT staff dressed up as the witches and tried to magically conjure extra cash for our funding drive… speaking of which, it’s not too late to donate if you haven’t already done so. And also, get in the halloween spirit if that’s your jam!

xo
joni
:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Punks, take note! CKUT’s beloved late-night show The 27th Hour of Horror is going to be broadcasting live from Barfly on Monday November 6th. Those who know the show love it for a reason: it’s the best place on the dial to find deep cuts from the punk underground, no doubt. The hosts are also the ones who taught us all how to use our tape deck to add live distortion to the studio mic channels — basically, they’ve been pushing the boundaries for ages and have schooled me and many others in the art of making kickass radio. And now, after many years of jamming out in our basement studio, we’re thrilled to unleash the show upon the masses as it broadcasts live from one of our favourite dive bars in the city. Local bands Nuage Flou and Boar God will be performing live, and we’ll be airing the whole thing on ckut.ca from 11pm till midnight. Do not miss!
:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – october 31, 2017

1. john carpenter – anthology: movie themes – sacred bones
2. blue hawaii – tenderness – arbutus CC *
3. pierre kwenders – makanda at the end of space, the beginning of time – bonsound CC *
4. godspeed you! black emperor – luciferian towers – constellation CC *
5. chad van gaalen – light information – flemish eye CC Continue reading