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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: December 12, 2017

Hi friends,

These are my last CKUT charts! It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling to leave this office, although it’s with great excitement that I introduce Alex Moskos as our new music coordinator. Some of you will be familiar with his excellent work in DrainolithDan’l BooneAIDS Wolf, and a zillion other projects; others, the real old-school folks, will also recall his stint as CKUT’s music resources coordinator back in the day. We’ll both be checking the music@ckut.ca email address until the holidays, and starting in the new year he’ll be taking over full-time. On a more personal note, thanks to everyone who’s sent us great music, supported CKUT, and generally been a kickass music pal during my stint here – I’ll miss you all!

xo
joni

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – december 12, 2017

1. ida toninato & jennifer thiessen – the space between us – ambiences magnetiques CC *
2. mich cota – kija/care – egg paper factory CC *
3. neil campbell & richard young – six scores- shaking box music CC
4. esmerine – mechanics of domination – constellation CC *
5. valiska – on pause – trouble in utopia CC Continue reading

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Concert Review: Mal Devisa, Skin Tone, Joni Void @ Casa del Popolo

I went to Casa del Popolo this past week to catch the stacked bill consisting of Mal Devisa along with locals Skin Tone and Joni Void. People were a bit in short supply, it being a Sunday night, but high quality art was not!

Skin Tone’s set explored the outer limits of the saxophone on a bed of drone, and did not lose any steam for its duration. It started with a couple frozen notes, then dissonant wrinkles emerged and grew eerier as Skin Tone began to stomp onstage – a march away from his more melodic material. His horn was already saying a lot, but Skin Tone made the message of his set explicit: Do not be complacent in the continuous displacement of indigenous peoples and killing of black people. At this point, Skin Tone ceased marching and began free-form squealing his portrait of racism, capturing fear and sadness in a pure form. It is worth noting that this squealing is beyond where other sax heroes like Pharoah Sanders go. If you want to hear the place between overtones where a person’s soul lies, then see Skin Tone and watch him crack it wide open.

This set was one Joni Void had been looking forward to since supporting Mal Devisa years ago at a Brooklyn show, and being consequently inspired to continue developing his style. Playing at Casa del Popolo, as opposed to Art Lounge (where I previously saw him), allowed him to dial up the low end of his tracks. This gave the thick, patient thump of Joni Void’s kick drum a greater physical presence, making better friends with the freckled, high-end glass sounds. The opening and closing tracks of his set were particularly special, being composed not of found sounds, but of photos: the opener, a picture of himself, the closer, one of his father.

This was Mal Devisa’s first time playing in Montréal. She played a string of songs, and it feels more appropriate to talk about her style in general rather than the individual tracks. Together, her voice and bass put other forms of expression to shame. As a songwriter, each of her songs are a world of their own in a nutshell. She does not waste a single word in drawing emotional arcs complete and cathartic. The songs compel you to cry at the way things are, then instill a warm confidence in knowing things are that way. When she sings, it’s as though you are with her instead of with the audience, demonstrating a rare ability to command any space she decides to play in. It is exciting to watch where she will go from here, as she is already a master. Overall, I am super happy to have been able to catch three inspiring artists in one go – all are highly recommended!

– Review by Rian Adamian

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: December 5, 2017

Greetings radio,

Not too much to report this week, as we’re busy prepping for holiday programming (which is a big job around here!) and hiring our incoming music coordinator. We’ll be introducing them either next week or the week after, so stay tuned for an update on that very soon.

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
IF YOU GOT EARS/LOVE DANCING

Throughout the month of December, our illustrious If You Got Ears curator will be speaking with four Montrealers with remarkable dancefloor presence about what special ingredients can make or break a night out. Your host Zoe (aka DJ Frog) explores the relationship between person and party, experience and aesthetic, environment and sound with a keen sense of exploration during this special month-long residency. Tune in from 12-2pm every Wednesday to find out why we – and you – love dancing!

