Category Archives: Reviews

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Concert Review: Mal Devisa, Skin Tone, Joni Void @ Casa del Popolo

I went to Casa del Popolo this past week to catch the stacked bill consisting of Mal Devisa along with locals Skin Tone and Joni Void. People were a bit in short supply, it being a Sunday night, but high quality art was not!

Skin Tone’s set explored the outer limits of the saxophone on a bed of drone, and did not lose any steam for its duration. It started with a couple frozen notes, then dissonant wrinkles emerged and grew eerier as Skin Tone began to stomp onstage – a march away from his more melodic material. His horn was already saying a lot, but Skin Tone made the message of his set explicit: Do not be complacent in the continuous displacement of indigenous peoples and killing of black people. At this point, Skin Tone ceased marching and began free-form squealing his portrait of racism, capturing fear and sadness in a pure form. It is worth noting that this squealing is beyond where other sax heroes like Pharoah Sanders go. If you want to hear the place between overtones where a person’s soul lies, then see Skin Tone and watch him crack it wide open.

This set was one Joni Void had been looking forward to since supporting Mal Devisa years ago at a Brooklyn show, and being consequently inspired to continue developing his style. Playing at Casa del Popolo, as opposed to Art Lounge (where I previously saw him), allowed him to dial up the low end of his tracks. This gave the thick, patient thump of Joni Void’s kick drum a greater physical presence, making better friends with the freckled, high-end glass sounds. The opening and closing tracks of his set were particularly special, being composed not of found sounds, but of photos: the opener, a picture of himself, the closer, one of his father.

This was Mal Devisa’s first time playing in Montréal. She played a string of songs, and it feels more appropriate to talk about her style in general rather than the individual tracks. Together, her voice and bass put other forms of expression to shame. As a songwriter, each of her songs are a world of their own in a nutshell. She does not waste a single word in drawing emotional arcs complete and cathartic. The songs compel you to cry at the way things are, then instill a warm confidence in knowing things are that way. When she sings, it’s as though you are with her instead of with the audience, demonstrating a rare ability to command any space she decides to play in. It is exciting to watch where she will go from here, as she is already a master. Overall, I am super happy to have been able to catch three inspiring artists in one go – all are highly recommended!

– Review by Rian Adamian

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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

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Album Review: Let the World be Flooded Out – La Louma

I ingest albums very slowly. I find one or two songs I like from an album and listen to them on repeat for a week or so. Other songs from the album will slowly make their way into my repertoire, and if the album is good, I’m eventually listening to it in order on repeat. This is what happened to me with La Louma’s debut album Let the World be Flooded Out.

The opening track (and first single from the album) “The Decline of Nations” immediately intrigued me with its polished punk swagger. Then, I listened to “Just Wanna Love You” (the second single released). “Just Wanna Love You” features middle eastern influences, and is unlike any song I’ve heard recently. La Louma’s lyrics tell a story about the deep emotional unrest of being in a relationship that is no longer working, and her voice moves from clear vocals in the chorus to gritty vocal styling in the verses, with desperate pleas asking what she did wrong. I was utterly enthralled.

Next up for my ears to obsess over was “If We Don’t Now We Never Will.” This song is slower than the last two songs, but the mournful lyrics and vocal styling enchanted many of my fall walks. While slower in tempo, the song still posses the layers of instruments present throughout the whole album. This song really highlights La Louma’s ability to knit instruments together. Her layers of melodies and counter melodies are united in one large blanket of sound. The songs sound full, but never chaotic.

Perhaps this unity has to do with the fact that La Louma performed, record, produced, and mixed every song in her garage. The album was recorded over the course of three years, and during these three years, Lauren Ross (the talent behind La Louma) recorded 200 songs. She then distilled them into the ten song Let the World be Flooded Out. Growing up, Ross was a classical woodwind player, but the album displays Ross’ ability to play piccolo, flute, bassoon, french horn, electric guitar, electric bass, v-drums, and tambourine. And sing. Really, really well. “Brother True,” “Candy” and “Aaj Mausam Bada Beimann Har” showcase her woodwind classical training, and the combination of classical training and the unique recording process really make this album stand out.

