A few weeks back, I sent an email to Carla Sagan, a local band partially responsible for “Supermoon Lunar Eclipse,” the recent Egg Paper Label release that has been sitting at the top of CKUT’s weekly chart as of late. I had listened to the EP and loved what I heard, so I decided to follow up on a rumour about the members of Carla Sagan being students themselves. Lo and behold, this proved to be true. Last Sunday, I got the chance to interview the group across from their practice space in Mile-Ex. The four members of Carla Sagan and I chatted about the intersection of academia and musicianship, the success of “Supermoon,” and what the band has planned for the upcoming summer. Continue reading
A few weeks back I wrote a small piece on “Cups,” a short and sweet new song from Alexia Avina. Apparently, this was just the beginning of what looks to be a very exciting spring for Avina’s solo project. Most recently, she put out a music video for the song “If I’m the one that you need,” giving us the first taste of her upcoming release, the Surrender EP. The video is directed by Miriam Brellenthin, who “did an excellent job of capturing the song’s ephemerality and leaving the video as an open question – to love doesn’t always mean to hold,” according to Avina.
“If I’m the one that you need” is very minimalistic in terms of the use of lyrics, which are limited to the repetition of the song’s title in complicated harmonies over Avina’s wide vocal range. The variety of textures and ambient noises flowing in and out of the track provide the sonic complexities that make Avina’s work so interesting. The corresponding music video falls seamlessly into the warm, dreamy realm conjured by her signature soothing sound. A spectrum of colour filters and soft focused double-exposures set the visual compliment for the almost trance-like tone of “If I’m the one that you need.” Avina’s face dominates the video, shown in both soft morning light and hidden amongst sparkling visual filters in a pool of water. A straight-on shot of the artist mouthing the words to the song intimately links the lyrics back to Avina, deepening the emotional impact of the video and tying the visual/audio experience together.
Surrender, a split-EP with fellow Montreal act Desert Bloom, is set to be released on April 12th with an official release party hosted by Moon Boy Records. When I asked Avina what fans could expect from the new EP, she said that “with this batch of songs I felt myself coming full circle to my initial process of making music whereby writing and recording were deeply inextricable.” She believes that the unplanned character of the recording process remained true to the nature of her music. “Spontaneity and mistakes are what my music has always thrived off of,” she explained, which provided her with “a gentle reminder to myself to harness that.”
As the winter finally melts away, keep your ears tuned in for more stuff from Alexia Avina. I’m sure there will be a lot of magical tunes to get excited about.
– Feature by Nora Duffy
Not much to report here this week — we’re nearing the end of the semester and many of our student volunteers are deep in final papers and exam prep, so it’s been pretty quiet around the station. This lull in the usual craziness gives us a nice chance to work on some big-picture ideas. It’s CKUT’s 30th birthday in the fall, and we’re cooking up some exciting plans to celebrate. Stay tuned…
Over the weekend I was lucky enough to catch a show featuring live debuts from three great acts, including sundogs (above), L’Ordre de l’Infiniment Nada, and dmr. I always find it inspiring to see acts hit the stage for the first time and totally crush it; it’s a good reminder of the creative and gutsy artists we are fortunate to have in abundance here in Montreal.
:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
We’re very excited to welcome Iranian-born, Montreal-based sound artists MP | vH+as our curators for our monthly experimental radio residency, If You Got Ears. Here’s what to expect, in their own words:
We are “MP | vH+”, and we invite you to take a trip with us to the farthest territories of computational sound art. We will point at aspects, approaches, questions and meditations on the different areas of “La music informatique”.
Most important, we will listen to music, some of them are composed and performed by ourselves, and the others are masterworks of contemporary music composed by others, only performed by us, using diverse methods, divergent techniques and different systems.
Welcome to our lab.
MP & vH+
Catch this very special program every Wednesday in April from noon – 2pm, or download the archive via ckut.ca.
ckut top 30 – march 28, 2017
1. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC *
2. xiu xiu – forget – polyvinyl
3. the painters/carla sagan – supermoon lunar eclipse – egg
paper factory CC *
4. tim darcy – saturday night – jagjaguwar CC *
5. anjou – epithymia – kranky Continue reading
The grand Théatre Corona abounded with relics of the ‘90s on March 9. As I wandered into a sea of dads, I was engulfed in a wave of sounds and smells I valued most in my childhood, however putrid they seemed at the time. The crowd was kind and ruddy, allowing me to snake my way through hundreds of Dinosaur Jr. devotees standing transfixed by the musical stylings of a band that defined their dive bar days. I was happy to be allowed a glimpse into their tried rituals — they’d called up college friends, filled up on moderately-priced beer, and nodded along to the songs that marked their lives’ major milestones.
