Author Archives: Nick Schofield

About Nick Schofield

Nick Schofield is a Montreal musician, radio host, and audio producer.


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


Album Review: The Luyas – Human Voicing


Human Voicing, the fourth album from Montreal band The Luyas, showcases the band’s ability to play off of the tension between the moody and the playful, the experimental and the structured. The atmospheric opening song, “Dream Time,” is a perfect start for this album that seems to exist in an otherworldly dimension. The band’s use of keyboards and horns give the album a brooding feel, but this darkness is nicely offset by Jessie Stein’s vocals. Although Stein’s range is somewhat limited, her voice has an ethereal, sing-songy quality that provides the songs with a lighter, dream-like tone.

But while Stein’s vocals may lack variation, the instrumentation rarely does. Most of the music in this album was generated through improvisation, which keeps it feeling spontaneous – the listener never quite knows where the Luyas are going to go next. The drums, meanwhile, keep the songs from losing form. The off-the-cuff feel of the drums on songs like “Dream in Time” and “Never Before” keep the album moving, preventing it from being dragged down by more straightforward songs like “No Domination” and “Beating Bowser.” Human Voicing feels like experienced musicians cutting loose and having a jam session, but the Luyas’ ability to put this improvisational sound into the structure of rock songs allows them to make entertaining songs without compromising their desire to experiment.  

Stein’s lyrics are enchanting, playful, and fractured, evoking freeform poems. The psychedelic imagery she paints makes the songs seem like they exist in some dream setting. However, underneath the psychedelia is a very real feeling of vulnerability. Many of the songs centre around the struggle of life as an artist. Stein sings about the fear of loss of artistic power (in “Beating Bowser” she wonders whether “our best work is still up ahead”) and about real concerns of how to support oneself as an artist (in “Self-Unemployed” she sings, “Trouble in the multiverse, when you don’t make money”). She sums up both of these concerns in “Fed to the Lions” by singing, “And all your dreams, your dream of flying, sucking my thumb, for food and shelter.” These lyrics show the tensions artists experience between creative pursuits and survival. This fear and emotional vulnerability give a focus to Human Voicing, grounding the psychedelic, dreamlike setting of the songs. In Human Voicing, The Luyas have created a multi-purpose album – perfect for dancing or contemplative listening, fun but never mindless.

– review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler


SXSW 2016: Taco the Town

words/pics: Nick Schofield

In the words of Little Scream’s Mike Dubué, SXSW is a glut. From the free-flowing beer, excessive sponsorship, sweaty heat and 3,000 showcasing bands, Austin actually gets super-sized tenfold every March for nine days of music, film and interactive; I think in an attempt to trigger a mainstream eruption of sanctioned sub-cultures. Now in its 29th year, and my second time attending, the lay-of-the-land is pretty established, but the real magic of “south-by” is the random-ass situations that snowball into the eventual exclamation of “Austin is awesome!”

To be clear, for most bands, the whole thing has a somewhat tarnished rep because there’s generally no-pay, rarely anyone gets a soundcheck, the impetus of networking overrides artistry and finding accommodations is pretty tricky. There are many perks, ‘though, including the coveted Jansport back-pack. This is my personal account, one with really fortunate conditions, so there’s gonna be a lotta taco-talk and other stories about food, dogs and beer.

Saxsyndrum (me + Dave + AP) were lucky enough to stay with Eileen, who, upon our arrival tossed us a coupla’ Lonestars, ordered P. Terry burgers and popped $6 champagne. Hello Texas. The next day we picked up our wristbands at the convention centre, had free beer and McDonalds for breakfast (ugh) and headed to the ASCAP cruise on the Colorado river. On the boat, amid more free beer and blue skies, my tongue-ring fell apart, I met the LANDR guys and felt the first tingle of a sun-burn.

Afterwards, we’re chilling by the water and I’m like where’s the green at, and just then a dude asks us for papers. We end up hanging with their crew, Boraj from Chile, and ventured into the convention centre together, stoned, touring the instrument trade-show. Synths, guitar pedals, drum machines and show posters everywhere.. I tested out all the Fairfield and Strymon gear to my hearts content.

Honestly, so much happened Thursday so I’ll sum it up quickly: hung with a big ol’ Montreal crew at Loretta Lynn’s outdoor show (happy to report she’s going strong at 83), got five free Bud Lights™ at Aluna George’s corporate shindig, randomly saw Niger’s star Tuareg guitarist Bombino at Hotel Vegas patio (bypassing a huuuuge line with artist passes) then got totally mind-melted by avant-Kraut legends Faust, which was reminiscent of a bad mushroom trip I had last winter.

Post-show, we were totally exhausted and decided to jump a fence into the nearby cemetery and burn a j at the epicentre. On our way home we stopped for what we all concurred were our best tacos, ever. Super simple hand-made fajita, spiced fatty pork with diced cilantro and onion, that’s it. Mind blown.

