A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the first in a series of String Area Concerts being put on by McGill. These one hour free concerts showcase talented McGill students playing music from a variety of eras. For example the concert I attended had a Baroque theme, in which all the musicians played movements from various Bach concertos. This concert series is a great way to learn about more tradition forms of music, while supporting student musicians. There are three more concerts scheduled this month (October 16, 23, 30) taking place at the Schulich School of Music at 6:00 pm. For more information about all upcoming McGill concerts please visit http://www.mcgill.ca/music/channels_item/4 .
When Sonic Youth broke up in 2011 I was kind of bummed out that I would never get a chance to see them perform a proper show. I did catch them play a very short set at the Capitol Hill Block Party in 2009, but I also had to contend with a crowd that was speed drinking all afternoon. Thankfully the members of Sonic Youth are still writing new music – either alone, or with new bands. Earlier this month Thurston Moore’s new group Chelsea Light Moving played at the Sala Rossa to a crowd that was buzzing with excitement. In fact, one man was so excited that he couldn’t hold back his yelps – which sounded like a siren mixed with a dog howl – as he stood waiting for the band to start.
The show kicked off with “Frank O’Hara Hit,” and was followed by most of the songs on the band’s new self-titled album which came out earlier this year. The songs were all perfectly played, and didn’t stray too much from the album.
To my surprise Thurston Moore’s between-song banter is what made the show so entertaining. From his polite request for the man to stop making that terrible yelping sound, to the badass nicknames he thought up for his band members, to a story about how he is addicted to fancy chocolates, the audience was always left giggling.
At one point they did experience some technical difficulties, but with all the intentional distortion, no one would have been able to tell had they not invited the sound guy on stage.
As a nice nod to the punk rock band Pussy Riot, and the struggles they’ve experience the last couple of years, Thurston Moore dedicated their most trashy, Sonic Youth sounding song “Burroughs” to the band. With the re-occurring lyric, “too fucking bad,” the song perfectly spoke to the what Pussy Riot represents.
The audience also got a very early taste of songs from the band’s new album, which will apparently be released sometime in 2014. Thurston jokingly described their new music as thunk, a joke which continued throughout the performance when he said the new album might be called Thunk Rock, and that we should all just call him Thunk. One new song they performed called “The Ecstasy” borrows lyrics from John Donne’s poem of the same name – which seemed like a perfect nod to Thurston Moore’s second job as a teacher of poetry at Naropa University. The new songs they performed sound a bit more punk rock than the material on their self-titled album. The shift in sound is exciting, and dare I say, reminiscent of Sonic Youth.
I may not have come to terms with the fact that Sonic Youth has disbanded, but thankfully Thurston Moore has found a new band to fill the void. Chelsea Light Moving is proof that noise rock is still alive, and like a fine wine, some musicians just get better with age.
By Stephanie Cram
Earlier this month I reviewed Crosses and Planks the debut album from the duo Koko Blue (click here to read the review). After listening (and really digging) the record and I was fortunate enough to connect with Koko Bonaparte and get more details about everything Koko Blue.
WHO IS KOKO BLUE?
We are two rock and rollers from downtown Guelph: Koko Bonaparte, that’s me (also of Interstllr), and Evan Gordon (Islands, The Magic). Evan and I grew up going to–and skipping out of–the same schools. We also went to the same rock shows in people’s houses in the Ward and in church gymnasiums. We both play electric guitars in this band, and I sing.
HOW DID THIS PROJECT FORM?
I’d been writing songs to sing in my kitchen and living room. I wasn’t thinking of recording or performing these ones in particular—they were for family and friends. Then, there was a time Evan was often in my kitchen. We were hanging out a lot in Guelph, both of us returned from far flung adventures. That’s about when I realized these were my favorite songs. I whispered the idea of making an old school Guelph record to Ev, and he agreed it was the right thing.
WAS THE MINIMALIST PRODUCTION STYLE OF CROSSES AND PLANKSA CONSCIOUS CHOICE?
The production was all a choice, yes. We set simple form rules and followed them strictly. The songs are one-takes—full through with no chops or punches. The idea was to record them the same way we made songs when we were thirteen. I was, when we did this, a bit tired of fancy studios. When we were kids, we used 4-tracks and it was so damn exciting, and sweet and soulful. Now that we were both better writers and musicians, we wanted to return to that simplicity. And it felt great.
WHAT INSPRIED CROSSES AND PLANKS?
As I mentioned, these songs were written for kitchen parties and fireside nights. They are songs about people and places I love. The inspiration for each song was always something I was trying to parse out, a strong feeling I couldn’t put to rest, but had to sing down.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVE TRACKS (FAVE TO SING LIVE, FAVE TO RECORD, FAVE TO LISTEN BACK TO)?
Both Ev and I love playing Judas Had and Mouchette. They are probably the two most intense songs, lyrically, but also in terms of guitars pushing hard, but also quietly. These songs possess us every time. Playing them is kind of like cliff jumping. You wonder what the hell you are doing because it seems a little extreme. We often talk for a sec before we start and say something like, “Are you ready? You ok for this?”