That night, I was made privy to the very peculiar process of reawakening. The herd bore signs of fatigue, content to tap their feet where a mosh pit would have been in order a few short decades ago. However, no matter where any given member fell in terms of life experience, all were transported to a timeless dreamworld of J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph’s creation. In the wake of Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, the band’s eleventh studio album, the crowd celebrated “Tiny” and “Goin Down” as wholeheartedly as they savored the familiar beats of “Feel the Pain.” The riffs were emblems of a youth never truly bygone. In essence, the show was not a testament to any time in particular, but rather a chance to integrate sounds of the past into our lives again.
The muted nostalgia persisted throughout, and the crowd itself was just as fascinating as the spectacle we came to witness. The spectators exuded comfort, as their passion for the band had only matured with time. Perhaps the rejuvenating power of a live show only grows, so I don’t fear a future of enjoying beers with friends while reveling in past shenanigans. For now, I have no qualms learning from the earlier generation who may never stop stumbling into musty concert halls just in time for the headliner to grace the stage.
Although I couldn’t partake in the general nostalgia for years I experienced in a stroller, I was grateful to my parents for keeping Dinosaur Jr. in constant rotation on our old stereo. When the first few notes of “Start Choppin’” filled the room, I danced with more violent fervor than ever before. Of course, this led to respectful thrashing among the crowd’s most spry as the band continued on through “Freak Scene” and an encore cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” The band’s intrigue is intergenerational, and I’ve become aware of a visceral connection to my predecessors as I trace the musical history we venerated in my childhood apartment.
I appreciated the opportunity to see Dinosaur Jr. alone, as I could satisfy my own curiosities about a band so important to my family. Everyone at the venue that night was participating in an exploit that stretches back thirty years and content to see it live on into the future. We all danced to these records at varying stages of life, and in this way we were able to welcome a Montreal spring together. With a gentle salute to the past, Dinosaur Jr. is adapting to an era of uncertainty with time-honored composure. For one night, we were lucky to do so along with them.
– Review by Maddie Jennings
Egg Paper Factory, darlings of Montreal’s independent record label scene, have released a new spring gem this week: a split-tape featuring The Painters and Carla Sagan, both local bands. Supermoon Lunar Eclipse spans just 7 tracks, so each will be detailed below for your listening pleasure. NB: Tracks by The Painters will be labeled (TP), and those by Carla Sagan will be labeled (CS). Bonne écoute!
The Painters embody a gentle folk band infused with a heavy dose of psychedelia; acoustic guitars ground the swirls of synth and lend a nice contrast to lead singer Alex Bourque’s vocals, which scratch along the tracks delivering raw, honest lyrics. Carla Sagan (yes, they seem to embody the female soul of renowned astroscientist Carl Sagan) is the ultimate funky rock-pop group who consistently produce an experimental and authentic sound.
1. Supermoon Lunar Eclipse (TP): jangling chords introduce the instrumental title track, and continue to mingle with the snarling electric guitars that rip along until the track fades out without much fanfare. The track is a good introduction to a unique split-tape that highlights a lot of what local Montreal bands have to offer.
2. Growing Pains (TP): In a personification of the title, this track features a drum line that is hesitant and faltering when keeping time with the acoustic guitars; however, the integration of electric guitar provides a warmer, more rounded coloring by the second stanza. The instrumental imagery evokes the defiant growth of a crocus in early spring.
3. Finish Line (TP): Bourque’s voice calls from a distance here before synth fades in, washing the track in a celestial glow; the effect provides a counterbalance for the low, grounded guitar work. The simple repeating vocal melody tethers the shifting instrumentals, pulling the track together as the different elements create an intricate three-part harmony.
4. When The Fog Lifts (TP): This track is easily The Painters’ tour de force, featuring simple, melodic vocals and beautifully abundant instrumentals. Bourque’s lyrics shine through here, and small, expertly-timed crescendos and decrescendos evoke the rolling ocean. A liquid electric guitar provides an overarching harmony to the vocals, and the two intertwine in an intricate duet over the constant thrumming background of guitars, synth, and drums.
5. Permanent (CS): A duet of singing and spoken-word provides an air of candidness to this short track, while blunt, staccato drums and what sounds like a harpsichord add a playful aspect. The electric guitar solo in the last minute of the track is not to be underestimated.
6. Make Believer (CS): The track opens with a low, simmering burn accompanied by a recitation from Ellen Belshaw before drums and guitar kick in. “Hello’s” and little keyboard ditties play sporadically in the background before the track rights itself. Concrete melodies from the keyboard, guitar, and vocals begin to form before the track collapses again, with noise experimentation acting as punctuation.
7. White Noise (CS): Supermoon Lunar Eclipse ends with a brilliant track from Carla Sagan that highlights the push-pull relationship between instruments. A sharp beat is provided from a drum kit, acting as a foil for the flowing guitar and and synth. The track is a paradise of sound; soft duets intermingle with different musical effects, creating an air of experimentation and unbounded musical energy. Various phone recordings accompany a wild guitar and synth combination; the vocals slowly become more desperate as the track disintegrates into a wall of noise. The track never quite reaches a conclusion, but the build-up itself is intense and highly affirming.
Album released: March 21, 2017
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam
Toronto band Century Palm have just released their first LP Meet You, a nostalgic album that mixes garage punk with new wave influences. Simple yet catchy guitar riffs and fast paced, upbeat drum rhythms give the album a grungy feel, as if its sound was literally emerging from someone’s garage. These retro styles make Meet You a fun album, though not always an especially unique or distinct one.
Andrew Payne and Paul Lawton’s vocals are vital to the album’s sombre ambiance. The gloomy vocals, which sometimes veer closer to speaking than singing, are hypnotizing. In “Sick of It” the vocals even takes on a Lou Reed quality. Their deep morose voices combined with melancholic synths lend a distinctly new wave feel to the material. One of the most engaging parts of Meet You is the way those darker synths and the lighter guitar play off of each other. “King of John St.,” for example, begins with a high-pitched guitar riff that gives the song a playful quality while the lower synth provides the song’s depth. Halfway through, the synth and guitar switch roles, with the synth playing the high riff before ending on more sonorous sounds. This back-and-forth gestures towards one of the album’s recurring themes: something darker is always lingering below the surface.
While these individual songs are catchy, the album as a whole starts to feel somewhat repetitive. The upbeat guitar – one of the most enjoyable features in this album – tends to get a bit lost within the steady tempo and drum patterns. A saxophone in “Sick of It” is a welcome addition to the band’s instrumentation; the rest of the album could have benefitted from more of the sonic diversity it brings.
Almost hidden in the musical arrangements are the emotionally vulnerable lyrics. The album begins with a dark, horrifying description of anxiety and depression in “Reset Reaction,” a study that continues throughout the entire album. Of course, no such exploration by a Canadian band would be complete without a description of seasonal depression like the one found in the first verse of “King of John Street.” The use of the second person perspective throughout the lyrics makes it seem like the vocalist is addressing and questioning himself, a process similarly referenced by the album’s title. Payne explores the battle between who you think you are and who you might be, what you are and what you want to be, and what you feel yourself to be and how you present yourself on the outside. This duality of self is best displayed in “King of John Street,” where Payne sings, “Spending all my days in the east side / forgetting who I was on the other side / the Queen connects us, but I divide / don’t think I don’t think about it.” These geographic metaphors avoid heavy-handedness because of the nonchalant way in which Payne delivers them.
Meet You is an album steeped in interesting combinations: the driving garage punk rhythms mixed with the deep new wave synths and vocals, upbeat riffs paired with vulnerable lyrics. Though the garage punk and new wave influences help make for an engaging blend of styles, it’s not always enough; without much experimentation in tempo and instrumentation, Meet You at times feels a bit too safe.
– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler
“Maximum volume yields maximum results.” This is printed on every rider and stage plot Sunn O))) sends out to venues in advance of their shows. Not many bands can claim to have a motto, but it’s the most fitting summation of this act you’d ever need.
Opening the show is Montreal’s own Big|Brave with a polished and appropriately doomy set. Thunderous drums and heavy, ponderous riffs carry the plaintive vocals, expertly setting the mood and giving the headbangers a chance to get it out of their systems while they can. This will be the one and only time such familiar musical hallmarks as rhythm, melody, and discernible lyrics make an appearance tonight – we’re heading somewhere much weirder.
There is a long stretch between the acts as the smoke machines are pushed to their limits, and a thick haze settles over the crowd. Dim red lights pulse and a guy near me takes the opportunity to sneak a cigarette. This innocuous subversion feels significant: we’re entering new territory and losing some rules and markers along the way. Those of us in the first half-dozen rows can barely see the bodies around us, let alone the stage. We’re retreating into ourselves and losing sight of everything else.
Before anyone even realizes the group has taken the stage, sound begins to fill the room. It is the voice of Atilla Csihar, guttural and droning. His range is magnificent, dipping down into a rich throat hum steeped in overtones, leaping up into chanted invocations which might be Hungarian or might be a dead language from a forgotten dimension. As the smoke clears we see there are others behind him, manning guitars and synths; they are all hooded and cloaked, moving slowly and with purpose. The sound swells and drowns the voice in a billowing roar and our earplugs are in, the unprepared quickly realizing their unfortunate mistake and clasping their hands to the sides of their heads.
Overused as the cliché may be, this is more than music. This is an experience of sound at its most primal level, a crash course in the physics of vibration. It is felt in the body as much, or perhaps even more, than it is heard in the ears. It rattles your bones, warps your gut. The skull buzzes, ears pop. The sheer volume elevates sound into physical reality, unfurling from the wall of stacked amps like a standing wave.
Beyond the novelty of noise, the stage presence is worth mentioning. It feels less like a performance for our benefit and more like a glimpse into their own intimate ritual – and not just because they’re all dressed like druids. These men are participating in something special and deeply personal. They pass around a bottle of water like a sacrament, all motions careful and deliberate. One or two or three members at a time come and go from the stage; at one point both the guitarists are gone and we are treated to a much lighter passage of synth and horn, which only deepens the impact when the guitars drop back in.
The sound ends suddenly. The silence comes as a shock, a jolt. The body grows so accustomed to the volume, the ubiquitous vibration, that its sudden absence leaves a void. There is a collective release throughout the crowd as hundreds of bodies immediately relax, slacking into the vacuum. The smoke clears, the thunderous applause fades away, raised horns are lowered, faces are left glowing and awed. There is a general consensus of speechlessness, an inability to express what we all just went through. A friend manages: “That was church.”
Well, we survived last week’s crazy winter storm… most things around Montreal closed down for the day (a rarity in this land of perpetual winter) but it was business as usual here at CKUT, because we are hardcore like that. We did, however, spend a good chunk of the afternoon sliding down the mountain of snow that had accumulated in the station’s backyard… gotta make the most of those blizzard conditions while they last, right?
:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Local arts publication Cult MTL is having its annual best-of poll, and CKUT has a long history of sitting pretty at the top of the radio category. Wanna show us some love? Vote here, and don’t forget to nominate your fave CKUT programmers while you’re at it.
ckut top 30 – march 21, 2017
1. the painters/carla sagan – supermoon lunar eclipse – egg paper factory CC *
2. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC *
3. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer
4. xiu xiu – forget – polyvinyl
5. mozart’s sister – field of love – arbutus CC * Continue reading
March 13th marked the release of Montreal/Kingston/Toronto band Bo Welland’s self-titled debut. Up to this point, the band has been touring around Ontario and Quebec, playing loud shows for enthusiastic, rowdy audiences. In doing so, they’ve definitely accumulated a loyal fanbase within local student populations. This five song EP is a slacker rock romp that definitely showcases what’s to love about the group.
I think the vibe of Bo Welland is best summed up in a video the band made to accompany the EP’s first single, “Rampage,” cut together from a variety of clips from the band’s January tour. One thing is easy to see: these four dudes are making fun music and having fun doing it. Drummer Alex Spears had similar things to say about the EP: “The vibe is goofy and fun. Something we pride ourselves on is not taking ourselves too seriously.”