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – december 5, 2017

1. mich cota – kija/care – egg paper factory CC *
2. julie & the wrong guys – s/t – dine alone records CC
3. neil campbell & richard young – six scores- shaking box music CC
4. mlodrs – dvdul – jmmx CC *
5. esmerine – mechanics of domination – constellation CC * Continue reading

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Album Review: On Pause – Valiska

With December and the final stretch of the semester upon us, finding time to relax can be hard. Exams, Christmas shopping, and work parties compete for our attention and fill every blank space of our agendas, leaving little time to sit back and enjoy some relaxing alone time. Luckily, Valiska’s new record, On Pause, offers us incentive to pause for the thirty minutes it takes to listen. It’s just enough time to sink into a blissful state of relaxation, guided by the soothing music of Valiska.

As a Calgary-based artist, Valiska’s music is perfectly suited to the Canadian Prairies; the melancholy of long winters and the solitude of space stretching in all directions are infused into the music. Combining ambient sounds, simple melodies and minimal instrumentation, Valiska weaves together an impressively introspective album. Listening to it with the lights out and a few candles burning comes close to a meditative experience, with the music inviting contemplation and reflection. It’s the only way to truly appreciate this album.

The album opens with the appropriately named “Heavy Riser,” in which an eerie and waltzing synth riff is slowly joined by a muted bass and a shimmering piano to create a melancholic atmosphere. This sets the tone for the entire album, which rises and falls in slow cadences as long periods of dark, ambient music are followed by short bursts of sound-energy. The album description mentions the use of the Moog Sub 37 synthesizer as the central instrument and various looping techniques to add textures and variety, which are processed through analogue tape to give unity and cohesiveness to the album. The result is the feeling of listening to one very long piece of music separated in small sections, while the whole acquires new meaning as a brilliant exercise in mood.

“Softness,” the second track of the album, includes mournful chants and heavily manipulated sounds reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place.” “Mornings” includes distant tearing sounds, a mournful melody, and the looping of the words “try again.” An organ-like sampled sound is present on “Fake strings for False Memories” and is joined by violins and choirs to give it a decidedly medieval air.

“Across a City, Across a Country,” runs just over 10 minutes, and it is the most dynamic and complex song on the album. It gives rise to the only prolonged moment of loudness. As manipulated sounds, melodies, piercing synths and heavy bass clash together, we find ourselves at the height of our musical journey, at the point where everything comes together to create a striking portrait of hope, longing, and desire. As the song fades out, “Interlude” comes on with a feeling of having made it to the other side. The electronically manipulated voice offers us a final word of wisdom. “Forever,” which closes the album, sounds like a religious procession exiting a church after a particularly intense ceremony.  

The last notes linger in the silence that follows, like a dream slowly disintegrating into one’s memory. When silence finally comes and we emerge from our trance, we feel relaxed and richer. My advice to you: pull up a cushion, light a few candles, turn off the lights and enjoy the music!

– Review by David Krushnisky

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Album Review: Let the World be Flooded Out – La Louma

I ingest albums very slowly. I find one or two songs I like from an album and listen to them on repeat for a week or so. Other songs from the album will slowly make their way into my repertoire, and if the album is good, I’m eventually listening to it in order on repeat. This is what happened to me with La Louma’s debut album Let the World be Flooded Out.

The opening track (and first single from the album) “The Decline of Nations” immediately intrigued me with its polished punk swagger. Then, I listened to “Just Wanna Love You” (the second single released). “Just Wanna Love You” features middle eastern influences, and is unlike any song I’ve heard recently. La Louma’s lyrics tell a story about the deep emotional unrest of being in a relationship that is no longer working, and her voice moves from clear vocals in the chorus to gritty vocal styling in the verses, with desperate pleas asking what she did wrong. I was utterly enthralled.

Next up for my ears to obsess over was “If We Don’t Now We Never Will.” This song is slower than the last two songs, but the mournful lyrics and vocal styling enchanted many of my fall walks. While slower in tempo, the song still posses the layers of instruments present throughout the whole album. This song really highlights La Louma’s ability to knit instruments together. Her layers of melodies and counter melodies are united in one large blanket of sound. The songs sound full, but never chaotic.

