Category Archives: Reviews

Album Review: Djo – Decide

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By Ada Tur

Joe Keery has been busy. Between being a Hollywood actor in hit television series Stranger Things and pursuing his own songwriting career, he is no stranger to making his art as unique to him as possible. With his newest album, Decide, being released 3 years after his first project, Twenty Twenty, Keery, who goes by stage name “Djo”, takes on a new perspective on his sound and his life over the course of the pandemic and the beginning of the 2020s.

Decide starts off with Runner, a rhythmic manifestation of a life devoted to eternally moving forwards and upwards. This sets the scene for the next half hour of the album, establishing Keery’s characterization of the album using synthy melodies and layered, auto-tuned harmonies over his vocals. The album as a whole is remarkably cohesive, and this works mainly to its advantage—but also to its detriment. While each song flows smoothly between one another, as if Keery never set his keyboard down for a single moment between each track, it’s easy to get a feeling that each song sort of just…sounds the same. However, you can always count on the incorporation of some element that can knock your brain back into the album and distinguish between each song. Gloom features vocals mirroring the aggressive, eccentric styles of David Byrne, On and On strikes listeners with an epic drum solo in the second half of the track, and songs like Climax and End of Beginning have engaging guitar melodies and rhythms. It’s not surprising to hear Keery exercising his talent on multiple instruments during the album, considering his projects under the name Djo aren’t his first venture into the world of music—Keery was also briefly the guitarist for a Chicago-based group called Post Animal. Nevertheless, his work on the keyboard establishes dominance on this album, as obvious from the insurmountable amount of synth-pop hooks in each track.

It is evident that Keery’s reflection on the past three years has amounted to several epiphanies, when it comes to Decide. Moving from Twenty Twenty’s desolate emotions of solitude and nostalgia, Decide chooses to take a step forward and break out of a state of depression and into the anxieties of making change and moving towards the future to a better place.

Electronic Grooves: U-TURN Volume 3 Review

U-Turn Vol. 3 flyer

U-Turn Vol. 3 flyer

Words by Sean Holley, read more here

Socials of the DJs:
Raef
Gene Tellem
Danai

As my first written piece for CKUT, this is a bit of a personal affair. It seemed fitting to start with a review of U-Turn Volume 3, because the event checked 3 major boxes: a night showcasing local talent organized and DJed by my close friend Raef, who also happens to be the music librarian here at CKUT.

Back in August 2022, Raef held his first U-Turn, an event designed to highlight the DJ scene in Montreal and expand listeners’ horizons with a diverse billing of genres. From golden-age 90s house to left-field techno, garage, trance and more, his goal was to break from the monotony of 4-to-the-floor hard techno and drop-obsessed tech house. After Raef’s third installment in 4 months, I can confirm that the concept has been a resounding success.

A show is nothing without a proper venue. For the best possible experience, the setting must synergize with the music being played, adding to the impact of the performances. Listening to disco house in an abandoned factory just wouldn’t feel right. Fortunately, Barbossa was the perfect companion for the type of music Raef, Gene Tellem, and Danai played at U-Turn. An intimate dancefloor with good cocktails, warm lighting, and friendly staff went hand-in-hand with the propulsive, upbeat tracks played throughout the night.

Raef led off at 11pm, setting the stage for the rest of the event. Around 10:55, the dancefloor went from empty to packed, as Raef’s gaggle of McGill supporters made it to Barbossa. The tracks were predominantly deep and groovy house, with some garage mixed in. I didn’t sense a definite climax in the progression of the set, it felt like a constant 70 degrees to me. But don’t confuse consistency with mediocrity, this was an excellent showing. Raef paid his dues to two 90s deep house maestros, playing Kerri Chandler’s You’re in my System early on in the night and Ron Trent’s I Feel the Rhythm towards the finale of the set. I greatly appreciated the seamless mixture of old and new tracks, it was simultaneously a history lesson and a taste of the future.

One of Raef’s biggest strengths as a DJ is knowing how to play to a crowd without playing exactly what they want to hear. He’s consistently able to find that sweet spot that stretches the crowd’s tastes without going too far and losing their engagement. At U-Turn, he did it again, delivering one of his strongest sets. Honestly, each subsequent set I hear from Raef feels like his best one yet, so the future of the Montreal scene is very much in safe hands.

