Concert Review: Bernice & Charlotte Day-Wilson @ PHI Centre

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The night of April 22nd saw the Phi Centre opening its doors for an unforgettable showcase of two outstanding Toronto acts, complementary in many ways but diverse enough to keep the audience hooked.

Opening the show was Bernice, a six-piece electronic pop outfit fronted by Robin Dann. The band’s presence alone was formidable; there was something immediate in the way they were stationed under the cool lights. The music conveyed a similar power, with their weird knotty songs lying coiled beneath a deceptively smooth exterior. One striking detail of this setup was the prevalence of the electronic elements: synths, samplers, and a digital drum kit laid down a gorgeous, minimal foundation for the clear and understated vocals. The overall effect was one of supreme control and comfort, songs gracefully unfolding with a fine-tuned joy. By the time they hit their stride, the room was already packed and the audience was tuned in for this bracingly original set.

Offering a stark contrast, Charlotte Day-Wilson came with a far more conventional approach, though not unremarkable in and of itself. Backed simply by keys and a drummer, Charlotte tended to the sole vocal duty while busily trading off bass, sampler, guitar and saxophone, the latter eliciting a wild cheer from the crowd. Elements of funk, soul, hip-hop, and gospel coalesced seamlessly beneath her truly powerful voice, and with the aid of her flippant stage presence the room warmed quickly until the crowd was hanging off every beat drop and vocal somersault. All in all it was a head-spinning masterclass in the last half-century of popular music, tastefully arranged and presented by a commanding and singular voice.

Artist Profile: Quivers

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It took them about 23 hours to reach North America from Melbourne, but for a week now Quivers has been taking Canada by storm with classic Aussie optimism: “we’re just happy to be on the other side of the world.” I was lucky enough to catch them on one of their off days in Toronto, where I chatted with Sam Nicholson, Mike Panton, and Angela Schilling from their hotel room. Quivers initially began when frontman Sam revisited his love for writing music after taking a hiatus in China. His older brother Tom passed away in a free-diving accident some years ago, and beginning to record again, for him, was a kind of catharsis: a way to celebrate life by just “making music with your mates.” Though originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Sam and Mike packed up and moved to Melbourne to explore the blooming music scene there, adding Ange, Jo, and Rohan on the way.

Despite the move, Quivers’ sound is still very much rooted in Tasmanian culture. Their album, We’ll Go Riding On The Hearses, was recorded on Mount Wellington in Hobart; the group rented out the Fern Tree Community Center and, in the middle of a hailstorm, hunkered down for two days and recorded. The themes of the album reference a lot of Tasmanian life and, according to Ange, is infused with a certain “Australiana sound.” We’ll Go Riding on the Hearses was made for road trips down wide-open highways, much like the Midlands Highway that runs through Australia; it was there that Sam saw a pale green hearse, “almost exactly like the one from [HBO’s] Six Feet Under.” While he didn’t end up buying it, the vehicle became a central theme and inspiration for the cheeky album title, which is a pun on Daryl Braithwaite’s 1991 hit “The Horses.”

Blending the macabre and the sanguine is an integral part of Sam’s approach to his music; the album certainly deals with grief and loss, but in an indirect way that views these indescribably difficult topics through the lens of reflection and nostalgia. Sam’s ultimate goal is for his songs to be relatable, even while they deal with incredibly personal aspects of his life. For him, it’s about adding a dash of fiction to the fact: “songwriters write a better version of what actually happened… [there are] certain things I’m afraid to write about in a too-honest way.” This sparked an interesting discussion about the differences of songwriting; all other members of Quivers are also involved in other projects, so opinions flowed freely. Ange admitted that she tended to write “very specific songs, lyrically,” adding that “I don’t mind if [the songs] aren’t accessible because I try so hard to make it just for me.” In her opinion, artists have to learn to overcome the barrier of self-consciousness in order to really connect with the audience. The guys nodded enthusiastically in agreement.

In discussing vulnerability in songwriting and performance, it is clear that Quivers is more of a conglomerate of individual artists, who all unite together over a common love: music. While they technically play jangle-pop, the group adores genres that “would never come across in Quivers,” such as R&B and Motown (I heartily approved). After collectively listing what could be considered the entire anthology of 70’s soul and 80’s guitar rock as influences (“Paul Kelly is our poet”), Mike added that “we’ve all kinda done a few things before… you pick up things as you go from other bands; I’m influenced so much by the other people I’ve played with.” This more personal aspect comes through when Quivers plays live; Sam admitted that each song has about five alternate endings, a kind of “choose your own adventure” approach to performance. He added that the point of the band is not to be perfectionists, but rather to have a good time in the hopes that the audience will, too.