Perhaps this unity has to do with the fact that La Louma performed, record, produced, and mixed every song in her garage. The album was recorded over the course of three years, and during these three years, Lauren Ross (the talent behind La Louma) recorded 200 songs. She then distilled them into the ten song Let the World be Flooded Out. Growing up, Ross was a classical woodwind player, but the album displays Ross’ ability to play piccolo, flute, bassoon, french horn, electric guitar, electric bass, v-drums, and tambourine. And sing. Really, really well. “Brother True,” “Candy” and “Aaj Mausam Bada Beimann Har” showcase her woodwind classical training, and the combination of classical training and the unique recording process really make this album stand out.

Bear with me for the following digression. Ready? Ok. My younger sister loves Harry Styles. She was in middle school during the peak of the One Direction era, and during this time, the whole area around her bed was covered in One Direction posters (much to my displeasure). Needless to say, she was so excited when Harry Styles released his self-titled debut album this year. When it came out, I was in the depths of my disillusionment with academia, and I channelled this into a new-found appreciation for pop music as an anti-elitist statement. For the first time, I actually listened as my sister obsessed about Harry Styles. I listened to his album, and I really wanted to like it, as some kind of statement, or to support this male pop star who defends his female fans from the sexist eye-rolls music snobs might give them. But… I couldn’t get into it. I appreciated the 60s and 70s rock sensibility displayed, but there was something missing. After some thought, I narrowed it down to Styles’ voice. His voice is “perfect,” polished to pop perfection. A polished voice may be the cause of his fame, but it’s also his artistic weakness. Listening to the album, I kept waiting for a true, unbridled release of emotion to come from Styles’ mouth. Instead, all I got was the voice of a pop star too afraid to make mistakes.

A crack in the voice, the scream of a singer who’s letting their emotions govern their voice when emotions become too powerful to be contained, it’s cathartic and powerful. In my opinion, it’s a signifier of a great work of music. When I was listening to Let the World Be Flooded Out I was reminded of this. Lauren Ross has a beautiful, clear voice that shines in her songs. It’s a voice that would fit into the pop charts, but unlike Harry Styles, Ross can let her emotionality shine through in her voice. She can scream or show grit. Her voice cracks and breaks with emotion when needed. When La Louma creates a work it feels powerful and personal.

While at first Lauren Ross’ punk sensibility may be obscured by her classical training, it is there, evidenced by her vocals, her recording process, and her politics. Let the World Be Flooded Out is the first album released by Bitchwave, the feminist/queer collective and label Ross co-runs in Los Angeles. Bitchwave allows Ross to live her politics outside of her songs. The album is personal, but many of the songs are also very political. “I am Here I Am” was inspired by a first-hand account that Ross read about several female refugees. Ross said that “the chorus is a repeating declaration that ‘I am here’, and while it’s meant to be their [the refugee’s] statement, it’s crucial for me to hear myself sing those words over and over, too.” “Decline of Nations” (inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis) also serves as a political anthem and implores the listener to “Promise me you’ll stay until you try to make things right.” Bitchwave is still in it’s early stages, but hopefully we’ll soon have more amazing music from them.

In Let the World Be Flooded Out, Ross masterfully mixes opposing forces to create a truly unique album. La Louma makes complex pop music sound effortless, and combines her classical training, her DIY punk ethos, and pop sensibilities to create an album confident in its clashes.

-review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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Album Review: Aromanticism – Moses Sumney

Aromanticism is an album steeped in wonder, exploration, and beauty. After touring as Karen Oh’s guitar player, Ghana raised and Los Angeles based Moses Sumney introduces his own voice and vision. His affinity for poetry is clear: the singer’s first album showcases complex lyrics tackling difficult themes. It is a deeply personal and engaging exploration of not reciprocating love, navigating the world while questioning the value of romantic love, and the value of oneself.