Danai described Gene Tellem’s DJing style in one word: classy. That just about puts it perfectly. Clean yet energetic with organic percussion and irregular rhythms, her hour from midnight to 1am melded together across every song. The undercurrent of bongos provided an off-beat metronome, switching enough to keep me fully focused throughout the set.

Gene’s credentials precede her: she’s been a fixture in Montreal for close to a decade now, with sets at Piknic Electronik and a Boiler Room, among other major placements. However, she’s never coasted on her reputation, and this set was a prime example of her commitment to the scene that raised her. Unfortunately, most artists of her stature wouldn’t even agree to do an event like this, let alone get there 40 minutes before their set to see the DJ before them play, dancing the entire time. A refreshing attitude paired with a skillful performance made Gene Tellem a superb second act.

It’s 1am now, and most of the crowd has left Barbossa. Many of Raef’s friends exited the minute his set finished at 12, and the stragglers that stayed for Gene decided to call it a night. They have no idea what they missed.

Danai behind the decks

Danai behind the decks

Normally, I find soulful house a bit boring. It’s too regular and slow, and the grooves can turn plodding after they are repeated for 6 minutes straight. It’s alright coffeeshop music, but not what I would call danceable. That being said, Danai struck a nerve with his set, mixing funky samples with pounding subs in a way I had never heard before. If you weren’t moving, you need to get your ears checked. The entire set was also vinyl, with multiple instances of mixing back and forth between tracks in the middle of a song. All due respect to Raef and Gene, but this was the best hour of the night.

Danai’s whole hour was killer, but the last 15 minutes were magic on the dancefloor. It was one of those moments where you’re fully engrossed in the music and unconscious of how frenzied your dancing is. If you’re sober, you feel high, and if you’re high, you feel fully out-of-body. Danai took it to another level, and the 8 of us left standing positively lost our minds. My favorite sequence of the night was 3 of the last 4 tracks: I’ll Be Your Friend by Robert Owens into a top-notch track with a Bowie sample from Let’s Dance (“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues…”) into a club mix of Dreamlover by Mariah Carey. It was a groove workout to finish the night: kinetic, exuberant, and exhausting in the best possible way.

At U-Turn Volume 3, Raef, Gene Tellem, and Danai played for 3 hours total, crafting a first-rate night in the process. Each of their sets had a distinct flavor, yet all 3 played off of each other, synergizing their styles and building a cohesive atmosphere. If it wasn’t obvious at this point, I can’t recommend U-Turn enough.

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Author’s note: U-Turn Volume 4 is coming back to Barbossa on December 3rd, be there.

Album Review: Of Montreal – Freewave Lucifer fck fck fck

By Ada Tur

The past two years have been difficult. The pandemic forced most of the world’s population into quarantine, which left many in a depressing isolation. Being without human contact resulted in a collective state of abysmal mental health, as well as trauma. This experience wasn’t any different for Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, who set out to compile their personal sentiments of the pandemic into the group’s newest album: “Freewave Lucifer fck fck fck”.

Barnes challenges listeners to interpret the album based on the emotions it invokes, rather than attempt to deconstruct their words anåd make meaning out of that. Similar to the surrealism of David Lynch’s films, the album could mean anything or everything; it’s up to the audience to decide what the 90’s disco hooks and stilted storytelling is intending to say.

The record takes on a plethora of despondent topics ranging from the death of two beloved characters in Barnes’ life (their mother and dog of 15 years), the switch from alcohol to marijuana and the sonic feelings of inebriation, the political atmosphere of the United States, and the general challenges of grief, trauma, and isolation that came with the pandemic. Barnes tried to semi-coherently express these themes with an added effort to sound a little more uplifting in a cathartic array of synthpop shimmers, keyboard runs, and guitar melodies.

Barnes also mentioned that they made a point to write just a little bit of the record every single day— and you can feel the layers of writing over and over in each song. The sets of phrases were arranged accordingly and came together, like magazine cutouts in a collage. The resulting piece became a swirling tornado of epiphanies, emotions, and expression.

Inevitably, with an album as exploratory and experimental as Of Montreal’s latest, there are going to be people who just don’t get it, and understandably so. It’s a daunting task to travel through Barnes’ musical journey and try to understand what is happening, especially without any context of the band and Barnes’ personal experiences throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, for some the album is an endless, restless, masterful collage of shiny and symphonic instrumentalism and daringly ambitious storytelling. There is no doubt that what Barnes has created is truly a work of art. While many see a pile of detached puzzle pieces, the select few can appreciate the magically bizarre universe that “Freewave Lucifer” has crafted.

REVIEW: SNAIL MAIL LIVE AT CLUB SODA

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By Eva Lynch

The opener for the night was Joy Again, an indie-rock band from Phillidelphia who has been on tour with Snail Mail for part of their North American leg of the tour, before they plan on splitting off and heading to the West Coast for their own tour. 

In person, their tracks are a lot more raw and rock-fueled than the gentle quality of their indie pop recordings, bringing new life to their discography. Members of the band alternated vocals between two frontmen, Sachi DiSerafino and Arthur Shea who took turns leading each song, their voices reminiscent of a young Neutral Milk Hotel.  

The songs were interspersed with personal anecdotes that inspired the songs. They also took this moment between songs to play some jazz, which transformed into the intro of some of their songs showing the real instrumental control possessed by the band. They played several songs from their earlier EPs such as “Looking Out For You” and “Winter Snakes”, which have gained popularity again with its use on popular social media platforms such as Tik Tok. For their final song, they played “Winter Snakes”, which they extended the final section of as they built it up by having every member play as hard as possible in front of the strobing lights, and then taking it back to almost a soft lullaby as they faded out of their set and the lights turned off one by one until only one spotlight was left, illuminating the band from behind the drum kit. 

After Joy Again was Snail Mail from Maryland, which is a solo project of guitarist and lead-singer, Lindsay Jordan. Fun fact, Jordan started the band when she was only 15! Snail Mail adorned the stage with a large red backdrop and several white cherub statues scattered across the stage, with vines that descend the cherub’s pillars and wound up the microphone stand. 

One of the greatest pleasures of being a long time Snail Mail fan is getting to witness the growth and evolution of not just the band, but the vocals, and transparency of Snail Mail as an artist. Lead singer Lindsay Jordan’s voice has maintained that same raspy quality that she’s known for, in a classically queer indie-pop way which sounds a little similar to King Princess, but her voice has only gotten richer as she’s unlocked more range and control over time. She performed songs off her first EP from 2016, such as Thinning, and more than any other song, it showed how strong her voice has become as she’s developed it over the past 6 years compared to the young voice that first recorded it. The music itself also showcases growing vulnerability and openness in both the lyrics and entire musical production, discussing everything that Jordan has navigated growing up in the indie spotlight after being discovered at such a formative age. 

On stage she jokes that apparently she wasn’t naturally meant to have a smoker’s voice at the age of 14, and reveals that she’s in recovery from a vocal surgery after waking up one day no longer able to speak. Despite still being in speech therapy and recently undergoing such an intensive operation, her voice was mostly unwavering. As a side effect of the surgery however, Jordan has unlocked a whole new range and experimented doing a few songs in a higher key which both gave them some new life and rearranged them to still fit her voice. It was great to see a new take on the songs, and her vocal range was particularly showcased by the songs she performed acoustically, including her hit ballad Mia. 

Especially since she’s been touring non-stop since being signed, Jordan has incredible stage presence, and immediately comes across as charismatic and confident, seemingly really enjoying being able to share her music with the crowd. For one of the last songs of the night, they pulled out a cover of Tonight Tonight by the Smashing Pumpkins and really let loose — Jordan hopping on the floor with guitarist Ben Kaunitz as they played the guitar riffs to each other. While there are really three main guitarists/bassists in the band, everyone is constantly playing and switching guitars — even keyboardist Madeline McCormack kept switching between guitars and keys, and they had a member of their team running in every few songs to swap them out for everyone. It showed what a production their music is and how specifically crafted the sound is for each song, particularly within the string section, when changing out so many guitars to produce just the right sound and the effort it takes to develop and experiment with one’s sound.

REVIEW: YVES TUMOR @ CLUB SODA APRIL 22

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By Eva Lynch

Yves Tumor, whose real name is Sean Bowie, is an experimental musician from Miami, Florida, known for creating and producing soulful glam-rock music that works to break both genres and boundaries in the alternative music scene. Yves themself is non binary, and this fluidity is incorporated into their performance, fashion, and their genre defying discography.

Yves Tumor had two openers for the night. First was an experimental rap artist by the name of Izzy Spears. Spears is a member of the experimental and underground punk collective Anonymous Club —produced by Yves Tumor— that aims to remake pop-culture through fine art, installation and performance. Spears performed several songs from the Anonymous Club, warming up the crowd with his high energy tracks that, similar to Yves, challenged the traditional sounds of electronic music. Next to the stage was Doss, an American DJ who has gathered a cult-like following since dropping her first EP 7 years ago. Doss played experimental dance music with trance-inducing beats and rhythms that was full of escalations and intense beat drops and got the crowd jumping and energy flowing, ready for Yves Tumor. 

At 10 pm on the dot, a spiky haired silhouette emerged through a thick layer of illuminated smoke. Yves revealed themself as the smoke dissipated and they launched into their latest single “Jackie”, wearing studded leather gloves, a studded leather jacket and studded crotch harness over a pair of moto pants. Halfway through the set, they removed their leather jacket to reveal a separate leather vest underneath which spelt out 69 in studs on the back, in almost a BDSM leather-cowboy look. Along with Yves’white spiky hair which matched the white triangle painted on their face and cabaret-esque make up, the entire band evoked glam rock style with what seemed like inspiration from other famously boundary pushing artists like David Bowie.

Yves Tumor’s recording might be energy-packed, but doesn’t hold a light to their live show. It embodies all the elements of glam rock and roll with experimental and  electronic or cyberpunk twists, maximizing the  experience in all senses for an incredibly captivating show you could get lost in. They deliver a dark and enticing show, emphasizing the grunge and playing with the pleasure and the pain you can hear in their music, pushing the mics and amps to their limit and showcasing Yves’ talent beyond what can be captured in a studio. Despite the off-the-charts energy, Yves maintained an air of grace about them as they held the mic with poise, making the rich and emotional vocals seem effortless. One of the greatest gems of the show, however, were the added guitar solos that brought even more rock and roll spirit to the show. Yves’ energetic interactions with their lead guitarist, Chris Greatti, was electric, and you couldn’t look away as they battled for the dominant role on stage, Yves at one point even grabbing the back of Greatti’s hair and pushing them onto their knees as he played the guitar. The crowd ate up every minute of the show, yelling along to the lyrics, starting a mosh pit for beloved hits such as Kerosene and even initiating their own crowd surfing. 

Yves Tumor isn’t a show to miss as they are constantly paving their own path, and not only is the music beautifully executed but the performance they put on and relationship they kindle with the crowd is incredibly engaging, and it’s clear they have fun on stage sharing their vision with the audience.

 

Santa Teresa’s Triple Threat by Eva Lynch

As a part of this year’s M Pour Montreal, a festival which celebrates and support’s Quebec’s indie musicians, Santa Teresa at the Societé Des Arts Technology hosted a three act bill which brought together a multitude of genres for a fun and versatile night.

 

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First to the stage was JayWood, a self-proclaimed ‘sad-jungle pop’ band whose music was a blend of indie alternative and funk, with slapping bass lines and drums beats which stayed in your head and made the energy of each song stand out. With a mixture of three guitarists and bassists on stage, the rhythms and riffs of the music got everyone moving and created a great energy which drew the crowd in and got people warmed up. There were a few technical errors that were handled with absolute grace and showed the audience what thankful and charismatic performers they were. Vocalist Jeremy Haywood-Smith ad-libbed an apology which only made it even easier to connect to their performance. With how the sound reverberated in the space, the vocals were a little overpowered by the instrumentals, but fortunately the instrumentals were enough to carry the show on their own and still provide that great groove.

 

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Next up was alternative pop and R&B artist Mauvey, who entered the stage wearing a show-stopping sequinned, lilac tracksuit with sleeves down to his knees, complete with a matching sequinned hat. As soon as Mauvey sang his first note you could tell he’d had his heart broken and you felt it with every line he sang, as he left those raw emotions on the stage and embodied them in his dancing. In his short moments of addressing the crowd, Mauvey expressed how grateful he was to be on the stage and authenticity radiated off of him throughout the performance. As a thank you, he dedicated one of his new hits to the audience as a gift for showing up and took the moment to do some affirmations with the crowd and remind us all that we are loved and important — staying true to his mandate of always spreading love.

He ended the show with the performance of his song Flowers, which continued to build until he was screaming the chorus and his voice sounded raw, in one of the most emotional performances of the night. For this final song, he descended from the stage, becoming a part of the crowd and welcoming us even further into his world. If you want to have a listen for yourself, Mauvey’s new album, The Florist, was just released on November 19th and can be found on all streaming platforms. 

 

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The last act, Ethiopian-born, NDG raised Naya Ali was clear when she started that her goal was to create a vibe and bring us into her universe and that’s exactly what she did. She entranced the crowd with beats so loud you could feel them in your bones, in what became a full-body experience. With her messages of positivity and clean flow, there was a clear artistry in all her songs: from her translation of an entire song to French, to a particularly poignant performance of her song ‘Toronto’s Gold’ which addresses the issue of gun violence. Ali is another artist who radiated love and care for her audience, although it must be said that the entire line-up was nothing but gracious and their passion reminds us of what we’ve been missing and what there is to look forward to as we make an even greater return to live music.

Review: Body Breaks – Bad Trouble

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By: Jackson Palmer

While Body Break’s debut album is, at first listen, daunting and off-the-map, few bands rival its unique blend of catchy indie rock riffs and wry lyrics with non-Western microtonal experimentation. Recorded in multi-instrumentalist Matt LeGroulx and vocalist Julie Reich’s respective Montréal and Toronto bedrooms, Bad Trouble’s lean 21-minute runtime beguiles its deft melodical skill, focused songwriting, and perceptive self-analysis, not to mention the underlying DIY-ethos of the group, a fitting production style to accompany music about generational frustration, environmental waste, and self-doubt.

It’s hard to say exactly where on the indie spectrum Body Breaks exists, partially because they so clearly draw on towering inspirations, and partially because they truly do their own thing. On a few of Bad Trouble’s tracks, such as “Between the Heart and the Mind,” Le Groux’s angular guitar work combines with Reich’s multilayered and out-of-tune vocals in a way that harkens to Public Strain-era Women, while its title track seems to draw from the unpredictable energy of both Pavement and Palberta. But what makes Bad Trouble a work of its own is its fusion of weird garage rock with Balinese gamelan-inspired, non-Western tunings, the combination of which solidifies a focused and intentional musical statement of experimental rock which heavily flirts with noise and dissonance. Underlying each of Bad Trouble’s songs is a tight structure glued together with catchy hooks. As a result, every song has heft. The album runs like a centrifuge spinning on the verge of losing control.

While the tonal experimentation of Body Breaks is both novel and effective, I found myself wanting to hear more of the band’s lyrics, lost as they sometimes are in an inconsistent sea of reverb, such as on the track “Work for the Man.” In these instances, I can’t help but wish the vocals were mixed more clearly to make clear exactly is being sung. To be sure, Bad Trouble’s weight comes from its rawness, its strange mash of rock, folk, and pure mania, and many of the lyrics I can hear are good and fitting, though it is a slight dampen to the otherwise sharp lyricism present on the rest of the album. On my personal favourite, “Generation Y,” a pondering, immensely fuzzy anthem dedicated to feeling out of step with the world, Reich wonders: “Generation X, don’t ask why, stuck in the middle, but which generation am I?” On “Reality,” a song that fittingly sounds like a corpse being shocked to life with LeGroulx’s guitar, Reich pontificates on truth and falsity, wondering “how will we know if it’s real or fake? If it’s a dream or a memory?” The album’s vaguely Violent Femmes-esque closer, “Break the Icons Down,” a middle finger to the intrusion of technology into private life, repeats its simple mantra “I don’t ever wanna see your technology inside me” in a delivery that feels equal parts self-assured and yet drenched in cynicism. Body Breaks’ subtly romantic yearning for self-discovery and assurance seem far too sensitive for an album defined by pounding drums and wild melodies, but their ambitious themes and musical goals are done justice by each members’ unique understanding of how to both play by and denigrate the so-called musical rules.

Paradoxically breaking convention and yet using it to great effect, Body Break’s Bad Trouble is unique proof of the vast territory yet to be fully explored in the marriage of pop song structures with non-Western musical theory. Undergirded by idiosyncratic hooks and memorable experimentation, Body Break’s debut is a simultaneously cute and deeply pissed-off twenty-minute paean to individual exploration, self-reflection, and finding harmony in dissonance.

Album Review: Lungbutter – Honey

There has been, for many years, a dichotomous debate in regards to consuming music: is it better recorded or live? I can’t think of anything more disappointing than seeing your favourite band play live for the first time only to have the music be void of the personality which initially attracted you to it.

On the other hand, it is equally disappointing to discover a new band live, be enticed into
listening to their latest EP, only to find that the energy and vigour which you loved so much
during their set to be confined to that set alone. “When will this musical catfishing end?” You
wonder. Luckily for you (and me, and everyone), Montreal based trio Lungbutter provides the
best of both worlds.

 
The group formed back in 2013, the band is made up of vocalist Ky Brooks, guitarist Kaity Zozula, and former CKUT music director Joni Sadler  rockin’ it on drums.

Despite this minimalist set up the band possesses energy which compresses more power than even a  five or six piece band. The noise-rock trio has opened for bands like Psychic TV, Perfect Pussy, and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan and has also played the OBEY Convention in Halifax, and POP Montreal and Suoni Per II Popolo here in Montreal.

 

Their debut album Honey was released on May 31st, 2019 on Constellation Records,
and will surely cement the trio’s place as one of this city’s most iconic bands.
The album opens with the title song “Honey” and features Zozula’s classic guitar style: heavy
distortion, impressively obtrusive and yet strictly melodic. These opening 50 seconds invoked in
me an excitement for this album the same way I would be for a live show. The spoken quality of
Brook’s voice fuels the energy of the album. Combining this chanted style with frequently
repeated lyrics creates an atmosphere that is incredibly catchy and high powered, making
Honey” the perfect opening song for a Lungbutter album.

Over the course of 34 minutes, 11 songs perfectly fall into each other. Their relatively short
length (the longest one being the closer, “Veneer”, at five minutes and 29 seconds) makes it easy to absorb the album in one sitting, and I would go as far as saying that this is essential for first time listeners of both the band in general and the album specifically. While all these songs are strong in their own right, I want to highlight a few of my personal favourites.
Flat White” is the fourth song and one of two singles on the album. Matching the rhythmic,
chanting style of “Honey” “Flat White” captures the visceral, raw emotion of this album better
than any of the other tracks.

 
Intrinsic” is the seventh song and the second single on the Honey. The song encapsulating a
similar sound to Pixie’s Surfer Rosa album, featuring a slow and heavily rhythmic intro which
erupts at around three minutes in. The context of the rhetorical questioning of the lyrics shifts
drastically with the tempo change, giving the repeated intro lyrics “having a future/it makes a
difference” a heightened sense of urgency.

 
Finally, the holder of my favourite title on Honey goes to “Depanneur Sun”. The lyrics “I love myself through books, pottery and so on/yet I will never finish my book” spoken with Brook’s tone and infuused with Zozula and Sadler’s instrumentation lend a sense of angry and stubborn self-love.
Due to its largely instrumental nature, “Veneer” serves as the perfect epilogue to the high
intensity of the preceding 10 songs. It gives the listener room to reflect the lyrics they’ve heard and leaves them with a sense of closure. The entire album weaves together with perfect
precision: every song is exactly where its supposed to be, and every note is exactly where it
should be. The ability for an album to sound so hectic and so controlled at the same time is
nothing short of masterful.

 

I highly recommend Honey a listen and also check out Lungbutter at
Suoni Per II Popolo this summer on June 15th.