When I asked them what was in store, Sam divulged that they were working with Dave Mudie, drummer for Courtney Barnett, on a possible EP or album. For now though, the world will have to wait; Quivers plans to do an official release of We’ll Go Riding on the Hearses later this year on bandmate Jo’s record label, Hotel Motel Records. As for their first North American tour, the group had plenty of good things to say about Canada and were quite excited to end on the east coast. Their one question? “I guess… where are the best bagels in Montreal at 3am?”

Look for Quivers in the 514 at Le Cagibi tomorrow; it’ll be a wild ride.

by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: April 25, 2017

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Greetings radio,
Montreal was given a real treat last week when the legendary Michael Hurley made a stop here along with opener Glenn Jones; that, combined with Wolf Eyes a few days earlier, made for a pretty inspiring week of music. You seen anything especially good lately?
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Taken a spin by the CKUT music blog lately? No? Let us catch you up: not only do we have some excellent album reviews of local favourites Mozart’s Sister  and the Painters, but we’ve also been out & about chatting with Carla Sagan and covering PJ HarveyBing & Ruth, and Dinosaur Jramong othersCheck it out!

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – april 25, 2017

1. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer
2. the luyas – human voicing – paper bag CC *
3. joni void – selfless – constellation CC *
4. lydia ainsworth – darling of the afterglow – arbutus CC
5. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC * Continue reading

Concert Review: PJ Harvey @ Metropolis

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I’m not sure PJ Harvey has set foot in Montreal since she opened for U2 in the early 2000s — a show I would have loved to see if it weren’t for the fact that U2 was on the bill. At the time I’m sure U2 was trying to give her somewhat stalled career a boost, but this time she returned at a level where many people who’ve barely heard her work since her early ‘90s breakout feel obliged not to miss her. It sold out fast and a second show was added; I heard great things about both, and was quite moved by what I saw at the first of her two Montreal dates.

However, this praise doesn’t mean it was a show for the ages, or even Polly Jean at her peak. While she and her band played an undeniably great set, the lush arrangements didn’t always serve the songs and I was left still craving a song just by PJ at the piano or guitar after the encore.

Yet – it was an important show, sure to make many year-end best-of lists even though we’re not even halfway through 2017. PJ Harvey doesn’t exactly breeze through town each year. Montreal was lucky to be a stop on her 1993 tour, when she played to 100 people or so at Club Soda when it was on Park Ave. Her next visit was a much more expensive ticket at the Olympia in 1995. Although it was just two years later, those were two very different shows. 1993’s raw power trio driven by her outsized wail was replaced with a larger, more composed band and a blues-based set of songs that was surprising after Dry and Rid Of Me.

I was reminded of those shows Friday, not least because Polly Jean moved to a large band format and went back to the blues after forging a more goth-influenced sound. Her latest offering, Hope Six Demolition Project, includes actual samples of blues songs and civil rights march chants. She’s back to mostly singing with the booming voice of her first few albums, though she did (thankfully) play songs from White Chalk and Let England Shake. The new album’s songs, which made up most of the first half of the 90-minute show, include some undeniable gems mixed with some songs that don’t ever seem to quite find themselves. But overall, she’s been on a roll over the past few years and the audience reacted enthusiastically each time a newer song began.

I got the sense that she’s an honest songwriter and performer who put the new prestige and success she’s had in the past few years, including winning the Mercury Prize in Britain, straight back into her music; however, the oversize band cloaked her at times like an ill-fitting suit, a little too clumsy and unwieldy. Some songs, like the unexpected throwback 50 foot Queenie and To Bring You My Love, benefited from a somewhat stripped down arrangement, but I’d have preferred to have just Jon Parish, Mick Harvey and one drummer all through those. But I’m being picky – she actually played 50-foot Queenie and To Bring You My Love!

In the end Polly Jean seemed to be enjoying herself, smiling broadly every time the audience cheered when she spoke a few words in French, enthusiastically introducing her many band members and working the stage like a pro. Hopefully she’ll keep on enjoying it enough to tour a little more often — it’s clear she could sell out Montreal like this every year.

– Review by Louis Rastelli

Concert Review: Bing & Ruth, Reves Sonores, and Evan Tighe @ Divan Orange

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Anyone harbouring reservations about seeing a delicate, often hushed instrumental show at a bar infamous for its noisy crowd might have approached Bing & Ruth at Divan Orange with some trepidation. I myself was not sure what to expect. Turns out there was nothing to worry about.

Local drummer and sound aritst Evan Tighe opened the night by debuting material from his upcoming LP “For The Rower It Was Work,” a real departure from his previous output. These rich yet fleeting tone poems fit squarely in the room, layer upon scintillating layer of synth hanging thick like gauze. At one point it was mentioned that he was still searching for a name for the currently-eponymous project, but despite this missing detail the music itself felt very complete, holding the usually raucous bar in reverent silence.

