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, the 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
Time To Roll is the fifth studio album from the Ottawa blues band MonkeyJunk. The band is proud to announce that this album features an electric bass prominently, which was not the case in any of the band’s previous four album. The album is not only, electric but also eclectic. While every song is united under the umbrella of blues and blues rock, each song has a unique essence and emotion. In the first three tracks the listener experiences the emotion of a Jonny Lang ballad, the milieu of a Tinsley Ellis song, and the rockin’ vibe of something straight from the depths Jimmie Vaughan and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Vocalist Steve Marriner bowls over the listener with the sheer power and potency of his voice, such as in the first track “Best Kept Secret,” yet, at the same time caresses the listener with sonorous care, for example, in the soulful “Blue Lights Go Down.” As well, most every song also features Marriner’s powerful harmonica in addition to his strong vocals. The band covers many styles on the album, from the gospel tinged, funky “Fuzzy Poodle” to the strong, throbbing love song “Can’t Call You Baby.” Perhaps most interesting to a traditional blues lover, “Undertaker Blues” is what could only be described as MonkeyJunk’s take on the country blues John Lee Hooker’s songwriting. The song is the perfect coalescence between Marriner’s sharp harp and vocals, Tony D’s twangy guitar, and drummer Matt Sobb’s driving percussion. Monkey Junk entertains with the comical “Gone” and another southern rock-influenced tune, “Time To Roll.” Listeners will swear they hear Derek Trucks on the soulful “Pray For Rain.” “See The Sign” features a Southern/Indie Rock feel accompanied by Sobb’s drumming in tandem with that ever-present harmonica that anyone will come to know well after listening to this album. Time To Roll leaves the listener with a heart full of MonkeyJunk’s sonorous and impassioned blues and great contentment.
– review by E.C. Wenzel
Queen Alone is the second solo studio album from American R&B singer Nicole Wray, and her first album under the name “Lady Wray”. Eighteen years since her first album, Make It Hot, Wray has a new record company, a new producer, and a new sound. Make It Hot was part R&B and part hip-hop, with heavy drum beats and frequent features by album producer and rapper Missy Elliot. Queen Alone presents a more mature, classic R&B sound that puts the focus on Wray’s powerful vocals.
Most of the songs on Queen Alone are old-school R&B. Simple instrumentals are punctuated by trumpets and background vocals heavily influenced by gospel, a side effect of Wray’s church upbringing. This can be seen in tracks such as “Do It Again”, “Guilty”, and “Make Me Over”, nostalgic tunes about love and loss. As the album progresses, however, the songs begin to bring in elements of other genres. “In Love (Don’t Mess Things Up)” features a folksy instrumental not typically seen in R&B, providing an interesting contrast to Wray’s vocals. “It’s Been A Long Time” is reminiscent of the Jackson 5, bringing in more of a pop vibe. The tracks “Cut Me Loose” and “Underneath My Feet” delve into rock, with heavy guitar and drum beats. Finally, “They Won’t Hang Around” brings back memories of classic Amy Winehouse hits such as “You Know I’m No Good”. With elements of so many different genres, Queen Alone runs the risk of sounding like a collection of single songs rather than an album. However, the R&B undertones of every song, combined with Lady Wray’s powerful vocals, give the album the necessary cohesiveness.
Queen Alone is remarkable different from Lady Wray’s first album. Her new sound emphasizes her incredible voice instead of relying on the heavy backbeat and hip-hop elements of Make It Hot. Wray’s return to a more classic R&B sound suits her well, and is a great listen for anyone looking to reminisce about the old-school days of R&B.
– review by Emma Park
Natalie Mering, or better known by her stage name Weyes Blood, released her elegant new LP Front Row Seat To Earth a couple of weeks ago. The New York singer-songwriter’s second album released under Mexican Summer’s record label approaches the listener with tenderness and care through the whole tracklist. The realities of dealing with relationships and celebrating change in attitudes are central themes surrounding Mering’s latest project.
“Diary” is the first track off the LP that starts with a slow piano progression that feels heavenly to the effect of Mering’s beautiful vocals. The atmosphere feels intimate and sparks different notions of what Mering might be experiencing in her life. It’s almost as if she’s singing a personal passage from her own diary, informing the listening audience about how she feels. This sets the tone for the rest of the album which feels extremely personal from one track to the next.
The song “Be Free” is absolutely stunning, it pulls at your heart in the most comforting way possible. The guitar playing feels dreamy, Mering’s vocals towards the later half of the track resonate well against the brass instruments and finishes the song off exquisitely well. “Generation Why” was used as one of the singles for Weyes Blood’s latest record and discusses the idea of our current generation and dealing with change in everyday life. The gentle guitar plucking throughout the song is accompanied by violins that support Mering’s stellar harmonies on the track. At this point the consistency of the album feels satisfying and carries forth similar production within each song proceeding.
“Can’t Go Home” is the following track after “Generation Why” and utilizes a harmonizer for the background vocals, the effect feels like a beautiful outer worldly instrument. “Away Above” has cool synth work seeping its way through light guitar playing and pretty vocals that emulate a sense of sorrow that’s oddly uplifting at the same time. Mering addresses how confusing love can be, what it means to love someone, and how real that feeling can be to someone. It’s a harrowing track that is relatable for anyone facing the dilemma of what it means to have feelings of love resonating within one’s self.
Front Row Seat To Earth is a magnificent accomplishment for an album. Exceptionally touching and forward thinking, the latest LP from the New York songstress is one that should not be overlooked. Pick up this record and give yourself the pleasure of pulling up a front row seat to the experience. You’re going to want to be seated for the initial playthrough.
– Review by Michael Eidelson
The first thought that springs to mind when listening to the latest EP by Best Fern is how elegant the whole project makes you feel. Montréal based duo Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield string together spacious ambient production to create an inviting atmosphere that only exists within the realm of their EP. There are only five tracks on the entire project which creates a short but delightfully pleasant listen and suits the time of year where summer is slowly dwindling away into fall.
Soft synths start off the EP with the track “A Way” and establish’s the tone for the remainder of the dreamy project. Alexia’s approach to singing over the light production feels otherworldly and complement the style of dream pop that the two are crafting together. “Lay It On Me” continues to carry the narrative of the first song and brings a far more relaxing element than the previous track. It’s comforting and sedates the listener for the rest of the atmospheric environment that Alexia and Nick dive into.
The longest track on the EP standing at five minutes long, “Do U Love U” is incredibly tender and has synths working in parallel with Alexia’s beautiful voice. There are echoes in the background that form a concrete idea that you’re thrown into a different world completely while listening to the new EP. “R U Well” has synths that are layered on top one another but doesn’t clutter the sound, the effect makes the song more spacious with flutes that float their way throughout the duration of the track.
“I Will Try” finishes off the EP with a booming bass that isn’t over the top by any means, but instead feels like a grand finish for the project. Best Fern pull off a stellar debut with their self-titled EP. It’ll be interesting to see what directions the duo head in with future projects and the sort of direction that they decide to head in.
You can pick up their latest EP from their bandcamp and follow them on facebook and soundcloud. They’ll be opening for Angel Olsen on Friday September 23rd at the Rialto Theatre and will have another show on Thursday October 6th at La Plante.
– Review by Michael Eidelson
Ought is built for the live performance. Their songs are completely built around energy. The droning, repetitive licks build and build into these massive moments of courageous punk glory. Their Pop Montreal performance was a homecoming of sorts and they truly delivered in every way. Continue reading