WERE THERE SOME SONGS THAT WERE HARDER TO WRITE THAN OTHERS?
Writing for me is a way to understand something I don’t really get. I’m not putting down things I already know. I never find this process hard, just strange, unexpected. Time and effort don’t really come into it. I stop paying attention to time and to myself, so I don’t perceive myself as at work, or exerting various kinds of effort. It’s just writing: its own thing. I’m not sure if that will make sense to anyone, but it’s my experience.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THIS PROJECT GOING IN THE FUTURE ?
This Autumn, Evan is touring with Islands, so we are not playing out. I’m writing new songs. I think Koko Blue will keep putting out new songs and videos, maybe forever. These are the songs that I write as part of my everyday life, so that will keep going for a bit, I hope.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UP COMING SHOWS/PROJECTS THAT YOU WANT TO TELL US ABOUT?
We are making videos for every song on Crosses and Planks. We’re doing it according to our homerock principles, so all shots are taken on iPhones. You can see the videos here: http://vimeo.com/album/2196647
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?
My interesting neighbor brought by a stack of records the other day. A dear friend from Montreal recently sent some records too. As a result of these kind events, I have been listening to Count Basie, Crowded House, Crash Vegas, Romanian wedding anthems, and lots of other random stuff that feels good.
Crosses and Planks is the debut release of Koko Blue, a collaboration project of Koko Bonaparte (interstllr) and Evan Gordon (The Magic, Islands). This 13 track record offers a stirring melange of emotionally heavy vocals and piercing guitar rifts. Singer Koko Bonaparte’s vocals are laced with a melancholy, which intensifies the already vulnerable lyrics.
Koko Blue manages to create a full sound that fills the entire listening space with a sense of loss and rediscovery, perhaps reflecting Bonaparte’s emotional states during her own journey of loss and rediscovery. Bonaparte has had her shares of ups and downs, after attending Harvard University on a hockey scholarship, she receive her 10th concussion which took her out of the game professionally. Her recovery brought her back to her home town of Guelph, where she and Evan Gordon would write the songs that eventually turned into Crosses and Planks.
The most refreshing part of the album has to be the minimalist production. To capture the heart of each song, Koko and Evan recorded everything straight through. The simplicity of the vocals and guitar allows the listener to understand the message Koko Blue is trying to convey. This simple style also acts a s a homage to Will Oldham and Lou Reed the duo’s musical muses.
Check out more from Koko Bonaparte at http://www.kokobluemusic.com, where you can also find 13 videos to accompany each one of the tracks on Crosses and Planks.
Vieux Farka Toure, noted Malian singer and guitarist has recently released his 6 album, entitled Mon Pays. This album acts as a love letter to Toure’s homeland, reminding the world of the beauty and culture Mali possesses. Relying predominantly on Toure’s expert acoustic guitar skills, there is a calm and serene quality of the album, which exemplifies the comforting feelings a homeland exhibits. The emotional changes found throughout the album reflect the tragedy and beauty of Mali. The ending track Ay Baboy expresses the suffering of the nations while offering a wish and hope for a brighter more deserving future.
Tracks like Safare, Yer Gando and Doni Doni show a seamless integration of traditional African guitar and slick blues licks. While the vocals remain heavily steeped in traditional Mailian music, the album manages to remain current. Overall this record is a cohesive piece, showcasing Toure’s national pride and highlighting his expert guitar skills.
For more information about Vieux Farka Toure, check out http://www.vieuxfarkatoure.com.
Montréal artist Matt May oscillates between the poles of noise and understated folk under his solo moniker Countrywide. After quietly gathering material for the past four years, Countrywide released a long-awaited double album on July 23 and we’re very excited to welcome him into the studio during the Monday Morning After to talk about his work and play some songs from the record(s). It has been claimed within the walls of this very music office that Countrywide writes some of “the most crushing folk music in Montréal,” and this is a rare chance to hear him live on the radio working his magic. Catch it at 7:30am on Monday, streaming live at www.ckut.ca or on the dial at 90.3 FM.
The performance and interview are streaming below:
Founded in 2007, l’Ensemble Sefarade et Mediterraneen (ESME) values tradition and creation. This is exemplified on their newly released album Sephardic and Mediterranean Together, where they mix jazz, classical and old world music to create a unique record that honours tradition, while experimenting with new sounds.
Drawing from various influences, this album focuses on the journey of the Sephardic Jews to the Middle East. The songs work seamlessly together to evoke the painful journey into exile. The percussion and bass provide a solid backbone to the trance like vocals and melodic lines of the oud, violin, clarinet and flute. Overall the paced and woeful tone can be heard from beginning to end, taking the listener through the trials and tribulations of the journey. Eerie tracks like La Serena and Nani Nani raise feelings of uncertainty and loneliness while more up beat tracks like Morenica elite temporary moments of triumph and joy. Sephardic and Mediterranean Together proves to be a musically and emotionally dynamic album that takes listeners into an unknown world.
Check them out on facebook!