Filling the middle set was Reves Sonores, the duo composed of pianist Stefan Christoff and producer Nick Schofield and joined tonight by Ari Swan on violin. Each song started as a sparse loop, circling up into slowly-evolving patterns as the piano and violin crept and danced in the spaces between, building into deeply evocative meditations, all dimmed and tinged with blushes of doom, and of hope.

The crowd pressed close as headliners Bing & Ruth set up unhurriedly. With the tables filled and the bar at capacity, dozens sat on the floor, drawn up inches from the quintet’s feet. Composer David Moore hunched over the piano, took a pronounced breath, and delved deep into the set. With the rest of band weaving clarinet, double bass and tape echo throughout, David’s flickering keys anchored the uninterrupted, meandering run. While the muted songs covered a dynamic range of emotions, the core underpinning was sadness. These are dark songs, and they are beautiful. The spell over the room was held tight as the audience partook in the same unpronounceable grief, eventually being shepherded through to the other side.

CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: April 18th, 2017

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Hi friends,
Hope you had a great long weekend. I managed to check a lot of things off the spring to-do list with that magical extra day off (feels so good, doesn’t it?): took my bike in for a tune-up, planted a whole bunch of seedlings, and purged a ton of old junk that was collecting dust in my apartment. Somehow I managed to go the entire weekend without seeing any live music, but that’s all gonna change with the Wolf Eyes/Drainolith/Gashrat show tonight — been looking forward to this one for a while, should be a doozy.
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Local DIY publisher L’Oie de Cravan is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a stacked celebration, and CKUT is thrilled to be both covering and supporting the festivities. Tune into Montreal Sound Ark this Friday from 3-5pm for a special episode featuring live readings by legendary music critic & poet Byron Coley, and possibly a couple other surprise appearances from artists gracing this fine weekend-long bill. Highly recommended!

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

1. lydia ainsworth – darling of the afterglow – arbutus CC
2. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer
3. the luyas – human voicing – paper bag CC *
4. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC *
5. anjou – epithymia – kranky  Continue reading

Concert Review: Paper Beat Scissors & Ambroise @ Sala Rosa

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The mood was cheery and upbeat as a crowd gathered and filled the room early in advance of Paper Beat Scissors’s orchestra-backed headlining show at Sala Rosa. The performers bypassed the stage in favour of the floor which, along with the limited seating, provided a suitably intimate atmosphere.

Up first was Ambroise, headed by songwriter Eugénie Jobin and rounded out by Gabriel Drolet, Frédérique Roy, and Simon Labbé, all mainstays of the local jazz scene. A hush immediately fell as the quartet spun a gorgeous web over the room, Jobin’s clear voice bouyed by tasteful guitar, bass, guitar, and accordion. Balancing between smooth drones and ambling rhythms, the mood was masterfully set with this relaxed set of simple songs.

Paper Beat Scissors, while also offering a lush and immersive sound, was by contrast considerably more upbeat. Tim Crabtree’s driving guitar and yearning voice, a simple but undeniably potent combination, was swaddled with layers of additional instrumentation provided by the seven-piece orchestra at his back, elevating but never overwhelming his presence. The songs crashed like waves and broke around me, highlighted by the bobbing strings and woodwinds, tugging and rocking and ultimately leaving me clean.

Album Review: Swear I’m Good At This – Diet Cig

CS638275-01A-MEDAt the time of Diet Cig’s conception circa 2014, front-woman Alex Luciano had barely picked up a guitar. Now, the 21-year-old is rocking her way across the USA with her trusty drummer sidekick, Noah Bowman. The pair are an inseparable, insurmountable duo; it only took one meeting at a show of Bowman’s in New Paltz, New York to bind them in a friendship and partnership that has only grown since.

Bowman sets the fast, frenetic pace of these pure pop-punk tracks, while Luciano’s jagged guitar serves as an incendiary device as her voice ricochets from softly sweet to emotionally unhindered. She is at once an open book, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and a firecracker poised to go off at anyone (namely, any boy) who gets in her way. Lyrically, Luciano has a no-tolerance policy for BS and spares no feelings. She has a knack for wry, tongue-in-cheek observation, and does not shy from singing her inner demons away. With this attitude and an EP under their belt, Diet Cig has created their first LP Swear I’m Good At This.