Friday, we had an interview with a blog called My Many Moons, saw Pearl Earl, Boraj and Hinds rock the eff out, played our first show in a converted warehouse alongside new/old friends Maïa Vidal and Motel Raphäel (so many umlauts) with Mike Dubué graciously doing sound for us. It was a total breeze even though there was a raging thunderstorm outside. After our set we hustled to catch Ghostface Killa and ended the night back at Hotel Vegas again, this time in awe of Thee Oh Sees double-drumming mayhem. There, we bumped into Toronto friends For Esmé and brought them to the cemetery spot for a late night-cap.

Saturday eve was our more anticipated gig, the M for Montreal + POP Montreal showcase at Barracuda, formerly Red 7 — this is the same venue I saw SUUNS and Besnard Lakes at last time I was at SXSW. We started off the show around 8pm, so got in a solid sound-check beforehand, and right after we finished there was free poutine, with real curds. Since it was all Montreal bands playing, the gig was a total friend-fest with buds Nancy Pants, For Esmé, Look Vibrant, Antoine 93, Sheer Agony, Doomsquad, Motel Raphäel, Milk & Bone and the dynamite Chocolat switching back and forth from the indoor/outdoor stages. I ended up getting pretty sauced and stoned at Barracuda, and sadly missed Deantoni Parks, who was playing a mere 50 feet across the street. For shame.

Sunday was our day of rest that never ended. Dave flew back to Montreal so AP and I missioned to the Panache hangover show at Beerland, missing Nancy Pants but catching punky Boy Toy and NY-psych-jazz trio Yonatan Gat, who played a total of 17 shows in Austin. For lunch, Jeremy from Nancy Pants knew a good Korean spot close by, and damn, it was so nourishing. Then, AP and I got coffees and bread at a really posh pub/café/ping-pong bar called Easy Tiger with a sprawling back deck. From there we took a Lyft (like Über) to Barton Springs and went for a serene walk in the woods along a creek, meeting a little golden lab named Grace who’s got a bright future ahead. I love Grace. Anyway, we linked up with For Esmé at Campbell’s Rock, lounged in the sun with beers and were introduced to two incredibly kind locals who invited us back to their pad at sunset. They led us through a really creepy/beautiful forest into a backyard and we sat around the fire passing scotch, slanging brews, burning j’s… and one room-mate even brought out a succulent rack of ribs. Like wtf, c’mon. We all capped off the night at El Taquito for one last taco session and that was it, my south-by was over. AP and I flew back to Montreal with Jeremy the next day and I think we’re all really happy with our matching Jansport bags. For real, “Austin is awesome.”

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Concert Review: Oh Hi Collective

Oh Hi Winter Concert Hi-lights

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(see what I did there)

On Saturday February 20th, I found myself in a quite literally underground music environment that showcased the wide array of musical talent involved in local music collective Oh Hi.  Montreal heavyweights such as Saxsyndrum and Devon Welsh were paired up with younger musical acts such as Loon and Nanimal in a way that emphasized community and provided for an excellent night of positive vibes and beautiful music. Continue reading

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Echo Beach // Underground Sounds

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It’s a Monday night and it’s been generally grey all day, so let’s simmer into the dark night with some Montreal-based ambient, down-tempo and super chill tracks. Tune in live 8-10pm or listen to the archive. Our guest tonight is Echo Beach, aka Julie Matson, and your host (me) Nick Schofield will be chatting with her about the new album Fortune and airing a live performance right at 9pm. If you like what you hear, check out the Underground Sounds blog.

Album review: Autumn’s Mutt

Michael Chung is a Brossard-based multi-instrumentalist with a knack for crafting unconventional pop. His new EP, We Are Constellations, boasts diverse instrumentation, heartfelt lyrics, and carefully thought-out melodies, and proves to be an enjoyable and easy listen from front to back.

Chung is direct in his songwriting, especially lyrically – many of his songs seek to inspire and uplift, and are full of motivational statements. None are ironic, though – combined with Chung’s eager vocal deliveries, they come across as genuine and are often moving. Occasionally, these deliveries lose their rhythm, making for some awkward phrasing (as on “Emocentrica”), but on dreamier tracks like “Platitude Magnitude,” such phrasing isn’t noticeable. In the end, it’s just an eccentricity – it distinguishes Chung from the pack of quantization-obsessed electro-poppers out there now, without bringing down the overall quality of the work.

I look forward to hearing where Chung goes on his next project. This one is currently available on a pay-what-you-want basis on his Bandcamp: go give it a listen!

by Emmett McCleary

Howl! hosts The Montreal Sessions (#4)

Tune in to CKUT FM today for The Montreal Sessions, featuring an interview with Loosestrife on Saturn Returns label, launching their new album Getting Better Getting Worse on Sunday at the Howl! festival.

Later in the show, listen for a live in studio performance by Ari Swan, who is playing at the Missing Justice benefit on Friday night at La Sala Rossa, tune-in at 90.3fm !

Howl! festival is now its second year, and all week artistic/activist events are happening at venues around the city, including La Passe, Cagabi, Casa del Popolo and more. Check out the full festival listings online and tune in to the Howl! Montreal Sessions every Wednesday 3-5pm.