~Review By Madison Palmer, student programmer and blog writer

Album Review: Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

With yet another midterm season upon us, it is sometimes easy to neglect the notion that professors lead careers outside of their lectures, and Tim Hecker is no exception.  The Vancouver-born McGill professor began his music career as a DJ and techno producer, the influence and experience of which resonate thoroughly across his September 28th release Konoyo.  For his 9th studio album, Konoyo shows concise stylistic refinement, employing synthesizers and software that emphasizes the importance of the samples Hecker is isolating and manipulating.  The foundation of the musicality and inspiration of this album stems from a form of Japanese imperial court music known as Gagaku; an intense ‘drone-style’  produced by the incorporation of instruments such as bamboo mouth organs and double-reeded aerophones.

I want to preface this review by admitting that I am fairly unacquainted with the electronic genre, and Konoyo was my first introduction to this distinct style of experimental minimalism.  While I don’t have precedent albums to compare this one to (including Hecker’s previous works), I can say that my first impression of this album was overwhelmingly positive.  Released by Chicago-based label Kranky, the tracks intertwine with each other perfectly, keeping the listener in a suspended tranquility deprived of jarring breaks as the album completes its hour-long play.

Konoyo opens with “This life”. Comprised of only jarring synth tones until approximately 30 seconds in, this track sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album.  It is, tonally speaking, clinically cold and through immense tension the songs create a sense of apprehension.  The sounds emulate waves as the tension pulses through its eight-minute course and demands the full attention of the listener.  On an interesting note, while it obviously connects seamlessly to the following track “In Death Valley”, it also pairs perfectly with the closing track “Across To Anoyo”.  At the 15 minute mark, the song’s intensity ties together the elements of the first six , with a significant call back to the first track as the music fades out into more ambient.


Moreover, t
he length of these pieces gives Konoyo a highly introspective quality.  The meditative nature of Hecker’s style makes this unavoidable, regardless of whether the listener is closely analyzing and dissecting the music or just throwing it on as background music while studying.  This is an amazingly versatile album, that can be perceived as complex or as simple as the listener wants, and serves as a virtuous introduction to this genre.

~Review by Madison Palmer, Noise Architect

 

 

Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy

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Montreal’s terrace season is starting to wind down.  Leaves are slowly oranging, and the infamous humidity that has been hanging in the air over the past couple of months is starting to crisp up.  The encroaching post add-drop lethargy is hanging over students, and they may be starting looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the upcoming gloomy fall days.  Thankfully, Mitski’s new album can provide an end to that search.

Be the Cowboy is the Japanese-American artist’s 5th studio album, and is truly a gem sent down from the bedroom pop gods.  Tying together atmospheric lyrics with relatively grungy rock guitar riffs, the soon-to-be 29 year old has been hailed as “the new vanguard of indie rock” and this new album —released August 17th— lives solidly up to this reputation, however it is at its core a very standard sounding indie album.

The standout songs are, obviously, incredible.  The opening track, “Geyser” is, in my opinion, one of the strongest songs on the entire album.  It establishes itself with a haunting synth that slowly builds up to a climax about 1 minute and 20 seconds in.  The atmosphere of the song creates a feeling of bright optimism. This atmosphere is complemented amazingly in the closing track “Two Slow Dancers”, a song that not only saved the album for me, but also gave me a glimpse at what I wanted the album so badly to be.  The song is contemplative, nostalgic, and just as lyrically and sonically powerful as the opener.

Everything in between these two are all —lyrically speaking— cookie cutter indie songs. Tracks such as “Old Friend”, “Nobody”, and “Blue Light” could easily have been left off the album and it would have no significant effect on the listener’s experience.  The songs that stood out the most were the ones with actual unique qualities. “Remember My Name” and “A Horse Named Cold Water” are both incredible examples of this diversity; the former embodying the same college band feeling as the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack and the latter, opposingly, showcases stripped down vocals over a few piano chords.  Even “Me and My Husband” (far from my favourite song on the album) is a jarring shift from the songs it sits between, adopting a noticeably more 2011 mainstream indie pop sound.

In spite of these qualms, Be the Cowboy is unquestionably a good album.  All the songs blend together beautifully, and its length of 32 minutes makes it the perfect soundtrack to your fall semester study sessions to help ease you into the fast approaching midterm season and even faster approaching winter.

Review By Madison Palmer