The album features old habits and new growth: while riotously fun tracks still abound, quieter, more contemplative tracks such as the short number “Apricot” have been introduced, and the production quality has veered slightly from the DIY-feel that accompanied Diet Cig’s EP, Over Easy. Never fear though, Luciano still maintains her blunt, in-your-face attitude, dancing all over your brain with the ferocity and precociousness of an angsty færie. She is all at once dismissive, self-conscious, confident, and confidential, running the full gamut of emotions felt by young women everywhere, at any time.

The opening lyrics of “Sixteen” are enough to convince anyone of that point. Luciano sings plainly of the awkward sex had with a boy who bears the same name; this opening track acts as a shock-and-awe confessional and grips you right from the get-go. “Link in Bio” is an upbeat banger, with Luciano holding up both middle fingers to her demons; “don’t tell me to calm down” is spoken slowly, pointedly, before the track rips open with a melée of drums and electric guitar. “Barf Day” demonstrates Luciano’s innate knack for lyrical honesty, and the bridge of “I know you’re sorry, I just don’t care” basically summarizes Diet Cig’s essence in a succinct, biting sentence. The echoing chorus towards the end of the track adds a nice, unexpected complexity to an otherwise musically-straightforward track.

On “Blob Zombie,” Bowman has his chance to shine, and he runs with it; his percussion sets a galloping, breathless pace, and Luciano matches it with strong lyrics: “I wanna be the best one at this / But I don’t wanna get out of bed” is the very mantra that runs through every girl’s mind. “Tummy Ache” sends a similar message, with Luciano discussing the trials and tribulations of being a girl on the punk scene. Towards the end of the track, the vocals split and dissolve into multiple lines, all echoing and looping over one another, as if mirroring the internal commentary that many women deal with in their daily lives. Luciano acts as a voice-piece for countless young girls, but the defining quality that makes her music so relatable is that she is also standing right beside them, shouting into that selfsame megaphone.

Album released: April 7, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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

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Hi folks,
Over the weekend I managed to score a very nice little record player/cassette deck combo which I promptly set up in my kitchen in place of a much-hated, rarely-used microwave — it was definitely a good (and overdue) improvement. Highly recommended!
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
We’ve got a ton of amazing content up on the ol’ music dept blog these days — check out recent reviews of Mozart’s Sister, Dinosaur Jr., SunnO))), and plenty more. CKUT’s kickass content ain’t just for the airwaves!

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

1. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC *
2. tim darcy – saturday night – jagjaguwar CC
3. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer
4. jon mckiel – memorial ten count – you’ve changed CC
5. second woman – s/w – spectrum spools Continue reading

Album Review: Field of Love – Mozart’s Sister

a4008694957_10Montreal has produced many a talented musician in its time, and an equally talented number have come seeking inspiration within the 514. Mozart’s Sister, the solo project of Caila Thompson-Hannant, is no exception. Thompson-Hannant has been on the Montreal music scene for quite a few years at this point, featuring in notable bands such as Shapes & Sizes, Miracle Fortress, and Think About Life before embarking on Mozart’s Sister with her 2011 Dear Fear release. Originally from British Columbia, Thompson-Hannant attributes the love for her musical style to her uncle, who by all accounts sounds like the coolest guy ever: her tutelage included the likes of Bjork, Air, and rave pop legends Vengaboys.

Field of Love is a vibrant jungle of synth and vocal harmonies with an overarching theme of wide-eyed, pleasurable love; the album comes just in time to usher in Montreal’s great thaw. The production is high quality, but don’t let the “pop” label deter you: Thompson-Hannant’s arrangements are saturated with an exploratory quality that drips with saccharine ingenuity. While the instrumentals pop and sizzle with an energy akin to rebirth, the real treasure lies in Thompson-Hannant’s voice. Whether a track simmers or soars, her voice rises above the melée with clarity and confidence.

Field of Love opens with “Eternally Girl,” which crackles with energy right from the beginning; it’s an easy, bright introduction to the album that delivers bold dance beats and stratospheric falsetto. “Angel” proves to be the most complex track on the album, mostly due to Thompson-Hannant’s chameleonic vocals; her voice is a swirling mix of whine, whisper, croon, and moan. The track begins with an a cappella seraphic chorus  before bare, syncopated synth trickles in, as if Thompson-Hannant is floating down on a giant musical soap bubble. Her use of crescendo and silence is captivating, drawing the listener in to the push-pull rhythm of the synth beats.

“Bump” follows next, a subtle rollercoaster of a track. Dissonant vocals add a lovely, funky fuzz to the dance-club beats, and the whole experience is at the very least guaranteed to get your feet tapping and your head bopping. “My Heart is Wild” is nicely layered, with handclaps interspersed with an almost tropical-house beat and looped vocals; the track literally unfolds around the listener and is certainly a journey worth undertaking.

Album released February 21, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam