School’s Out: An Interview with Rosie Long Decter

On the last Friday before McGill’s reading week, just as students were preparing to turn off their brains for a minute, I managed to sit down with Rosie Long Decter. As a vocalist and synth player in the popular band Bodywash, as well as the new music librarian at CKUT, Rosie has set the bar high for what it means to be a student in the Montreal music scene. Based on her fantastic resume, I knew Rosie would be able to provide some unique insight on the student scene in the city as well as some advice for those looking to get started as musicians in Montreal.

Nora: Ok, so – you’re in Bodywash, which is a really great band putting out some really amazing stuff. You guys started as a McGill band, is that true?

Rosie: Yes.

N: Could you give me your origin story? How did you guys get together as a band?

R: So, two of our members met through rez and living together: one of our guitarists and our old bassists. And they knew Chris, who is our guitarist and singer, through mutual friends, and the three of them started jamming together. Chris actually met out drummer, Austin, at a SSMU Musician’s Collective meet-and-greet. So that was a group on campus that was very useful for us. Most of us were in Gardiner [a McGill Residence], and Gardiner used to have once-a-month coffee houses. I was always a solo musician – I used to do a lot of singer-songwriter stuff and the guys saw me performing and asked if I wanted to jam.

I think for us, the context of us all being in Gardiner was super important because Gardiner used to have a music room that students could use. So that’s where we practiced all of first year, the Gardiner music room.

N: That’s sweet.

R: I mean, it was kind of a shithole, but you know, it was our shithole. Continue reading

School’s Out: Alexia Avina

IMG_0733

When the topic of McGill student musicians comes up, it’s rare that the name Alexia Avina isn’t mentioned. As both a prolific solo musician and part of the dreamy electro duo, Best Fern, she is pretty much the pinnacle of what a writer like me could hope to find in the student scene.

Earlier this week, Avina posted a track called ‘Cups’ on her Soundcloud page. For fans of her work, this song hits all the bases of what makes Avina’s music special. The whispery vocals so characteristic of her work are especially noteworthy, not only in the sweet, sad lyrics but also in the layered, dreamy back-up vocals that saturate the track. Rich guitar melodies drift in and out, softly fading into a warm hum at the end of the song.

In her Facebook post about the song, Avina expressed her nervousness about releasing the song and asked for kindness from listeners. ‘Cups’ is a soothing track to drift away to, and I hope that the calming vibes the song conjured for me are given back to Alexia Avina in return.

– Nora Duffy

CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: March 7, 2017

unnamed

Greetings Radio,
Had another busy week, this time highlighted by a couple truly great shows: our own CKUT expat Tim Darcy and opener Molly Burch killed it on Saturday, and politically-charged noise freaks Monty Cantsin (above) and local sound wizard Emilie Mouchous left my ears similarly reeling on Friday. You seen anything good lately?
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
This month, the Friendly Frogs Freak Show is hosting the Montreal Sessions everyTuesday from 3-5pm. These five spandex-disguised funk musicians will bring their live jams straight to the airwaves as well as sharing their creative inspiration, interviewing local artists, and throwing in a couple surprises for good measure. Tune into their freak show for this and plenty more.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – march 7, 2017

1. tim darcy – saturday night – jagjaguwar CC *
2. the luyas – human voicing – paper bag CC *
3. austra – future politics – domino CC
4. pc worship – buried wish – northern spy
5. xiu xiu – forget – polyvinyl Continue reading

Concert Review: Thundercat @ SAT

Picture 1

An unseasonably warm and rainy winter night saw the ground floor of the SAT packed nearly to capacity to bear witness to the groove of Brainfeeder artist Thundercat. While touring on his latest release, the excellent Drunk, his Montreal stop did not disappoint the significant crowd that ventured out to catch the show.

Plowing through a slew of midtempo sluggers, Montreal’s Lexis opened the night on a setup combining DJ and live beat techniques. In keeping with the headliner’s home base, a good portion of the set was rooted LA’s brand of cosmic-jazz-bop, with the undeniable influence of Dilla and Flying Lotus (himself a frequent Thundercat collaborator) on display.

Armed with his signature six-string bass and clad in a fluorescent orange toque and long underwear bottoms, Stephen Bruner wasted no time between sets before ambling onstage and launching confidently into an onslaught of blistering, frantic jams. Working around his effortless falsetto, the band darted unceasingly between solid pop passages and meandering virtuosic detours, early standout “Tron Cat” being an example of this electrified dynamic.

Only midway into the set when the tempo dropped into the satisfying stomp of crowd-pleaser “Them Changes” did everything fully settle into place. From that point onwards it opened up, becoming a little looser and more relaxed. The project’s inherent playfulness bubbled up to the surface with increasing ease, as on a cheeky instrumental cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “If These Walls Could Talk” (Stephen having contributed to the original source material), among many other memorable moments.

The room was balmy, the audience dazzled, the funk undeniable. You should have been there.

 

Artist Profile: An Hour with Molly Drag

0008703642_100

I ventured up to Le Dépanneur Café in the Mile End a few weeks ago to chat with Molly Drag (née Michael Hansford) about his upcoming album, Whatever Reason. After settling down with our coffees, Hansford confided that he and his roommate, Aaron Powell (Fog Lake), actually live right around the corner from the café; it has been a long-term dream of his to eventually end up in this neighborhood, and he appeared very at home with the plants and locals populating the crowded joint.

Most of Whatever Reason was recorded in a basement studio in London, Ontario. Hansford moved to Montreal this summer with only a few close possessions, and conceded that at first, he felt quite isolated in his new home. The loneliness was compounded by the fact that he knew very few people, and would have to wake up in the early hours of the morning to get to his job at the time as a café cook. This solitude, though now only a memory, ended up inspiring one of the tracks on the new release; he has also begun to sprinkle Québecois into his latest songs to celebrate and acknowledge, in his words, “a culture that has been here for so long, and has fought to keep it.” 

Hansford has an exciting, frenetic energy about him at times, and it shows in his music. When he writes or records, it is done all at once; everything is done “on the record” without much forethought, and he will sit for hours in his apartment focused solely on his craft. On previous albums such as the sprawling Deeply Flawed release, Hansford acknowledges a lack of focus; every song is raw, intimate, and wandering.  Hansford praised the more focused energy of the Whatever Reason, describing the contrast between various tracks: “There’s a bit of anger on this record, but there’s also a lot of self-reflection.”

Whatever Reason is a very conceptual album, signaling “the end to a dark trilogy” of records that Molly Drag has produced so far. The contemplative attitude reflects an “addiction” to nostalgia, and the inevitable sense of separation that accompanies those feelings. He also described his inspiration for the album cover art: a painting he saw of a sick child surrounded by piles of things that they love, but that are just out of reach. Whatever Reason’s album cover depicts a young girl in a dark wood surrounded by rabbits, Hansford’s favorite animal.

For an important project such as this, Hansford said he was happy to have a solid, more permanent live lineup to support his vocals. Powell acts as his secondary guitarist, adding a professional aspect to their good personal relationship; in fact, all but one of the Molly Drag lineup also play in Fog Lake. The constancy and familiarity helps to make the live performances sound more like the recorded ones, a factor that Hansford holds in very high regard: “If people have been listening to your music and they go see you live expecting to hear what they love, and they don’t, you’re not doing your job properly. You’re there to entertain.” For Hansford, the most important issue at hand is the integrity of the project; he needs musicians who want the project to succeed as much as he does, instead of being there simply to play or just to support him.

After the official interview ended we lingered at Dépanneur a bit longer, chatting with ease about mutual friends and personal heroes – he regaled me with a story of his online conversations with local author Heather O’Neill – before Hansford looked sheepishly at his phone and said he had to duck out early; there apparently was no water in his apartment. We ushered ourselves out into the Mile End dusk and parted with handshakes and smiles before he hurried up Avenue du Parc, shoulders hunched against the wind and signature wool cap bobbing up and down: a true Montrealer out and about in his city.

Whatever Reason will be released April 21, 2017 and is available for pre-order now.

interview by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

Album Review: Tim Darcy – Saturday Night

tim-darcy-saturday-night-album

Saturday Night is the first solo album by Ought singer/guitarist and former CKUT music librarian Tim Darcy. Performing under his own name, Darcy abandons his speak-singing techniques and develops a smooth and mesmerizing vocal energy. Accompanied by idiosyncratic instrumentals and delivered by means of beautifully delicate lyrics, Darcy’s vocals on Saturday Night spellbind the listener and give the album its ethereal feel.

The album’s opening track, “Tall Glass of Water,” is an upbeat tune displaying energy reminiscent of Lou Reed’s Transformer. However, it is with the album’s second track, “Joan Pt 1, 2,” that Darcy begins to shed his Ought aesthetic and reveal his individual sound. After two minutes, the song’s initial character fades and a new one – the cryptic crooner – is unleashed. From this point onwards, Darcy’s enigmatic vocals stay at the core of Saturday Nights musical exploration.

On “Still Waking Up,” Darcy succumbs to his inner love-sick crooner. In doing so, he fuses a Roy Orbison-esque southern charisma with a more whimsical cadence, fomenting a vocal tenderness unique to the rest of the album.

That being said, the crux of Darcy’s vocal resonance shines through on tracks where he evokes the voice of Tim Buckley. Though done in an eerier vein, Darcy successfully harnesses Buckley’s beguiling vocal richness, highlighting his ability to transform the quintessential Americana voice into something simultaneously sweet and haunting. With the track “Found My Limit,” Saturday Night’s themes of rustic Americana converge with more uncanny lyrical content. Darcy’s wistful vocals, intertwined with the subtle plucking of a guitar, foster an almost Lynchian atmosphere. On the album’s title track, Darcy’s ghostly vocals are webbed into a volatile instrumental: the twangs and screeches of the song’s wavering instrumental echoes the experimentalism of White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground. Meanwhile, with “Saint Germain,” Darcy’s voice maintains a trance-like calmness that cuts through the instrumental clamor and perpetuates the album’s overall unearthly feeling.

Ultimately, Darcy’s solo project is wildly imaginative. Darcy takes an element of fanciful bizarreness and imbues it with a rural spirit, fusing more traditional Americana with elements of the avant-garde. At times, Darcy’s attempt to cover so much ground in one album may lead to it being slightly convoluted; however, Saturday Night ultimately succeeds as a wholly enthralling listen.

Tim Darcy plays with Molly Burch at Bar Le Ritz PDB (179 Jean-Talon O) on Saturday, Mar. 4, 11 p.m., $13

– Review by Soraya Mamiche Afara

CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: February 28, 2017

Hi friends,
I am still recovering from a crazy weekend of book launchesbenefit gigs, andworkshops, capping it all off last night by opening for the excellent NYC band PILL… I feel like I’ll be pushing the limits of my caffeine intake today. Whew. It’s also reading break at McGill this week, so many of our regular volunteers are out of town visiting warmer climates — please be patient with us if we’re a little behind on music intake this week.
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Spike Taylor is a local artist and piano tuner. His projects can be found at theharmonist.ca. For the month of March, 2017, he will host If You Got Ears and feature unusual piano music from around the world, spanning the age of record. He will share stories of the piano technician trade and of the instrument itself. Each week will build toward Piano Day – a new global initiative celebrated on the 88th day of the year to draw attention to the pianos in our midst and the people who love them. CKUT and The Harmonist are co-presenting a Piano Day event at Sala Rossa on March 29 featuring the music of Montreal poet/hero Leonard Cohen in a benefit fundraiser for a new used piano for the street youth outreach centre Dans-La-Rue. Hear this special program on CKUT every Wednesday in March from 12-2pm.

:::CHARTS:::
ckut top 30 – february 28, 2017

1. tim darcy – saturday night – jagjaguwar CC *
2. the luyas – human voicing – paper bag CC *
3. moor mother – fetish bones – don giovanni
4. leif vollebekk – twin solitude – secret city CC *
5. pc worship – buried wish – northern spy Continue reading

CKUT TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE CHARTS::: February 21, 2017

unnamed

Hey everyone,
It’s a busy time around here as we gear up for the annual Homelessness Marathon at CKUT… In addition to that, I’ve got a couple other projects on the go that are keeping me on my toes this week. Hectic times like these call for extra coffee – I’ve downed three cups so far this morning and am already needing more.
xo
joni

:::WHAT’S UP AT CKUT:::
Tomorrow marks the 15th annual Homelessness Marathon: a yearly overnight coast to coast radio broadcast to raise awareness of homelessness and the issues that contribute to it. This broadcast started a decade and a half ago right here at CKUT and has grown to be a full-on, national initiative produced collaboratively by a wide range of stations across Canada. Rather than a traditional monetary fundraiser, the Marathon aims to raise awareness about housing issues and give a platform for those impacted to share their stories. Stream the whole thing live at ckut.ca from5pm on February 22nd – 7am on February 23rd, and check out the Facebook event for more info on what you’ll hear during the broadcast.

:::CHARTS:::

ckut top 30 – february 21, 2017
1. the luyas – human voicing – paper bag CC *
2. tim darcy – saturday night – jagjaguwar CC *
3. avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche – pas pire pop, i love you so much – constellation CC *
4. tasseomancy – do easy – hand drawn dracula CC
5. homeshake – fresh air – sinderlyn CC * Continue reading

School’s Out: Pottery @ Bar Le Ritz P.D.B.

IMG_0391

An excited hum filled Bar le Ritz PDB on Thursday night in anticipation of the first show from the newly-formed Montreal group, Pottery. I loitered with friends of the band around the stage, drinking beer and waiting to hear what Pottery was all about; with no music online and a week-old Facebook page, it was hard to know what to expect.

Around 10pm the quintet, two of whom are students, took the stage. Understandably for such a new project, there was equal nervousness and anticipation from the crowd as they launched into their set. The first tune started with a long vamped intro, slowly building on one chord until exploding into a soaring chorus. The whole room let out a deep breath – the band sounded tight and confident, and all the tension melted away as Pottery plowed through the rest of their set.

The songs were mostly upbeat rock numbers with some interesting influences of boudoir jazz, new wave, and a little country, resulting in a remarkably balanced sound overall. The rhythm section stayed steady and driving while the guitarists traded riffs back and forth over droning, rich synth chords. Austin, Pottery’s frontman, kept the stage banter minimal with the occasional brief song introduction and a few “thank yous” throughout the set. His stage presence, though, was a force to be reckoned with: his energy during the performance was contagious and his vocals, punctuated by some excited shouts and fun lyrics (something about Hank Williams doing speed?), had a similar effect. After half a dozen songs, the set finished off with a fast rock & roll number showcasing a sample of the riff, if I’m not mistaken, from Gary Numan’s “Cars.” Sick.

Short but sweet, the first show by Pottery was a great debut and an impressive start for a group that’s going places. Someone in the crowd told me they got asked to play another show right after their set, and given the strength of their debut performance it comes as little surprise. They’ve got a few more shows this spring that I highly recommend everyone check out, especially if you’ve got a taste for local bands on the rise.

– Review and photo by Nora Duffy

 

Album Review: The Luyas – Human Voicing

LuyasArt

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