Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Album Review: Oh Inhuman Spectacle – Methyl Ethel

fec20949In commemoration of the first day of “spring,” I give you the new underground summer album. Methyl Ethel’s debut album, Oh Inhuman Spectacle, is a refreshing infusion of dream pop and art rock, sufficient for insomniac nights and hazy summer road trips. Jake Webb, the artist behind the recorded Methyl Ethel, hails from Perth, Australia; the same isolated city that gave us Kevin Parker of Tame Impala and Luke Steel of Empire of the Sun. For live performances he is joined by Thom Stewart and Chris Wright, who joined Methyl Ethel after Webb’s work gained traction. The sound is quite similar to Tame Impala, with whom the trio are friendly; however, Webb’s solitary writing gives it the darker, more fidgety quality reminiscent of early Violent Femmes. Webb combines vintage psychedelia with today’s technological advances in track mixing and layering to create a spacey, warm vibe.

Oh Inhuman Spectacle was written by Webb over the course of one summer in a small coastal town, and the solitude bleeds into the writing and production. The album also attains a saturated quality, reflective of both humid, hot summer days and quiet, cool summer nights. The tracks oscillate between trippy ditties to play during long bouts of insomnia and off-kilter grooves to blast with the windows down on a long drive. Each track has a different flavor, as if Webb is providing the listener a sample of his daily moods; a single taste of involvement before he closes the door to work in quiet seclusion once more. 

Oh Inhuman Spectacle starts out drenched in a sepia tone, with warm fuzzy beats to march along to; as the album moves along, however, the tracks get noticeably darker, adopting a cooler palette of sounds. “Idée Fixe” opens the album, easing the listener in as Webb’s voice slides along, with harmonic afterimages trailing behind him. The track then blooms into groovy dream pop; Webb’s voice adopts a more urgent tone, with a deep bass beat stepping alongside him. “To Swim” is mostly instrumental, save for the occasional fuzzed-out lyrics. It is ambient as all get-out in tone, something to put on when the wee hours of the morning hit and sleep is far in the horizon. The only downside is that this track is one of the shortest on the album; the remedy of course would be to stretch the two minutes by pressing repeat. Webb pursues this ambience again in the longer “Depth Perception,” though with less success.

“Twilight Driving” is a Beach House-esque track that opens with familiar keyboard intervals, some nice bedhead lyrics, and a subtle saxophone interlude. It gives a sensual edge to an otherwise peppy driving song, allowing for versatility. The closing track, “Everything Is As It Should Be,” is an unspoken homage to Radiohead’s Kid A; Webb’s voice adopts Thom Yorke’s eerie falsetto. Though it retains the same umbrella themes as the opener, “Everything Is As It Should Be” is comes off as the darkening sky after a particularly hazy sunset; the atmosphere of the sound grows cooler, more austere.

Unlike the ambient “late-night” feel of the more instrumental songs in Oh Inhuman Spectacle, this track is more guarded, and tinged with sadness. It is as if Webb used this album to give the listener a glimpse of summer in song; the season opens with off-the-cuff excitement and bliss, but ends in an austere and nostalgic manner, often tinged with uncertainty. While Webb is still a novice to the psychedelic pop scene, he has come armed with the ability to take silence and solitude and transform it into a quite inclusive soundscape.

Album released: February 29, 2016 (general release)

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Tammy Forsythe hosts March Montreal Sessions

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This March, Tammy Forsythe will be hosting CKUT’s Montreal Sessions. Originally hailing from Nova Scotia, Forsythe arrived in Montreal in the late 80’s to study dance at Concordia University. She stayed, exploring multimedia including radio (by hanging around CKUT!), music, books, and choreography. Forsythe founded her own dance company Tusketdance in 1996 and has won awards for her expressive and thought-provoking dances including The Backtrack (2003) and Golpe (2010). Along with her work with dance and physical theatre, Forsythe has been actively creating music with her band Black Popes and uploading clips of songs, rehearsals, and outdoor explorations to her Vimeo page (https://vimeo.com/tusketdance/videos).

Tune in every Tuesday from 3-5 pm this month to hear live weekly sessions hosted by Tammy Forsythe!

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FONT Music Canada 2016: Three Great Sets

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(Photo Credit: Haleh Fotowat)

Montreal’s surplus of hidden gems was on display this weekend at the third annual FONT Music Canada (Festival of New Trumpet Music Canada).  Ranging from 1960s rooted hard bop to modern experiments in electronic and world music, the four days of music were packed with days of trumpet’s past and sketches of trumpet’s future. Perhaps the most striking quality of the weekend was the diversity.  Although every set was generally centered on one instrument, each ensemble encompassed a unique sound that made for collection of music that could not possibly be categorized as bland or one dimensional.  In the two nights I witnessed, everyone involved truly pulled out all the stops, however, these were the sets that I found the most striking. Continue reading

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Album Review: Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

31d39fa4Esperanza Spalding is not an artist who disappoints. Nor is she predictable.

