Daily Archives: March 9, 2016

ESSAIE-PAS-Demain-Est-Une-Autre-Nuit-500x500

Album Review: Essaie pas – Demain est une autre nuit

ESSAIE-PAS-Demain-Est-Une-Autre-Nuit-500x500The Montreal duo Essaie pas’ newest release, Demain est un autre nuit, is very reminiscent of the old saying about March. It starts with the loud roar of a lion and finishes with the gentle introspection of a lamb. Essaie pas is comprised of husband-wife pair Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau, who share the duty of playing keyboard and the occasional vocal contribution. Marie comes from a long list of other musical groups, while Pierre plays the role of music engineer for bands such as Dirty Beaches and Femminielli. The duo, under this name, is signed to the notorious New York label DFA (think LCD Soundsystem). Demain est un autre nuit is pretentious dance music for the art film crowd, at times both retro (think Francophone Kraftwerk) and avant-garde.

Essaie pas push the envelope just enough to provide an effortless, and commendable, blend between the retired retro sounds of the 70s and 80s European dance clubs and the new IDM and EBM scene. Hard, industrial beats feature in almost every track, overlaid with hazy synth layers and other piercing keyboard accents. Many tracks feature at least some French vocals, mostly used for punctuation and layering. Davidson and Guerineau trade off depending on the sound they want to cultivate; Davidson’s light, floating French adds a gentle, sometimes haunting touch to otherwise aggressive beats, whereas Guerineau’s deadpan transports you to 1970s Germany. The last few tracks of the album lend a softer ply to the otherwise inflexible, unyielding pace that pervades most of Demain est une autre nuit, lending a sensual edge to the opus.

Among Demain est une autre nuit, certain tracks definitely stand out. The titular track kicks off the fête with fuzz and strings, layered with haunting and incoherent lyrics supplied by Davidson. “Retox” blasts in with sirens, a hard bass beat, and Guerineau’s robotic monotone; you can almost visualize a turtlenecked crowd doing the robot under strobe lights as the track plays in the background. “Carcajou 3″ follows right after, with layered synth, hand claps, and plucked keyboards for emphasis. Davidson’s vocals are in the stratosphere, passing in and out of the rhythm. After an interlude of bare synth, the layering begins anew with added background vocals to support Davidson’s repeated “Carcajou.” “Facing the Music” is an almost entirely instrumental track, with minimalist dance beats fading in and out. The layering in this track is masterful, starting out with a simple bass and building up in delayed intervals before a monk-like chant is added in the last minute. The result is spooky, intense, and definitely unique. “La Chute,” an homage to Camus’ “The Fall,” is a simmering final track that slows the album down to a stop. Organ-like synth accompanies a slow bass track and Guerineau’s spoken-word lyrics. Synths reminiscent of choir vocalists fade in and out, adding an almost reverent tone to the track. It is a peculiar way to end a dance album, but not an unwelcome one.

Overall, Demain est une autre nuit alternates between an exhilarating and curious take on today’s dance scene. It is certainly a welcome change to the cliché dance tracks heard on the radio and in clubs, though albeit attractive to a niche crowd. Essaie pas masterfully connects the dots between the Eurodance tracks of yesteryear and the expanded keyboard options of today, creating a sound that is both nostalgic and fresh.

Album released: February 19, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

Rational+Youth

A Canadian minimal wave retrospective: Rational Youth’s Cold War Night Life (1982)

  Rational Youth’s 1982 full length debut “Cold war night life,” released by the fiercely independent YUL records exactly 34 years ago this month, was Canada’s first purely synth-pop release. The album stands in contrast with the more experimental impulses and synth abstractions of countrymen Ceramic Hello and IKO while also serving as the most accessible and commercially viable release of the genre. “Cold War night life” is Canada’s quintessential synth pop album rubbing shoulders with classic releases by European juggernauts such as Kraftwerk’s “Computer World” (1981), Fad Gadget’s “Under the Flag” (1982), and Human League’s “Dare” (1981). A substantial amount of the album’s 20,000 units were sold in Europe, making it one of the nation’s largest selling independent releases.

