Author Archives: CKUT Music Coordinator

Concert Review: Dengue Fever & Tinariwen


A pair just as unlikely as they were fantastic graced the stage at Place des Arts on April 13. Cambodian-psychedelic rock group Dengue Fever opened for the Saharan blues collective Tinariwen, creating an atmosphere that accomplished the feat of cultural synthesis beautifully.

Wandering into the venue a little late recalled memories of my dad stumbling upon Dengue Fever through Pandora, before free music streaming was sullied by all of the commercials. The khmer verses paired with warm guitar riffs that were both novel and reminiscent of Cambodian rock history. The Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is a far cry from my cramped living room, and it was jarring to join hundreds of seated people as they nodded along to the chorus of “Shave Your Beard.”

After sixteen years together, the groundbreaking band has amassed a dedicated and well-deserved following. Lead singer Chhom Nimol, along with her American bandmates, has heralded a resurgence of khmer pop music. Their own remarkable albums aside, the band has released compilations of music lost or destroyed during the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s. Dengue Fever Presents: Electric Cambodia and Sleepwalking Through the Mekong have helped to bring visibility to the artistic ramifications of the Khmer Revolution while also honoring the vital role that Cambodian musicians played in the development of the rock genre half a century ago. The band’s monumental outro came through “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula,” which offered a glimpse into the surf-rock allure of their latest album, Escape from Dragon House.


After a brief intermission, guests began to rise from seats both isolating and plush. Ululations rang out from every section of a crowd that had seemed so docile minutes before. We snuck toward the stage to get a good look at the six-piece comprised of Tinariwen’s third generation. The Tuareg musicians sang together, clad in cheches and thick veils of exquisite cloth. One member danced throughout the performance, becoming a crowd favorite as he retired a crimson electric guitar to lead a wake of flowing garments across the stage. In a strange progression of events, the entire room began to howl and lurch toward the front row during “Tamiditin Tan Ufrawan,” throwing all former reticence to the wayside.

Tinariwen came to share Elwan, a new album that reflects a range of deeply emotional responses to political turmoil and displacement, with a room full of Montreal residents beginning to thaw their bones after a long winter. In the process, they engaged individuals in a two-hour celebration of music from a Saharan region that felt close for only one night. Recorded in Joshua Tree, California, due to the political volatility that has afflicted their people for decades, the album bares the harsh realities of the group’s rebellion to listeners.

That evening, we all danced together – we all lay in wait for the rotating panel of singers and percussionists to build off of the stories that came before. As the show ended with “Chaghaybou,” we knew how lucky were to be invited to participate in a moment so fun and profound.

– Review by Maddie Jennings



Hi folks,
I’m a bit under the weather this week and on some heavy-duty cold meds right now, so I’m gonna keep this short for today. Charts are below!

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::    
During the month of May, CKUT turns the Montreal Sessions over to the good folks at Distorsion Psych Fest. The collective will venture in all things psychedelic and subversive, bringing along a selection of guests from our vibrant local psych scene. Catch it live or download the full audio archives via every Tuesday from 3-5pm.

ckut top 30 – may 2, 2017

1. jessica moss – pools of light – constellation CC *
2. fiver – audible songs from rockwood – idée fixe CC
3. joni void – selfless – constellation CC *
4. milk music – mystic 100 – dom america
5. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer Continue reading

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


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.



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?

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!

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


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


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.



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.

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!

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


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.



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!

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!

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



Greetings friends,
Last week I was lucky enough to catch a sold-out Leonard Cohen tribute where a whole crew of Montreal artists played renditions of their fave Cohen tracks. It was a pretty special experience, perhaps even more so given that the whole night was a fundraiser to buy a piano for local youth centre Dans La Rue. Many of our programmers, including Li’l Andy (above) and Katie Moore, participated in the event; what a great reminder of the talent we are lucky to have in the city – not to mention right here at CKUT.

During the month April Jean Cousin, aka Joni Void, will be hosting The Montréal Sessions on CKUT every Tuesday from 3-5pm, leading up to the release of his forthcoming album Selfless on Constellation Records. For this special residency, Jean is presenting a series entitled Scapes: a “series of conceptual musical selection experiences.” We’ve been promised immersive mixes that aim to transcend genres and traditional radioplay, instead sounding more like a lucid dream broadcast. Intrigued? You should be.

ckut top 30 – april 4, 2017

1. tonstartssbandht – sorcerer – mexican summer
2. saltland – a common truth – constellation CC *
3. high plains – cinderland – kranky CC
4. philippe lauzier – a pond in my living room – sofa CC *
5. arto lindsay – cuidado madame – northern spy Continue reading