Her latest release, Emily’s D+Evolution, has shown an exceptional rebirth of creativity and innovation from the prodigal bassist/singer-songwriter. Using her jazz background as a pedestal, she constructs an intricately structured opus incorporating funk and alt-rock elements to create an experimental blend of performance art, theatre, improvisation, and classic storytelling through song.

The title, Emily’s D+Evolution, is based on Spalding’s “alter ego,” a free spirited young girl named Emily (Spalding’s middle name). Spalding sings about the world as seen through Emily’s eyes, using her as a musical muse. She claims using this alter ego gave her a fresh start to her work, a way to approach the concept of music anew. The album represents a rebirth of creativity for Spalding, a return to the childlike wonder and ingenuity. Emily’s D+Evolution opens with the lyrics, “See this pretty girl / Watch this pretty girl flow,” an immediate introduction to the muse behind the melody.

As for the artistry, Spalding does not disappoint. She has tremendous vocal talent, easily ranging multiple octaves from a honeyed alto to a soaring falsetto in one breath. Her lyrics are complex and intelligent, a mix of story, song, and spoken word poetry. The instrumentals are expertly layered, with intricate melodies and subtle key changes; at times an ebb and flow, at others an overwhelming roller coaster of emotion and rhythm.

While it is recommended to listen to Emily’s D+Evolution all the way through to get the full experience, some tracks deserve high praise. The opener, “Good Lava,” is all at once a dissonant, explosive, and seductive first track. It shocks the listener, screaming at them to pay good attention – without ever raising its voice. “Judas” provides a respite from this overwhelming sensation. Spalding’s vocals are lilting and low, fluid in tempo and rhythm; a hybrid of song and spoken word. Her bass-playing is prominently displayed, with stripped-down cymbals and accompanying electric and acoustic guitars.

“Rest In Pleasure” is intimate, and again the production has been pulled back, letting Spalding’s lyrics and vocals shine through. She is accompanied by a female call-and-response for the chorus, adding a layer of sensuality and delicacy to the track. A crescendo is present in the latter half of the song, where the volume, intensity, and instrumental layering all increase. “Ebony and Ivy” is a dead-ringer for a poetry slam performance put to music, starting out with rapid-fire, monotone lyrics that soon swing into pensive vocals and a jolting melody.

Emily’s D+Evolution ends with a peculiar track, “I Want It Now,” which apparently is an homage to Veruca Salt of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame. More theatre than song, it is an ending both surprising and surprisingly fitting: seeing as the muse is supposedly a young girl, the emulation of unfettered desire through a popular literary character is a perfect, though subtle, solution to end such a complex album. Overall, Emily’s D+Evolution is a piece of art, off-kilter and unhinged just enough to be unique and noteworthy. It pushes boundaries without being disorganized, and flirts with the blurred lines between performance and production in a way that leaves the listener exhilarated. Though it is unclear what paths she will pursue next, Spalding is certainly one rising star to watch closely and with great excitement.

Album released: March 4, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

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Concert Review: Ty Segall

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The only piece of music from the the garage lo-fi rocker known as Ty Segall that I have become familiar with is his latest release from the new year entitled Emotional Mugger. I have dabbled in his 2014 release Manipulator and thoroughly enjoyed parts of the project that I had time to listen to. I watched his performance at the Seattle KEXP radio station on youtube just to get some sort of an idea of what I would be witnessing within the few days leading up to the concert. I’ve also been told by various people that have seen the outlandish artist live that he puts on quite the memorable performance. Going into the Rialto Theatre I had little expectations of what I should experience. I’m more than pleased to say that those who told me that it would be an unforgettable show were absolutely on the ball; it was one of the most insane performances I have experienced to date. Continue reading

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Matt & Tim – If You Got Ears March 2016

tchotchkes_croppedThis March, Matt and Tim will be hosting CKUT’s artist-in-residence program If You Got ears. Matt and Tim are musical collaborators, working together in Montreal art punk band Ought (signed to noteworthy experimental label Constellation Records). Their adventures apart include Matt’s ambient project Welter & Associates and Tim’s emo/hardcore trio Mands. For now, they expect to host a relatively free-form show, drawing inspiration from experimental music found all over the world, hosting a few guests here and there, and playing plenty of local jams. Tune in each Wednesday from 12-2pm on CKUT 90.3 fm and online at CKUT.ca to open your mind and ears with Matt and Tim.

 

 

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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 

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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.

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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

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Album Review: Animal Collective – Painting With

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If you’ve been keeping up with Animal Collective and their creative envelop pushing sound since the beginning of Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and Avey Tare (David Portner) debut Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanish, then you were like me and many other AnCo fans alike, not entirely sure what to expect from their next project as a whole. The experimental psychedelic pop collective from Baltimore have recently released their tenth studio album Painting With which is the follow-up to their 2012 release Centipede Hz. After the release of Centipede Hz many fans and critics alike started to worry about the direction that AnCo would head. Luckily, there is no need to worry since they’ve completely ditched the cluttered instrumentation from their prior release and have heavily focused on more of a proper structure for their individual tracks. With this notable emphasis of structure on the new LP, Painting With has to be one of Animal Collective’s most accessible releases to date. With that said, however, it also pans out to be one of their more underwhelming ones as well.

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