Cold war night lifeOriginal 1982 “Cold War Night Life” album artwork

  Despite the band’s Montreal origins, Rational Youth’s European connection remained significant. The band’s formation corresponded with the abrupt changes and experimentation that was taking place in the European new wave subculture at the beginning of the ‘80s. Rational Youth co-founder Tracy Howe’s music career began as the vocalist and drummer of various Montreal punk and new wave acts including The Normals and Heaven Seventeen, who were widely credited as being one of the first punk groups to incorporate synthesizers into their sound. Howe met University of Toronto student and fellow synth enthusiast Bill Vorn in the summer of 1981 and together the pair formed Rational Youth, allegedly taking their name from Canada’s National Youth Orchestra. In contrast to the long-standing tradition of the nations’ premier classical institution, the two were en route to consolidate new generic sounds and conventions in pop music. Vorn and Howe, just like their European peers across the pond, belonged to a generation of musicians who were racing to pawn their electric guitars for synthesizers and drum machines.
Normals_(rational youth)Tracy Howe’s punk group “The Normals” pictured in 1979

  Cold War Night Life is a particularly nuanced album, musically and thematically. Rational Youth’s debut manages to balance dancefloor-ready pop sensibilities with cold war paranoia, caricatured hedonism with existential dilemma. The percussive structure of the record is provided by the iconic Roland TR-808 whose punchy staccato timbre (as would be established by its influence on house and techno) demands movement on the dance floor. Synthetic drum beats provide the framework above which harmonised, arpeggiated synth melodies soar and recede in familiar verse-chorus-verse pop structures on opener “Close to Nature.” The hopeful sincerity of “Just a sound in the night” appears to be a nod to Phil Oakey’s soulful vocals on Human League’s “Open your heart.” The lyrics on this track imagine a planet on the verge of nuclear destruction, wary of fellow humans and the material world; ultimately, the vocalist concedes that he prefers to remain “Close to Nature.” Second track “Beware the Fly” casually name drops Nietzsche in a cautionary limerick on the dangers of being too introspective. Leon Trotsky joins the ranks in another refrain about his Mexican vacation gone wrong, a casualty of being too true to one’s values. The band’s ability to craft songs that vacillate between sincerity and irony comes to the forefront, clearly apparent in the bizarre moralisations of “Beware the Fly.”
Rational_YouthPortraits from the 1983 line up consisting of: Tracy Howe, Kevin Komoda, Denis Duran and Angel Calvo once signed to Capitol records

  Rational Youth retain the hopelessness and lapsed idealism of the Reagan years that is perhaps residual from Howe’s punk background without ever taking themselves seriously. This is particularly apparent on stand out single  “Saturdays in Silesia.” This dance floor favourite illustrates the austere no-man’s land caught between two super powers: an anthem of political hopelessness and hedonist pleasures that references the mortality of all living things, providing a thematic curveball that stands at odds with the song’s raucous dance beat.

YULPromotional image 1982

Lines such as “working in a big hole just to pay the rent man” may ring too close to home to an entire generation of millennials, but should only serve to strengthen your resolve to “put on your cardboard shoes” and let Rational Youth take you “where the music is loud.” As cold war rhetoric rears its ugly head in political discourse, it is no surprise that Rational Youth’s unique brand of sardonic well-crafted synth-pop appears to be as relevant as ever. The recently reactivated YUL records, operated by former the band’s former manager Marc Demouy, reissued their entire discography in 2011 including newer versions of “Cold war night life” singles “Dancing on the Berlin wall” and “City of night.”

Early performance of Saturdays in Silesia

– Danilo Bulatovic

Danilo hosts Computer Sourire, a show about synth-driven music, every Tuesday at 4pm on CJLO 1690AM

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CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: March 8, 2016

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Hey friends,
I saw Drag City jammers Rangda play last night and little pieces of my brain are probably still stuck on the walls of Casa del Popolo — they were that good. Chris Corsano is a hell of a drummer. Everything else in the past week paled in comparison. Has any band made you feel like that recently? If so, I wanna hear about them.

xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Longtime CKUT contributors and local celebs Matt May and Tim Keen play in a bunch of projects together and apart, including Welter & Assoc., Mands, and Ought. Neither of them really know what they’re going to do yet on-air, but judging by their music collections you can probably expect some local gems, hopefully some special guests, and some avant jams (justly-intoned and otherwise) from around the world. Expect the unexpected every Wednesday in March from 12-2pm, or download the audio straight from the CKUT archives.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – march 8, 2016

1. essaie pas – demain est une autre nuit – dfa CC *
2. nap eyes – thought rock fish scale – you’ve changed CC
3. matmos – ultimate care – thrill jockey
4. nennen – two mountains – self-released CC *
5. linsey wellman – manifesto – self-released CC Continue reading