In a world consumed by romance, the expectation that we strive to find a partner weighs on every member of society. Sumney explores the complexities of solitude in a unique way as he initiates a dialogue for people to question their own desires, and reject expectations forced on them. As Sumney put in an interview with Stereogum: “I just want people to know it’s OK to be alone. I’m not saying it’s easy or it’s too difficult, because it can be both. I’m saying it’s an option. It’s not a choice that has to last forever either. I just want people to explore being alone if they feel it suits them. There is more to life than who you’re with.”

“Man on the Moon (Reprise)” starts the album off with a choral arrangement that melts into the next track, “Don’t Bother Calling.” The song, as Sumney puts it, is “a preemptive fuck you.” It does not have the same dramatic quality as, say, “Plastic,” or “Lonely World,” which truly grab the listener and force them to introspect, but it does introduce many of the artistic elements present in the album; namely, the focus on Sumney’s voice which seamlessly transitions from low soulful vocals to reaching falsettos, and his experimentation with a wide range of instruments.

“Quarrel,” my favourite track on the album, is a complex, long song with many distinct parts. It is the apotheosis of a turmoil that has been building up from the start of the album, and sees the introduction of darker elements. A deep bass maintains the spine of the track, leaving room for vocals to have a playful relationship with the harp, and drawing attention to the intricate lyrics:

“Quoting this a quarrel

So immorally implies

We’re equal opponents

And we both antagonize”

The tension breaks suddenly to shift to a jazz-influenced bridge, replacing the harp with a synthesizer and keeping the same vocalizations so prominent in the track. The song ends with piano that fades and introduces the first spoken word track of the album, “Stoicism.”

“Lonely World” embodies the purpose of this record– an unapologetic exploration of what it means to be alone in a modern world.

“Lonely, lonely, lonely face under a veil

After all the laughter, emptiness prevails

Born into this world with no consent or choice

Lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely”

Sumney’s falsetto adds to the energy built up in this track, which breaks away abruptly to end off with a whisper.

The album slows down once again for its ninth track, “Doomed,” the lyrics of which beg to be reflected upon: “If lovelessness is godlessness, will you cast me to the wayside?” Sumney asks. “Doomed” is mirrored by “Indulge Me,” the most exposed track on the album and Sumney’s personal favourite. It’s a stripped down number with just a bit of synth, acoustic guitar, and vocals that range from small whispers to falsettos. The vocals are overlain so that it seems like Sumney is duetting with himself. “Indulge me,” Sumney asks of the listener.

Aromanticism is one of my favourite albums of the year, and for good reason. It analyzes uncharted themes and does so in a way that each track is raw, honest, and extremely different from the others. Moses Sumney provokes listeners to grapple with and understand the conflicting dynamics of solitude: both a relief and a challenge.

-review by Ash Rao

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

Hi friends,

I’m sending these charts out a day early because I will be out of the office tomorrow; I’ll be back on Wednesday though, so don’t hesitate to reach out later this week for any tracking inquiries. Also, as my stint wearing the CKUT music coordinator hat draws to a close, I’m excited to announce that starting in January 2018 I’ll be making the jump over to Constellation Records to head up their in-house PR and publicity efforts. If you want to stay in touch, I’ll be at joni@cstrecords.com. Don’t be a stranger!

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Ora Cogan has just released her new album Crickets & joins us fresh off the road to host the Montreal Sessions every Tuesday from 3-5pm in December. Her music inhabits a place between psych folk & dream pop, but her taste in music is as unpredictable as the winter sea! This session will feature live performances, interviews and an excursion through the archives of witch-house, post-punk, electronica, archaic folk and experimental music. Expect obscurities of all sorts!

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

1. blue hawaii – tenderness – arbutus CC *
2. esmerine – mechanics of domination – constellation CC *
3. cold specks – fool’s paradise – arts & crafts CC
4. brooklyn raga massive – terry riley in c – northern spy
5. sharon jones & the dap-kings – soul of a woman – daptone Continue reading

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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