Bear with me for the following digression. Ready? Ok. My younger sister loves Harry Styles. She was in middle school during the peak of the One Direction era, and during this time, the whole area around her bed was covered in One Direction posters (much to my displeasure). Needless to say, she was so excited when Harry Styles released his self-titled debut album this year. When it came out, I was in the depths of my disillusionment with academia, and I channelled this into a new-found appreciation for pop music as an anti-elitist statement. For the first time, I actually listened as my sister obsessed about Harry Styles. I listened to his album, and I really wanted to like it, as some kind of statement, or to support this male pop star who defends his female fans from the sexist eye-rolls music snobs might give them. But… I couldn’t get into it. I appreciated the 60s and 70s rock sensibility displayed, but there was something missing. After some thought, I narrowed it down to Styles’ voice. His voice is “perfect,” polished to pop perfection. A polished voice may be the cause of his fame, but it’s also his artistic weakness. Listening to the album, I kept waiting for a true, unbridled release of emotion to come from Styles’ mouth. Instead, all I got was the voice of a pop star too afraid to make mistakes.

A crack in the voice, the scream of a singer who’s letting their emotions govern their voice when emotions become too powerful to be contained, it’s cathartic and powerful. In my opinion, it’s a signifier of a great work of music. When I was listening to Let the World Be Flooded Out I was reminded of this. Lauren Ross has a beautiful, clear voice that shines in her songs. It’s a voice that would fit into the pop charts, but unlike Harry Styles, Ross can let her emotionality shine through in her voice. She can scream or show grit. Her voice cracks and breaks with emotion when needed. When La Louma creates a work it feels powerful and personal.

While at first Lauren Ross’ punk sensibility may be obscured by her classical training, it is there, evidenced by her vocals, her recording process, and her politics. Let the World Be Flooded Out is the first album released by Bitchwave, the feminist/queer collective and label Ross co-runs in Los Angeles. Bitchwave allows Ross to live her politics outside of her songs. The album is personal, but many of the songs are also very political. “I am Here I Am” was inspired by a first-hand account that Ross read about several female refugees. Ross said that “the chorus is a repeating declaration that ‘I am here’, and while it’s meant to be their [the refugee’s] statement, it’s crucial for me to hear myself sing those words over and over, too.” “Decline of Nations” (inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis) also serves as a political anthem and implores the listener to “Promise me you’ll stay until you try to make things right.” Bitchwave is still in it’s early stages, but hopefully we’ll soon have more amazing music from them.

In Let the World Be Flooded Out, Ross masterfully mixes opposing forces to create a truly unique album. La Louma makes complex pop music sound effortless, and combines her classical training, her DIY punk ethos, and pop sensibilities to create an album confident in its clashes.

-review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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Album Review: Aromanticism – Moses Sumney

Aromanticism is an album steeped in wonder, exploration, and beauty. After touring as Karen Oh’s guitar player, Ghana raised and Los Angeles based Moses Sumney introduces his own voice and vision. His affinity for poetry is clear: the singer’s first album showcases complex lyrics tackling difficult themes. It is a deeply personal and engaging exploration of not reciprocating love, navigating the world while questioning the value of romantic love, and the value of oneself.

In a world consumed by romance, the expectation that we strive to find a partner weighs on every member of society. Sumney explores the complexities of solitude in a unique way as he initiates a dialogue for people to question their own desires, and reject expectations forced on them. As Sumney put in an interview with Stereogum: “I just want people to know it’s OK to be alone. I’m not saying it’s easy or it’s too difficult, because it can be both. I’m saying it’s an option. It’s not a choice that has to last forever either. I just want people to explore being alone if they feel it suits them. There is more to life than who you’re with.”

“Man on the Moon (Reprise)” starts the album off with a choral arrangement that melts into the next track, “Don’t Bother Calling.” The song, as Sumney puts it, is “a preemptive fuck you.” It does not have the same dramatic quality as, say, “Plastic,” or “Lonely World,” which truly grab the listener and force them to introspect, but it does introduce many of the artistic elements present in the album; namely, the focus on Sumney’s voice which seamlessly transitions from low soulful vocals to reaching falsettos, and his experimentation with a wide range of instruments.

“Quarrel,” my favourite track on the album, is a complex, long song with many distinct parts. It is the apotheosis of a turmoil that has been building up from the start of the album, and sees the introduction of darker elements. A deep bass maintains the spine of the track, leaving room for vocals to have a playful relationship with the harp, and drawing attention to the intricate lyrics:

“Quoting this a quarrel

So immorally implies

We’re equal opponents

And we both antagonize”

The tension breaks suddenly to shift to a jazz-influenced bridge, replacing the harp with a synthesizer and keeping the same vocalizations so prominent in the track. The song ends with piano that fades and introduces the first spoken word track of the album, “Stoicism.”

“Lonely World” embodies the purpose of this record– an unapologetic exploration of what it means to be alone in a modern world.

“Lonely, lonely, lonely face under a veil

After all the laughter, emptiness prevails

Born into this world with no consent or choice

Lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely”

Sumney’s falsetto adds to the energy built up in this track, which breaks away abruptly to end off with a whisper.

The album slows down once again for its ninth track, “Doomed,” the lyrics of which beg to be reflected upon: “If lovelessness is godlessness, will you cast me to the wayside?” Sumney asks. “Doomed” is mirrored by “Indulge Me,” the most exposed track on the album and Sumney’s personal favourite. It’s a stripped down number with just a bit of synth, acoustic guitar, and vocals that range from small whispers to falsettos. The vocals are overlain so that it seems like Sumney is duetting with himself. “Indulge me,” Sumney asks of the listener.

Aromanticism is one of my favourite albums of the year, and for good reason. It analyzes uncharted themes and does so in a way that each track is raw, honest, and extremely different from the others. Moses Sumney provokes listeners to grapple with and understand the conflicting dynamics of solitude: both a relief and a challenge.

-review by Ash Rao

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Album Review: ken – Destroyer

Alright folks, it’s that time again for your favorite eclectic, Destroyer, to release a new album! And boy, does he release a new album. Dan Bejar, a veteran whose presence on the music scene has brought us some of the best New Pornographer tracks and eleven previous Destroyer LPs, has recently bestowed ken onto our plebeian ears. As is his style, ken diverges from the previous Poison Season, harkening back to the Kaputt (2011) era instead.

This latest Destroyer album delivers a more accessible dosage of Bejar’s signature esotericism, replete with 80’s retro-pop references and less lyrics to wade through than usual. Still, Bejar’s nuanced and complex production style is present in all its glory, and while ken may be more aurally accessible, it definitely takes some attentive listening for those who wish (and, really, who doesn’t?) to finally understand the enigma.

Bejar has mentioned in interviews that for this album, as with most of his albums, there is no external agenda he hopes to accomplish; the man is creating music simply because it pleases him. While there are hints of an anti-conformist attitude peppering his prose, it may just well be Bejar fulfilling his duty as a well-known shirker of music societal norms. Take, for example, his frequent, almost habitual use of repetitive lyrical phrases, which normally could be written off as a lazy tic or a blundering attempt to shove a song’s meaning down the listener’s throat.

Instead, Bejar takes seemingly banal lines (“I’ve been working on the new Oliver Twist”) and, through repetition, gives them a haunting sense of profoundness that lasts long after the final notes have faded. His instrumentals serve as a vehicle for his lyrics, creating a musical tapestry that pulsates and breathes, as if Bejar has birthed a fully sentient musical thing from a combination of synth and drums.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the album is best served as a whole: I have to recommend listening from beginning to end in one fell swoop, and then maybe several times more. There is a joy of discovery to be had in taking your time with Destroyer’s works, and ken proves to be no different. Of course, some tracks can be lauded individually for their particular prowess. Take the opener, “Sky’s Grey:” it’s an easily-digestible opener, and a good reintroduction for those who may have taken a break from Destroyer. The instrumentals echo the title perfectly, capturing a grey sheet of clouds that cast a somber, brooding pall over the day. Bejar’s vocals here are, as with all of the tracks on ken, the focus. 

“Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” is the first throwback to the 80’s, with a sharp drumline and, bless, tambourine to provide a snappy syncopation. The saxophone shines here, which is nice, because it is regrettably absent on most of the other tracks. Light synth melodies prepare a pleasant contrast from the darkly self-referential lyrics. “Saw You At the Hospital” is a ballad if I’ve ever heard one, wistful and brooding, with piano and poetic lyrics providing a natural ebb and flow. “A Light Travels Down the Catwalk” features more synth, this time dissonant and powerful to start; Bejar is using something other than his words to grab the listener’s attention. The instrumentals on this track seem to shadow Bejar as he sings, creating a sense of intense urgency that keeps you on your proverbial toes.

“La Regle de Jeu” is the final track on ken, and puts forth more questions than answers. Firstly, it’s pretty much a dance track, which seems out of character for Destroyer’s usual M.O. But who am I kidding, it’s Dan Bejar! The track ends in a fury of swirling instrumentals before fading out, leaving this reviewer wondering what Destroyer’s next move will be. In the meantime, I think I’ll take another listen…

Album released: October 20, 2017

-review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Concert Review: Alvvays @ Club Soda

If you weren’t dancing and singing along at the Alvvays concert on Friday, you were missing the entire point.

The concert was a joyous event. The Toronto indie pop band played almost all of their songs from their latest album, Antisocialites, and some fan favourites from their first album. Fan favourites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Not My Baby” caused loud singing from the audience, with the audience practically screaming lyrics back at the band. While most songs provided an opportunity to dance, the dancing reached its ecstatic peak during “My Type.”

The most powerful moment of crowd participation came during “Forget About Life.” I’m going to be honest: “Forget About Life” (the last song on Antisocialites) was not a song that stood out to me when listening at home. On Friday night at Club Soda, I got it. When Molly Rankin stood underneath the blue stage lights and sung “Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?” the whole crowd answered her back. This was the rallying call for everyone at the concert. During the chorus, the crowd almost over-powered Rankin’s voice as they sung back:

Did you want to forget about life?

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

Underneath this flickering light,

Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?

I have now been playing that song nonstop and can still feel the sense of oneness and camaraderie I felt in that crowd on Friday.

I have always enjoyed Alvvays music, but this concert made me fall in love with them. Their lyrics are easy to sing along to, all while expressing deep, emotional truths. Their melodies are catchy and easy to dance to. Their songs invite (and command) participation.

– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler

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Album Review: Sharon Jones – Soul of a Woman

Whenever I talk to relatives or family friends about music, I’m often besieged with the common complaint of how “they just don’t make music like they used to.” It’s true that many new genres and subgenres of music have developed over the past several decades, but if people are complaining about the lack of “old-school” music in the modern day, then it’s clear they have not heard about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

Grammy nominee and subject of acclaimed documentary Miss Sharon Jones!, Sharon Jones had an awe-inspiring career as a soul singer before her tragic death almost exactly one year ago, on November 18th, 2016. Jones and the Dap-Kings released seven studio albums over the course of 17 years, each one encapsulating the raw, Aretha-like authenticity that Jones made a standard in her work. The release of the group’s newest album Soul of a Woman almost exactly one year after Jones’s death is a sad yet significant reminder of the inspirational power possessed by this incredible woman.

Soul of a Woman relates directly back to the title as a reflection of album’s thematic context. The tracks vary in subject matter, ranging from elements of love and break-ups to the importance of hard work and in some cases even religion, yet they demonstrate the day-to-day experience of a modern woman. Every lyric of this album is relatable to a level that is almost uncanny. While listening through this album for the first time, I often found myself believing Jones was singing directly to me about own experiences — something I can honestly say I’ve never experienced before.