The album has some strong similarities to The Fratellis and the Kooks, bands we all listened to many moons ago, with the same dance-worthy high energy post-punk vibes. Two songs specifically, “Honesty in Ecstasy” and “You’ve Got it Goin’ On,” follow in this tradition, right down to the party-boy lyrics. For me, the standout song on the album is “Wind in Greece.” Right off the bat, the guitar lays down a clean riff that solidly anchors the song. Another nice touch on this track is the addition of piano, filling out the lower end of the sound. The composition on “Wind in Greece” is amongst the strongest on the EP, and the driving drum beat that starts off the song kept me bobbing my head ‘til the end.
“Rampage” does a good job of capturing the rip-roaring spirit of the band’s live performances. For a debut release, it definitely stays very true to the band’s sound and lays the foundation for bigger and better things to come. When asked what’s next for the band, Spears says the plan is to release another set of recordings and keep refining their high-energy live show. The fact that band members live in different cities means that it takes longer to work on new material, but given the strength of their debut recordings, it seems like a very feasible plan. For those living in the Toronto/Montreal/Kingston area, these upcoming gigs will be something you won’t want to miss out on.
– Review by Nora Duffy
As the ill-willed spirits of climate change deniers continue to punish us here in Montreal, I can think of nothing better to do than gaze out of a window at the snowy deluge from the comfort of my home, with Fog Lake’s Dragonchaser playing on loop in the background. Aaron Powell, the man behind the music, has been releasing albums of ambient angst for several years now, and has continued to develop his unique sound following a recent move to Montreal from his childhood home in Newfoundland. Dragonchaser is his fourth full-length release, following 2013’s well-received Victoria Park.
Powell utilizes the DIY, low-fi approach to recording that has risen in popularity amongst “indie” bands, but unlike many other artists, Powell is not using this technique as a simple parlor trick. He began experimenting with ambient sampling as a teenager, and this homemade quality remains in his music today, even as he continues to develop his vocal acuity. Unlike previous albums, Dragonchaser features no completely instrumental tracks, but the atmosphere throughout the album remains laden with introspection and quiet solitude. Powell manages to create a lush, reverberating sound that permeates Dragonchaser; there is an echo effect that carries over from track to track, almost on loop. This style of production paints a vivid picture of being submerged underwater or driving past a familiar wood, with the trees blending into a congruous mass.
In all that he does, Powell delights in the intimacy of subtlety. His voice barely rises above a soft yell, and most lyrics are confessional whispers that are at times swallowed by the swelling instrumentals. His use of vocal and instrumental crescendos are rare enough that when they do occur, you are never quite prepared for the emotional wave that threatens to crash over your head. Powell creates an exquisitely delicate push-pull phenomenon between his vocals and the instrumentals; at one point, they are gently swaying to cradle his lyrics, and at another the faded, washed-out sound has disappeared in favor of blunt melodies.
Dragonchaser opens with the slow-burning “Novocaine,” a lovely, drifting track rife with haunting vocal harmonies and shifting, plodding guitars. “Rattlesnake” begins with a poignant, stripped electric guitar and Powell’s soft voice before drums crash onto the scene, accompanied by a change in his timbre. He now sings outright, unhindered by the steady layers of guitar and snare that swirl beneath him. “Breaking over Branches” enters with a muted, slightly out of tune piano backed by an acoustic guitar: music for a sepia-tinted world. When Powell’s voice cuts in, it is similarly muted, his words being swallowed almost as soon as he gets them out. There is a whimsical, nostalgic atmosphere resonating throughout the track, as if the listener were watching a home movie unfold, having been created solely from Powell’s lyrics.
“Strung Back Around” provides a nice contrast, provided by the bright, open strumming of an acoustic guitar. Powell’s voice is unimpeded and open, and the light echo of a piano melody provides a playful foil to the darker message behind the lyrics. “Roswell” is the most straightforward and tightly-produced track on Dragonchaser, and notes a departure from the loose, experimental style Powell usually embodies in his music. It adds a lighter folk energy to the album, with simple lyrics above a wistful but grounded guitar melody. “Spectrogram” signals the close of Dragonchaser, but Powell has cleverly made it into a kind of musical cliff-hanger. The track swirls with a restless, heady energy that leaves the listener on the edge of their seat, yearning for more. Hopefully, Powell is signaling to his listeners that his story is far from finished.
Album released: February 17, 2017
–review by Juliana Van Amsterdam