Concert Review: Hand Cream, Family Video, Joint Custody @ Brasserie Beaubien

AH! Un festival inattendu is a mini-festival that took place this spring, from April 2 to April 12. The festival, which is the brainchild of James Goddard, ran on a pay-what-you-can basis and  included artists of all types from across Canada, the US, and even acts hailing from as far away as China.

The Joint Custody/Family Video/Hand Cream show was hosted at Brasserie Beaubien, a casual, dimly lit bar with a mishmash of activities, including slot machines in the back, a pool table, and a piano partially covered by a sheet. With the doors opening at 9:30 pm, and the music actually starting around 10:45, the crowd slowly trickled in, but the bar was pretty packed by the end.

The first band to perform was Joint Custody, a local Montreal group made up of three stylish women. After a quick introduction they launched into their first song, establishing their brooding and dreamy sound from the outset. Their instrumentals were strong and anchored by heavy, attention-grabbing bass riffs while forceful, up-tempo drums provided a striking juxtaposition to the softer vocals. While the guitar player sang the first song, the bass player took over for the rest of the set with her soft, wistful voice. Although their set was pretty one-note, each song flowed nicely into the next one.

Taking the stage after Joint Custody was a group called Family Video that hails from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Comprised of Jam King (who also writes the bands songs and lyrics) on guitar and vocals, Jake Nicoll on drums, and Noah Bender on bass, the group had an eclectic sound rooted in pop and alt-rock. You could tell that growing up in St. John’s heavily influenced their music, with many of the lyrics revolving around themes of loneliness, growing up in the middle of nowhere, and the boredom of small-town life. The group was comfortable with each other on stage and interacted with the crowd throughout their set. Between songs, Nicoll bantered with the crowd, discussing their tour schedule and the fact that the previous night they had possibly slept in a haunted basement and were all running on low sleep. Regardless of their states of rest, Family Video gave a great performance and the members are all seriously talented musicians. The instrumentals were incredible, each adding different layers to the sound, and Jam’s voice was buoyed by the instrumentals. Nicoll’s intensity also stood out—he didn’t stop wailing on the kit for one second of the set.

Soon after Family Video finished up, Hand Cream popped on stage. Hand Cream is another local Montreal band, comprised of Meghan Merrigan on vocals and guitar, Markus Lake on bass, Jef Barbara on keys and vox, Greg Napier on the drums, and Christian Simmons on everything else. The group had an easy-going, fun vibe about them. Meghan interacted a lot with the crowd, telling jokes and even calling for a round of drinks to celebrate Markus’s birthday. Hand Cream has a super interesting sound, self-described as ‘psychedelic post-punk’. Meghan’s voice was powerful, a bit raspy and cracking at the end of some words, adding a really unique texture to their sound. The crowd, which had been relatively mellow all night, began to get into the set, bobbing along to the beat. The guitar sounded similar to Mac Demarco’s with a beachy sound; while the cords were dreamy, they definitely had a distinct punk edge to them. Meghan’s voice and impressive guitar playing also added a bit of punk to the mix, with the drums banging out a strong beat and the keyboard adding a retro vibe to the sound. The mixture of genres and sounds helped elevate each band member, and allowed the listener to interpret the sound in their own way.

AH! did a great job putting together a show with all different types of music that would appeal to a wide range of listeners. Although some acts were less experienced than others, all the groups were clearly passionate about their music and seemed to be having a great time both on stage and off of it, as they all stuck around to hang out in the crowd and watch the other performances. The relaxed environment kept the interactions easy, and I hope that AH! continues in the following years.

Review by Natalie Abemayor

Howl! Arts Collective hosts The Montreal Sessions (#1)

We are very excited to welcome the Howl! Arts Collective into our studios to curate the April edition of The Montreal Sessions. Howl! is a Montreal-based collective of cultural workers, artists and activists working for social justice via artistic expression.

In addition to their ever-growing, prolific recorded catalog and an ongoing flurry of rad events, they’re pooling their efforts this month to host a Howl! concert series, rooted in Montreal’s fiercely creative independent arts community. From music to dance, spoken-word poetry to film, Howl! features a diversity of local, national, and international artists. Howl! aims to challenge corporate-directed musical modes by celebrating grassroots artists actively building bridges between the arts and activism for social justice. Hear them take over the CKUT airwaves every Tuesday in April from 3-5pm EST: stream it live here, and catch past episodes here.

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Doldrums // Underground Sounds

underground sounds logoBe excited, even ecstatic, ’cause tonight on the show is the much acclaimed local whizz kid Airick Woodhead, aka Doldrums. Your host Nick Schofield will be chatting at 9pm sharp about his album The Airconditioned Nightmare, launching tomorrow on Sub Pop.

Tune in every Monday 8-10pm for two hours of Canadian independent music, with a local focus on Montreal. And, check out past interviews, archives and in-studio sessions on thee blog.