The album begins with the strong opening of “Matter of Time,” a song rich with gospel-influenced call-and-response elements. The simple harmonies add invigorating, but not overpowering, dimension to Jones’s dominant voice. The track is upbeat and light-hearted and sets the listener up for what seems to be a fun, bluesy journey. Interestingly though, this is not the case; while many of the earlier songs on the album are upbeat, the tempo goes through a notable downwards trend as the album progresses, with songs becoming more impactful in terms of orchestration, shifting genres from blues to soul to gospel, and finally coming to rest with its inspiring terminus “Call on God” and its optimistic chorus “Call on God/and He’ll carry you through.” It carries the message of Soul of a Woman in a soft yet powerful manner and is the perfect closing to an album about love and loss.

The climax of this album, in my opinion, comes with the second to last track “Girl (You’ve Got To Forgive Him).” Jones takes on the role of an instructive friend: her vocals, laden with intense emotion, are laid over heightened orchestral sound, which will leave this song echoing in the listener’s mind for the rest of the album’s duration.

If you’re looking for an empowering album that perfectly captures the spirit of ’60s and ’70s soul, then this album is a must. Soul of a Woman not only succeeds in proudly carrying the torch of what many incorrectly consider to be a dying genre, but also encompasses the enormous spirit of Sharon Jones herself.

– Review by Madison Palmer
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Concert Review: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith @ Bar Le Ritz PDB

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith played at the Ritz on Saturday October 28th, the weekend before
Halloween — but not actual Halloween, so pretty much a grey zone for those who embrace festive costumes. I opted for regular attire but a solid third of the audience appeared to be dressed up, which created a great atmosphere right off the bat. I believe someone even pulled off sparkly galaxy-themed face paint à la The Kid album cover, which was super clever and may end up an iconic costume because this album is nothing short of spectacular.

Hush Pup got things started with synth, bass and impressive vocal stylings. Their songs have a
familiarity and straddled the line between dreamy and haunting. Next up, Rêves sonores performed beautiful and sophisticated cinematic ambient scores alongside complementary live visuals by Lilith. Despite its minimalism, their set achieved an immersive fullness and pulled my mental state into a pleasant fog.

After Rêves sonores cleared the stag,e all that remained on stage was a wall of hardware that would give even the most experienced synth master sweaty palms. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s setup is positioned on stage at a 90 degree angle, giving the audience a profile view of both Smith and her Buchla, which acts as a harmonious extension of her body. After humbly addressing the crowd, she was busy for the duration of her set as both hands performed a perfectly choreographed routine of patches, dials, buttons and keys while she sang into a headset microphone. The continuous motion is mesmerizing, like watching a cross between an ASMR video and a familiar waltz performed by longtime partners.

Her vocals were heavily processed, pitch-shifted and multiplied to create a organ-esque effect, yet they folded seamlessly into the pulses and rhythms of her modular sounds. The visuals evolving on the screen behind her complemented the textures of music perfectly: brightly coloured bubbles and liquefying shapes matched the momentum of Smith’s sonic collage.

The audience was enveloped in the panning chimes, percussion, and at times, flocks of bird
chirps. Some moments induced a frozen trance while others led to involuntary sways from the crowd. This performance demonstrated by far the most accessible of Smith’s repertoire, including dancier songs like “An Intention” and “Until I Remember.” Playful and unpretentious, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith had a great energy and generous stage presence while taking the audience through a narrative experience like a safari through the human condition.

– Review by Julia Dyck

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Album Review: Reptaliens – FM 2030

With the Montreal winter fast approaching, it’s not difficult to find oneself reminiscing about the long-ago September heatwave in addition to the ever-present summer nostalgia that hazes our memory. Who among us doesn’t wish they could perfectly articulate this? The newest album from Portland, Oregon band Reptaliens FM-2030 was released on October 5th and brings a dreamscape aesthetic that draws the listener into this seasonal fantasy with them.

The duo behind the band, husband and wife Cole and Bambi Browning, base their band’s sound in the surreal indie-pop psychedelia that is omnipresent throughout the album’s 35 minute span. As a concept album, FM-2030‘s central theme is concerned with love and obsession, as evident in lyrics such as “If you want to get high/find your love/get it right” from “If You Want” and “Back at his home/told her ‘they’re not alone’/and they gave all their love to the lord” from “Satan’s Song.” It should be noted that in order to experience the full effect, FM-2030 should be listened to in one sitting with no interruptions.

That being said, there are several stand out tracks on this album that deserve an honourable mention, including the vaguely sinister “666Bus,” mainly because of the blunt lyrics “Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus while I was dreamin’ of falling in love/Or maybe I’ll fall in love and die of a broken heart.” “Nunya” has a easygoing, catchy groove to its melody, which echoes in your mind long after the song is over.

As a fan of love-orientated cynicism, this album was a dream come true. The songs all sounded related but not similar enough for them to become boring or repetitive; rather, the tracks faded into each other perfectly with a balanced flow, drawn together cohesively by synths that set the mood for the whole record.

Those unfamiliar with this band’s prior work (especially their 2017 EP Prequel/Olive Boy) it may seem as though FM-2030 is simply be a conglomeration of similar, if not identical, bedroom pop tracks. When listening to the album, however, it becomes clear that there is a significant variance and complexity to each of the 11 songs. The heavy summer-in-suburbia atmosphere is an extended metaphor woven through the album brings much needed warmth to the rainy Montreal weather.

– Review by Madison Palmer

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Album Review: A flame, my love, a frequency – Colleen

Call it a precursor to the winter blues, call it a product of my New England upbringing, call it a weird morbid streak: as soon as a chill hits the air, all I can think about is the cycle of nature. Walking around the streets of Montreal, with all the natural beauty it has to offer, it’s not hard to romanticize something as trivial as falling leaves. Enter Cécile Schott, the the French multi-instrumentalist behind Colleen, who released A flame, my love, a frequency just in time for some contemplative hibernation.

Schott has been on the music scene for almost two decades, quietly releasing EPs and full-length albums – this is her sixth studio album – that feature the Baroque-era trebel viola de gamba. While she only recently started including vocals into her music in 2013, Schott has always been fascinated by 1970’s Jamaican dub music, as well as loop pedals and synth. On A flame, she takes the opportunity to explore the latter; the viola de gamba is barely heard.

A flame, my love, a frequency uses highly produced instruments to create rich and detailed depictions of nature, all without much vocal assistance. Instead, the scant lyrics act as echoes for the instrumental landscapes, adding details to the conjured imagery. Schott, who is an avid bird watcher, describes various winged animals, and frequently uses layered arpeggios that mimic the flight patterns of birds. There is a return to simplicity on A flame, both in the presence of classical music structure and a focus on the absence of sound. Schott embodies the saying “Less is more,” choosing to use sustained notes and hypnotically repetitive sequences to create a vast soundscape.

The album is best heard listened in an uninterrupted sequence, because the tracks have a natural tendency to flow into one another, creating one long 45-minute track. However, a few tracks deserve noteworthy mentions: “Separating,” for example, is a seven-minute track that almost exclusively contains looped arpeggios that subtly move between keys, with timbre changes sprinkled here and there. The track appears as a rainstorm might: while initially only raindrops appear, the storm soon builds to a deluge before subsiding again. Schott employs vocal distortion techniques that transform her voice, briefly, into a beacon that pierces the instrumental fog.

“Summer night (Bat song)” features long, drawn-out synth tones that leave room for Schott’s breathy vocals, which describe the flight patterns of a bat in simple observational phrases; what seems like an uninteresting field journal entry is in actuality a transformative, hypnotic still life. “The stars vs creatures” captures the isolation and wonder of space while detailing a discussion between animals about the night sky. Schott expertly contrasts the yawning cosmos with the intimate delicacy of a conversation; low synth shifts as tectonic plates might, while arpeggios flutter about, seemingly suspended in air.

Album released: October 19, 2017

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam