Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Loscil at Usine C in Montreal

November 6, 2013

loscil

25 October 2013

Scott Morgan aka Loscil brought his soothing brand of ambient soundscapes to Montreal on Friday night, and played to an intimate crowd at Usine C, as part of the 5th annual Akousma Festival – a concert series that explores the diversity of electroacoustic music.

Usine means “factory” in English and the venue was indeed once a factory that produced strawberry jam. Morgan played in the converted theatre area, an open space lined with red brick walls and speakers strategically placed around the room. Loscil is arguably my favourite ambient artist, I’ve been listening to his music for a decade now, and this was the first time I’ve seen him play live, so I was pretty stoked to finally get the chance.

And he sounded fantastic. Manipulating the many speakers in the room to his advantage, creating swirls of sound and rhythmic bass. My only complaint, his set was too short. So often when I go to see ambient musicians play live I get antsy, restless, but that wasn’t the case here, with Loscil’s set I felt like I could have settled in for a much longer journey into his world of sound – because it was just so damn calming.

Ben Vida played afterwards and ruined that calm vibe pretty quickly with his harsh analogue attack. He sounded like a touchtone telephone malfunctioning over and over again for 45 minutes. But Loscil, he tapped into something really nice, and I wish he’d have played just a little bit more of it. Come back soon Scott!

BUCK 65 – Secret House

August 15, 2013

buck 65

Here is an old review I wrote in 2007 for All Music that was never published, and after randomly listening to this record today for the first time in years, I decided it’s totally worth representing here. A great record by an under-rated Canadian hip hop icon. Check it!

Buck 65 – Secret House Against The World (2005)

Stinkin’ Rich Terfry aka The Centaur aka Buck 65 returns with a new full-length that expands on the chilled-out folktronic hip-hop of 2003’s Talkin’ Honky Blues. Longtime fans will find it an even further departure from the turntable-oriented MCing that endeared Buck to his listeners in the first place, however, sonically speaking the production on Secret House Against The World is arguably his finest output to date. Melodies abound – strings, piano, vibes, banjo, guitar, and the lush backing vocals of Parisian vocalist Claire Berest are all used adeptly throughout. Recorded in studio with help from Tortoise, Gonzales, fellow Nova Scotian Charles Austin, and a handful of others, Secret House sounds natural and organic, like real human beings making music together.

Lyrically, Buck is beginning to veer away from the non-sequitur stylings of Aesop Rock and the experimentalism of his contemporaries releasing records on Anticon and Definitive Jux. Instead, Buck continues to refuse to be pigeonholed or tied down to any one genre. Sounding more like a synthesis of Johnny Cash, Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits, Buck 65 does what he’s always done best – he tells stories. And to be sure, the most compelling songs on Secret House are narratively driven. “The Floor” tells the tale of a young boy with a drunk father and sick mother over the backdrop of quiet piano and vibraphone and ends with a moody orchestral swell as a fitting climax. In “Drunk Without Driving” Buck raps from the perspective of a down-and-out traveling salesman having an affair with a married woman: “And this is terrible, gorgeous and sinister / The pillow still smells like the secrets of my visitor / No one needs to know about this kind of thing / Blood on my back from the attack of her diamond ring”. You can actually see the crummy hotel room – haze of cigarette smoke, bottle of Jack on the bedside table, TV flashing in the background – almost like something out of a Raymond Carver story.

There’s a sadness that runs through this album, the mood and tone of slower tracks like “Surrender to Strangeness” and “Blood of a Young Wolf” play out like the alt-country of Califone or Wilco, and sound pretty good doing it. Faster tracks like “Blanc-Bec” and “Kennedy Killed The Hat” will be the one’s that stick out at live shows and after first listens, but it will be the introspective, story-driven (dare I say Leonard Cohenesque) tracks that the avid listener will want to return to again and again.

OSHEAGA Festival 2013, Day 3

August 13, 2013

8748623

4 August 2013

Music lovers came in droves on Day 3 of the eighth edition of OSHEAGA, ramming Parc Jean-Drapeau to its capacity and connecting over the smooth rhymes of Kendrick Lamar and the fitful strumming of Mumford and Sons – and the vibe was positive and fun throughout. This remains one of the best things about going to a big outdoor festival, the feeling of camaraderie and harmony that flows through the crowd, the sense that we are witnessing a small slab of musical history together and loving every minute of it.

The worst part is the moment of panic when you realize you are crammed in the crowd so much tighter than sardines, and sure while being right at the front of the stage is awesome, it’s also a little bit terrifying … and where the hell is that beer guy with the seven dollar Coors Light for fuck’s sake!?

The other worst part is pissing – especially if you’re a girl – the lineups were ridiculous, the stalls horrific. For the dudes they had these three-way stand-up urinal thingy’s this year which made it almost as easy as pissing in the bush, but by Sunday they were full up and starting to spill over – fackin’ nasty, but hey let’s get back to the music shall we?

We arrived just in time for a fifteen minute downpour right before Big Boi’s set, but thankfully the skies remained clear after that. Here are the shows I checked out on Day 3 of the 8th installment of Osheaga…

Big-Boi

BIG BOI

To say I was excited to see Big Boi is an understatement. Outkast was and still is my favourite hip hop group of all time. I’ve written about my love for them before and will continue to write about my love for them here, but…

So an injured Big Boi hobbled on stage with crutches and a leg brace and sat down on a majestic throne and began blasting out a medley of hits from the Outkast discography and I was stoked. But his vocals were muddied, apparently due to the fact that a speaker blew somewhere. Yet, as Big Boi ventured into his solo stuff, I began to wonder if maybe he might be lip-syncing. In fact, I am convinced he was lip-syncing. During the songs they had videos playing instead of a live feed of the show, he didn’t take a sip of water the entire set, and he pristinely blasted through his tongue-twisting rhymes as if they were…pre-recorded.

It wasn’t until the last track, “In The A”, that I believe he was actually rapping – the sound was louder and you could actually hear Big Boi rhyming instead of his vocals being lost in the mix. Overall, I was happy I had the chance to see a hip-hop legend, but it was in no way an amazing performance. Perhaps because he was injured he felt it was either he do a bit of lip-syncing or cancel the show…who knows. All I know is, I wanted more bump and thrill from the hip-hop veteran, but instead I would get that from the next performer, the young Kendrick Lamar.

kendrick

KENDRICK LAMAR

The crowd began filling up immediately after Big Boi’s set, even though Kendrick would not be on for another hour. The anticipation was high as was much of the crowd. It was an interesting mix of aging scenesters, twenty-something hipsters, and teens with their parents, all excited to catch Kendrick’s vibe on his first trip to Montreal. And he did not disappoint. Alone on stage except for his DJ, the 26 year-old Compton rapper proved he was worth the hype, coming off as a young Nas on stage, super serious, yet super earnest.

The crowd was rapt, and he let us take care of all the hooks and refrains for him as if he’s been in the game for way longer than a minute. He played tracks from his early mixtapes, his first record Session 80, and of course, the best cuts from good kid, m.A.A.d. city, which was number two on my BEST of 2012 list. Unlike Big Boi, Kendrick’s voice was loud and raw – you could tell he’d been on a tour for a while, because his voice was ragged from overuse.

Overall, the young rapper had a commanding presence, his DJ’s low-end bass was incredibly deeeep, and he showed us why we all fell in love with him in the first place.

img_7815

NEW ORDER

Fans young and old crowded around the main stage to watch the current incarnation of synth-rock pioneers New Order, as they played hit after hit after hit from their extensive catalogue. Featuring three members of the original line-up, the new wave legends proved they still had the same flair as they did twenty years ago. “Bizarre Love Triangle” sounded amazing, as did “Ceremony”, “Age of Consent”, and “Ecstacy”. Unfortunately, after three hours of standing, me and my crew needed some downtime and a bathroom break, so the first few tracks of their set were enjoyed only peripherally, but we moved in closer about half way through.

New Order ended the show with a few tracks from their Joy Division days. They played “Atmosphere,” “Shadowplay,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, which they rocked out to great success. It was fantastic to see this band play live because there’s a pretty good chance I’ll never get to see them again. As soon as they were done we darted out of the crowd and raced towards the Piknik Electronik Stage with the hopes of catching the end of Disclosure’s set…

disclosure_osheaga_2013_03

DISCLOSURE

We made it in time to see the last fifteen minutes of Guy and Howard Lawrence’s first show in Montreal and were immediately transported into a hype dance party. My tired legs found the groove and we jumped and danced as hard as we could for the rest of their set. We arrived as they were playing “F For You” and the beats were crisp and the bass incredibly smooove. After the song ended they welcomed Jessie Ware to the stage to sing her track “Confess To Me” off of their debut album Settle, and the addition of real vocals heightened their performance by about ten degrees. The crowd ate it up. The young duo finished with hit track “Latch” and we danced our way through the crowd to the Green Stage to see the final show of the night, Hot Chip.

hot chip

HOT CHIP

Skipping Mumford and Sons entirely and bidding farewell to an amazing Osheaga 2013 with an impromptu glow stick party courtesy of Hot Chip was a great decision. I couldn’t care less about Mumford and Sons and many other people felt the same way as they chose to end the festival with the London electro-pop darlings instead. The crowd was full of energy as was Hot Chip who played an assortment of their best dance cuts: “Over and Over”, “Boy From School”, “Ready For The Floor”, “How Do You Do?”, “Flutes”, and more. The only problem was the set was too short, they didn’t get a chance to slow it down at all, and although yes we came to have one last dance before the festival was over, it would’ve been nice to hear a few of their slower tracks. Still, it was the perfect way to end an excellent OSHEAGA.

Don’t miss it next year! Cheers.

crew

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

April 30, 2013

boards-of-canada_tomorrows-harvest-608x608

Yep it’s finally happening: Boards of Canada have announced they will release their fourth full-length album courtesy of Warp Records – eight long years after the wistful The Campfire Headphase in 2005. After spending the last week transmitting codes on special 12″s, YouTube videos, warped audio clips, and even on TV, Michael Sandison’s and Marcus Eoin’s cryptic message ended up being a grainy clip of VHS static and synth drones, which arrived the same day as the details of its 17-track Tomorrow’s Harvest LP. The forthcoming album is now available for pre-order via Bleep, and official release date is June 10th.

Judging by the music on the clip and the names of the tracks, this looks like it’s going to be a dark and foreboding album. Anticipation begins…

TRACKLIST
01 Gemini
02 Reach For The Dead
03 White Cyclosa
04 Jacquard Causeway
05 Telepath
06 Cold Earth
07 Transmisiones Ferox
08 Sick Times
09 Collapse
10 Palace Posy
11 Split Your Infinities
12 Uritual
13 Nothing Is Real
14 Sundown
15 New Seeds
16 Come To Dust
17 Semena Mertvykh

Lusine, Local Natives, The Besnard Lakes

April 14, 2013

Hello all. I’ve seen some really great concerts lately, but unfortunately have been too busy to give them proper reviews, so here are some mini-reviews of the three best live shows I’ve seen in Montreal this spring …

LUSINE AT O PATROS VYS

lusine

22 march 2013

Jeff McIlwain aka Lusine has been producing his visceral, melodic strain of electronic music for over a decade now and I was lucky enough to catch him play a live set at O Patros Vys, in support of his excellent new album The Waiting Room. McIlwain is an underrated legend in the electronic music scene. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Lusine has never been in the forefront of the scene, has never played huge venues or been super hyped about on music blogs, yet he is revered by those in the know – and has been perfecting his bubbly analogue techno for years now. His live set was great and he kept the crowd dancing from beginning to end. He doesn’t tour very often so if he plays your town make sure you check him out. Love it.

LOCAL NATIVES AT LE NATIONAL

local natives

29 march 2013

L.A. scenesters Local Natives returned to Montreal in support of their sophomore album Hummingbird and played to a sold out crowd at Le National. I saw them the first time around in 2010 in Toronto and was very impressed and can only say their show has gotten even better. What impressed me most was their live vocal chops, as they effortlessly hit every note, whether in chorus or alone, reminding me at times of the powerful harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash — which is no small feat. The crowd sang and chanted along with the band (myself included), making it feel as if Local Natives have been around forever.

The songs from their debut album Gorilla Manor were absolutely amazing live – incredibly tight and soaring to new heights from the recorded material. The newer tracks, however, failed to reach the same heights live, as you could tell they were still working them out, still smoothing out the kinks a bit, but that didn’t mean they weren’t great too, they just paled a bit in sonic comparison. Overall, this show was powerful, emotional, and a tour de force from a young band still realizing their full potential. Great stuff!

THE BESNARD LAKES AT CABARET DU MILE END

blue light

13 april 2013

The mighty Besnards celebrated the release of their fourth record, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO and rocked out to a capacity crowd at Cabaret du Mile End. As always, their show was fantastic – they always sound even better live than on record and something about Jace Lasek’s voice and giant presence (not to mention the smoke machine and flashing lights) make The Besnard Lakes seem larger than life. I’ve seen them five times now and every time I’m happily transported on their sonic journey with them.

The band blasted through every song on their new record and were so tight it already sounded like they’ve been playing them for years. Rich White’s guitar was loud, and Jace Lasek’s voice was immaculate, as was Olga Goreas’ driving bass. They had vibraphone accompaniment for four songs, plus some horns and back up singers, which all helped expand their sound. New tracks “The Specter” and “Colour Yr Lights In” were highlights, and their new album shows a further maturity to the band’s talent as songwriters. To sum, The Besnard Lakes are most definitely still the roaring night. Fantastic show.

Tame Impala at Metropolis in Montreal

March 17, 2013

marquee2

11 march 2013

Australian rockers Tame Impala returned to Montreal and played a sold out crowd at Metropolis on Monday night. Even though it was a school night and a work night it didn’t stop teens and aging scenesters alike to cram the venue in droves. Showcasing tracks from their critically lauded 2012 release Lonerism and their equally awesome debut Innerspeaker, Kevin Parker and company revealed why they’re one of the most revered bands currently rocking in the “indie” world – because they sound both authentically throwback in the classic rock sense yet also very much of the right fucking now. We all agree Parker sounds like John Lennon and monster jam “Elephant” sounds like Sabbath, and that the band is indebted to 60’s American psychedelica and decades of British rock, yet with the release of Lonerism last year, they truly began carving out their own sonic niche and are happy to reveal this to their fans as they blast it out night after night on their massive 2013 world tour.

I saw the band play last year at Osheaga, but was still excited to see them in an indoor venue as I thought the sound would translate better indoors, and my suspicions were correct: their sound was bigger, louder, trippier, and more bad ass. What was also great is that they weren’t afraid to tweak their songs live, adding flourishes and time changes, extended riffs and solos, groovy intros and codas … in short, the show was awesome. Wafts of weed floated in the air for the duration of the show, and I completely zoned out in the vibe, staring up at the simple pulsing visuals behind them. The visuals weren’t much to look at (in fact they seemed laughably outdated), but were hooked up to the soundboard and worked in sync with Parker’s guitar and Nick Allbrook’s keys during quieter moments. Also of note is that Parker spoke en français in between many of the songs to the delight of the francophones in the crowd. All in all, it was an impressively tight set and refreshing to see a young band rocking out so earnestly. Great show.

SETLIST
Solitude Is Bliss
Apocalypse Dreams
Be Above It
Endors Toi
Music To Walk Home By
Elephant
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Keep On Lying
Mind Mischief
Alter Ego
It Is Not Meant To Be
Half Full Glass Of Wine
Encore:
Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

tameimpala

*pics by Jacquelyn Taylor

Nosaj Thing – Home

January 13, 2013

home

Los Angeles producer Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing returns this year with Home, the long-awaited follow up to his critically acclaimed debut Drift. A lot has happened since Drift came out in 2009 – Chung has toured extensively, playing in every major city in North America and abroad numerous times, he’s developed an excellent visual component to his live shows, he’s done remixes for the xx, Philip Glass, Portishead, Fly Lo, Kendrick Lamar and more – and now he’s finally had some much deserved downtime returning ‘home’ to record his latest record. And while it may not soar to the sonic heights of his debut, Home is a quiet yet immediately absorbing album reminiscent of early Morr Music artists like Arovane, Christian Kleine, and Lali Puna. This gives it a timeless feel, because even though it feels very much a part of the now, it also feels like it could have come out a decade ago. We’ve reached the moment in electronic music where sounds and styles are really coming full circle, and this is evident throughout Chung’s new record.

Fans may feel a bit let down upon first listen, as it is more introspective than his debut, but once they give it a spin on headphones they’ll realize it is a superbly immersive affair that flows into a smooth cohesive whole. Chung has also brought along a couple friends this time to add some vocals – Toro y Moi guests on the slowly sizzling “Try” and Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino captivates on the excellent “Eclipse/Blue”. I think the title of the album is fitting, as Chung has said it was a much more personal endeavour for him, and this is evident from the first few moments of the opening track. The beats are more subdued, the bass doesn’t wobble as much, the synths more subtle, but the overall effect is impressive in its clarity of vision.

Home is one for quiet nights, solitary walks and morning commutes, best enjoyed on headphones. It’s a slow burner of an album that has moments of real beauty and emotion, and it won this listener over real quick. Check it.

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2012

December 24, 2012

INAUDIBLE is thrilled to present his 4th annual end of year listy list!

vinyl_record-1024x1024

Holy shit, here we are again! As the year quickly comes to a close, I gaze out my window and watch the first winter storm of the season hit Montreal. Wistfully, I shuffle through the year in my mind, flashing back to a busy but amazing spring and the golden days of summer – of bike rides and park hangs, tennis matches and hot knives, cold beers on rooftops and falling in love. So nice. And with these memories comes snippets of sound, the summer jams I played way too loud and way too late and pissed off the neighbours. The songs that soundtracked my days and nights. With autumn came the return of the grind, the job that gets in the way of the work I really want to do, but keeps me young in the process. But there was also those crisp evening jogs, with music always pushing me, propelling me to run farther and faster. So good. And now l’hiver returns, encouraging ambient and electronic swirls and quiet guitars to join me on my weekly slog to work.

Life changes, music remains. All that to say, without further ado, let us go then, you and I…

TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2012

beach house

15. Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop Records)

Baltimore duo, Beach House make me feel like an adult. And for the six people who read this blog, you may have noticed over the last four years that this whole “adult thing” is something I’ve slowly been stepping into … lento, lentement, I’ve been testing the waters, and shedding away the ideals of youth I’d been stubbornly latching onto and have instead begun to embrace life as a real-live adult, and no other band plays a better soundtrack to this than Beach House.

Having a dinner party with friends who have children and own homes and drink wine instead of can beer? Play ’em some Beach House! Parents stopping by to meet your new boyfriend or girlfriend? Pop on some Bloom! I actually gave a copy of this album to my dentist to put on while he’s drilling holes deep into some unfortunate’s maw, and guess what? The good doctor loves this shit. “Nice stuff that Beach House. It really grew on me,” he said with a grin, right before he jammed the cold needle into my jaw.

This is no way to discredit the music found on Bloom, because it showcases the duo’s finest songwriting to date. The leaps and bounds they made from Devotion to Teen Dream are now solid strides. They make being a grown-up look easy. The whole record flows smooth from appetizer to dessert, but it’s also an album that can accompany you just as nicely during a nightcap with a loved one and the snuggling that happens after…

Top Tracks: “Lazuli” and “Other People

Dirty Projectors

14. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (Domino Records)

I first saw Dirty Projectors play in 2009 when they opened for TV on the Radio. At the time, Bitte Orca had just been released and the indie world was a-buzz with grandiose statements about how incredible they were. The show was in Toronto’s worst venue (The Sound Academy) and I was only able to enjoy their set in a cursory way, because I was waiting for friends to show up and could not venture close to the stage. And somehow along the way after that, they ended up getting lumped in with a long list of bands that everyone says are awesome and I just haven’t listened to them: Animal Collective, Vampire Weekend, The Shins et al. Bands that seem too academic or cerebral, in the sense that they play with their minds first instead of their guts. I don’t doubt these bands aren’t great, they just didn’t appeal to my musical sensibilities at the time…

Anyway, fast forward to this summer, and my friend Mateusz is blasting “About to Die” in my kitchen on a sunny morning during Osheaga weekend and it clicked. I was swept into Dave Longstreth’s eccentric compositions, with their subtle evocation of White Album-era production. Swing Lo Magellan is all sorts of things: quirky, technical, gentle, sparse, and oddly moving. Critics have said that this is arguably the band’s most “listenable” record to date, and if so, I hope they continue in this vein rather than attempt to further complicate their sound, and as I said, play with their gut.

Top tracks: “Gun Has No Trigger” and “Dance For You

lotus plaza

13. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky Records)

The other guitarist in Deerhunter, ya know, the shy guy who gets engulfed by the larger than life Bradford Cox? The one who just stands there and quietly rocks out? Well, his name’s Lockett Pundt, and he modestly stepped into the spotlight this year, releasing the excellent Spooky Action at a Distance under his Lotus Plaza moniker. It’s a shoegazey affair full of reverb and distortion, recalling 90’s indie bands like Superchunk, Treble Charger, and Dinosaur Jr.

It takes a few listens for the album to grow on you but once it does it reveals itself as a record that plays out beautifully from start to finish. It’s interesting to note that Spooky Action works in the same way an ambient album does, you can put it on and not hear it at all or listen carefully and get swept into every lick and hook. But I think it’s a record that needs to be listened to in its entirety, I don’t feel the songs pack the same emotional punch when listened to one at a time or out of sequence. That said, the album can feel a bit samey at times, but thankfully, that’s why we have Deerhunter.

Top tracks: “Strangers” and “Jet Out Of The Tundra

azealia banks
12. Azealia Banks – Fantasea (self-released)

Blame this one on summer time – a guilty pleasure without question, but hell if it ain’t got some amazing production courtesy of Diplo, Hudson Mohawke, Araabmuzik, Ikonika, Machinedrum, and more. Around this time last year, Azealia Banks appeared out of the blogosphere with her now ubiquitous song “212”. It was an absolute earworm that showed off her talents as a singer and rapper. This year’s been a busy one for the young artist, she’s put out her 1991 EP, as well as Fantasea, and shows no sign of slowing down, as her full-length debut is set to drop in February.

As with all the new young ‘hip’ artists that explode overnight, I took Banks’ for what I thought she was, a young musician in a long line of young musicians lucky enough to have her 1,500,000 views of fame before fizzling out. But her damn name just kept popping up everywhere, and so when even my cousin Chris (a man of discerning tastes) was spouting her praises, I started putting Fantasea on while jogging, and within a few listens I was pumping my fist in the air and singing along with her. Fantasea is scattered, varied, and uneven, but there’s a lot of hands in the soup at this point, and Banks is still trying different things and figuring out her style…and while she’s figuring things out she’s having a hell of a fun time doing it. Tracks like “Luxury”, “Nathan” and “Fierce”, show her moving from deep house to disco to crunk as if it ain’t no thang. And as I mentioned earlier, she’s been fortunate to work with some of the most innovative producers out there, and so at this point the question that remains is if she is the by-product of amazing producers or the real star? Only time will tell and I’ll be listening along the way.

Purity-Ring-Shrines

11. Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)

The first of three Canadian entries on my list this year is the fast-rising duo from Edmonton, Purity Ring and their debut album, Shrines. Mixing the sensibilities of the Knife, Holy Other, Bjork, Burial, and labelmate Grimes, the young band have created a dark and moody collection of songs, with the help of processed vocals, synths, gloomy bass, and gritty yet expansive production. The lyrics throughout the record focus on the body and its organic nature, reminding us of our mortality while making us simultaneously contemplate our next move. Shrines came out in the summer but is better suited to the grey days of winter, and you can be sure it will be one I’ll be returning to during the wintry months ahead…

Top Tracks: “Lofticries” and “Crawlersout

Wild-Nothing-Nocturne

10. Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Captured Tracks)

Jack Tatum returned this year as Wild Nothing with his sophomore release Nocturne and makes good on his promise to amp up all that was endearing about his excellent debut Gemini. But to be honest, I was worried. After seeing his band play a dismal live show in Toronto in 2010, I was ready to cast them aside and get my 80’s/90’s fix elsewhere (Twin Shadow, Beach Fossils, Diiv, Wild Beasts). But, because I loved Gemini and the Golden Haze EP so much, I decided I had to give Nocturne a try. After my first listen I was underwhelmed, I felt the direction he had moved in was flat and the songwriting wasn’t as dynamic, but after a few more spins I realized my first impression was wrong, the songs were better written, gorgeously recorded, he’d upgraded to a live drummer, and incorporated some great strings. In short, Nocturne is a more complete album than Gemini, the songs have more meat on their bones, and don’t have to rely solely on reverb to get their point across.

Opening song “Shadow” revels in Tatum’s upgrade, with lustrous strings in between verses and a nod your head beat that makes me smile every time I hear it. “Only Heather”, “Paradise” and “The Blue Dress” all show Tatum as not just an excellent guitarist but a damn fine bass player as well. Perhaps Wild Nothing works best as a studio project and that’s fine with me, because in the end, Nocturne has proven to be one of the most consistently satisfying albums of the year for me.

cfcf

9. CFCF – Exercises (Paper Bag Records)

Montreal producer Michael Silver aka CFCF returned this year with the stunning Exercises EP on Paper Bag Records. Silver has been on a bit of a run lately dropping the fantastic Night Bus mixes in 2011, in which he reinterpreted Aaliyah, Biggie, Fever Ray, Autechre and more for the wee hours of the night. But with Exercises, we see the steady maturation of Silver’s talent as a producer. The album is made up of eight keyboard based tracks that are subtle and subdued, working on loops and licks of sound that consistently surprise. Silver is able to eke out emotion, knowing that he only has to hit the right note once in a song to make his listeners feel the meditative vibe.

Silver has an ear for simple melody, letting tones and swirls of synth gently build on top of each other, and this is one reason why this album is so successful. The other is its shining star, the amazing middle point track “September”. It’s a cover of the David Sylvian track of the same name and the only song with vocals on the album. Silver’s voice sounds strong and assured, the synths mesh together perfectly, and the song packs quite an emotional punch. The first time I heard it I was on the bus in the morning and it was chilly but the sun was shining and Silver’s voice surprised me at first, reminding me a bit of Arthur Russell, and the subtle build of the production was just perfect with the hand clap beats, farting bass line, and synth stabs sounding so nice…that you can guess what happened: I got that pang, my eyes went a little watery, I had to turn my face to the window for a moment and take a breath. I had to let that tingly feeling wash over me, let it quietly remind me of all that’s good and true and possible in my life. C’est la définition of good music, my friends. I’ve since listened to it many times and can say it’s one of my favourite songs of the year, and being followed by the equally gorgeous piano based song “December” doesn’t hurt either. Every track is a winner.

Exercises is CFCF’s finest work to date and shows he is definitely an artist worth getting excited about.

holy other - held

8. Holy Other – Held (Tri Angle Records)

Tri Angle recording artist Holy Other released his full-length debut Held this year, and it sees him further expanding on the moody gloom of his earlier With U EP. This is a dark, dark record, one that can throw listeners for a loop upon first playthrough. On the surface it is so bleak and forlorn it seems the perfect soundtrack for the end of days we’ve been waiting for oh so eagerly…

I have a student in one of my classes who is obsessed with the apocalypse and death. 13 years old and he might as well have “memento mori” tattooed on his forearm. During a History lesson, he will shout out, “Why are we learning this? We’re all going to die soon anyways!” Or during my spiel on pollution and green living in Geography class, he’ll pipe in, “We might as well all just kill ourselves now!” I’ve had to kick him out of class a few times, mainly because it annoys me that his dark thoughts influence the other kids too. One quasi-suicidal teen in each class is more than enough thank you very much. He’s just so blasé about it all too, as if he knows his life is nothing but a short joke and he’s sitting around waiting for the punchline. Fuck he pisses me off. So, I have been trying to open his eyes to the bigger picture, trying to get him to jump over to the optimistic side of the fence, and at least see things from another perspective.

Same thing could be said for Holy Other’s Held – once I started looking at it as uplifting rather than somber, I heard it in a whole new way. Once my ears latched on to this perspective, “Love Some1” turned into perhaps the most effective love/break-up song of the year, with its haunting climactic chant “Love someone/me me me”. Title track “Held” is also a powerful and intimate cry for what we all want most, to be held, to be loved, and the subterranean vocal plea: “Hold me, ahh, love me” may sound twee within the context of this write-up, but is extremely compelling within the track. It has a way-slowed down R&B feel at the end, as if he’s drifting off to sleep happily wrapped in his loved one’s arms…

Holy Other taps into that sad, lonely, existential part of you, much in the same way that Burial does. And sometimes it’s nice to walk in the rain, to wallow a little, and with Holy Other as the soundtrack feeling moody never felt so good.

modern driveway

7. Luke Abbott – Modern Driveway EP (Notown Records)

Norfolk based electronic musician, Luke Abbott, released two EP’s this year, Modern Driveway in the spring, and Object is a Navigator at the beginning of December. While both reveal his refined ear for analogue craftmanship, it’s with Modern Driveway where Abbott has truly tapped into something sweet. The title track opens the album with a slow build of insistent chord stabs and a subtle 808 line that softly swells underneath the arpeggio synths like something out of halcyon mid-90′s Detroit. Abbott ekes so much emotion out of this track, it’s hard to believe he’s able to outdo himself a few tracks later, yet that’s exactly what he does with penultimate track “Carrage”. It’s a beautiful and bubbly stomper with the requisite ‘pull the beat out of the mix and drop it back in mid-point’, and although I’ve heard this technique more than countless times, Abbott does it so well here, you’ll want to play the song again and again. Interspersed between the stunners are two subdued pieces, more align with the material on his earlier record, Holkham Drones. Overall, this is one of the finest electronic releases of the year, one that begs for repeat listens, and a sure-fire sign that Luke Abbott is about to blow up big time.

tame impala

6. Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular Records)

Tame Impala returned with sophomore album Lonerism, twelve more tracks of that great psychedelic rock I fell in love with on Innerspeaker. Grabbing the listener by the neck right from the start, “Be Above It” transforms into a terrific Pink Floyd-esque mechanical drone, and with its mix of the retro and the experimental, Tame Impala are making some of the most authentic sounding “new classic rock” I’ve ever heard. This unique throwback sound is one of the things the band does so well, and I think it’s safe to say that few other bands today sound like them at all. A little further on in the album, songs like “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Why Won’t They Talk To Me” really allow frontman Kevin Parker’s songwriting abilities to shine through.

I saw Tame Impala play this summer at Osheaga and they put on a great show, trying out “Apocalypse Dreams” and the awesome “Elephant” to the delight of the crowd. Wafts of weed floated in the air for the duration of the show, and I completely zoned out in the vibe. Still, I think they’re a band better suited to an indoor venue, and so I’m looking forward to seeing them again on their tour this spring. Lonerism contains hit after hit, but in listening to only a few of the songs on the album you’d be missing out – this is one case where the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. The album flows together seamlessly, with each song picking up on, and adding to, subtle parts of previous tracks. Tame Impala take Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and The Beatles, mash ’em all together and create an amazingly authentic 60’s/70’s sound that I could listen to all day. Great stuff.

grimes

5. Grimes – Visions (4AD/Arbutus)

Claire Boucher aka Grimes is 2012’s “it-girl”. Visions came out early in the year and helped catapult Boucher from local weirdo/hero to international star. Visions is a hypnotic album that expertly meshes pop sensibilities with electronica in entrancing ways. Her two big hits “Oblivion” and “Genesis” are still just as fun and immersive to listen to as they were when they first hit the interwebs a year ago. Grimes’ production brings to mind early Aphex Twin and other old Warp artists, and her voice floats in her strange falsetto above the mix, often unintelligible but no less bewitching.

Seeing her live show at The Cabaret du Mile End in Montreal was very impressive as I saw a young artist emerging before my eyes. Grimes was particularly cute and awkward on stage, seeming a bit nervous, continually asking the sound guy to “turn down the lights” and “turn up the music”. And once the lights went down and the sound went up she seemed much more in her element, letting her inhibitions go and her voice soar. And for the most part, she totally had the vocal chops live, although I did notice some voice loops assisting her once in awhile, most notably during the high parts of “Be a Body”. Production wise I was very impressed as the songs took on a grittier, darker vibe than they have on the album. The bass thumped hard, the snare pops rattled, and the synths coalesced into an analogue swirl of sound.

Later tracks on the album like “Nightmusic” and “Symphonia IX” although unassuming are arguably the strongest and most hypnotic with their subtle 4/4 beats and warm analogue production. Grimes seems to be at the forefront of a whole new wave of young electronic musicians pushing the boundaries of genre and technology. I expect big things from her in the future and think her sound will only get stronger, louder, and more particular the longer she keeps making it. Awesome album.

Cloud Nothings

4. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (Carpark Records)

It was on a cold day in early January when I first listened to Cloud Nothing’s debut record Attack on Memory. Before opening track “No Future/No Past” was even a minute in I was already hooked. It was like I was sixteen again, I could feel the angst and tension in Dylan Baldi’s voice, and the aggression hidden just below the surface of the band’s tight rhythm section. It made me excited to be alive, in the same way bands like Eric’s Trip or Tool or June of 44 did back in the day. That exemplary teen angst powerfully comes to a head in the refrain of the 8-minute blast of “Wasted Days”, when he screams “I thought I would be more than this!” over and over until his voice is ragged. Afterwards, they lighten the mood for the next two songs, before returning with the Drive Like Jehu-esque “Separation” and “No Sentiment”, reminding me of amazing bands like A Minor Forest, Paul Newman, and North of America with their chugging bass lines, angular guitar licks, and kick ass drums. Cloud Nothings bring to mind so many bands from the past, yet they never sound too much like one or the other, which has resulted in them paving out an indie-rock sound all their own. They are a young band quickly coming into their own and one to watch out for in the next few years.

Here’s something I’ve been pissed off about for six months now: I had tickets for their show at Casa del Popolo but missed it. It was a Friday night and me and my friend Mike were drinking a beer at his place, watching the Raptors lose on the telly, thinking if we get there by 10 we’ll be totally fine. So we get there at 10 and it was already over, they were packing up their gear, and drinking a well-deserved beer. Son of a whore, I am still pissed about this! And of course their set was awesome, loud, super-tight, there was a mosh pit the entire show, and apparently due to technical difficulties during the last song, rhythm guitarist Joe Boyer put down his guitar and dove in the mosh pit. Come back to Montreal soon guys, I’m waiting…

Grizzly-Bear-Shields

3. Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp Records)

Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was the crown jewel of INAUDIBLE’s very first BEST OF LIST in 2009. That album was so thrilling to me with regards to its production and each song’s dynamic and diverse composition. I had not listened to their earlier albums, so Veckatimest was my point of departure and it left me convinced they were one of, if not the best, young band making “indie-rock” in our present day. The reason for this was because I really enjoyed how within their music they seemed to be constantly looking back yet ever looking forwards; not afraid to sound a bit like their influences, while at the same time, ambitiously driven to lock down their own style. With Shields Grizzly Bear have done just that – they have sonically carved out their niche, gained a whole new legion of fans, and released my favourite “rock” record of the year.

Seeing their live show this year solidified my belief in their talent, as they effortlessly played their challenging compositions, switching instruments mid-song when needed, and delivering strong and near pitch-perfect vocal performances throughout. The band emitted an air of subtle class on stage, void of rock star pretension, letting the music speak for them, which I found very refreshing.

Unlike Veckatimest’s instantly infectious “Two Weeks”, Shields has no clear-cut single – the album calls for careful listening, and takes some time for it to reveal itself completely, but once it does it will reward your ears and mind again and again. Tracks like “Yet Again”, “Speak in Rounds”, “What’s Wrong” and “Gun-Shy” are all different stylistically, but each song showcases the band’s varied writing strengths. The album closes with “Sun in Your Eyes”, an eight-minute opus that has hints of theatre and prog and is arguably the band’s best example to date of their overall sound. Shields is a challenging album but one that showcases everything that is great about modern rock and roll. So good. More gentleman, more.

kendrick-lamar-good-kid-maad-city

2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Interscope Records)

Oh yeah, we gettin’ down to the wire now! Coming in at a strong second for the year is Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Ever since my Mom confiscated my Straight Outta Compton cassette tape when I was 12, hip hop has held a coveted place in my musical makeup. It was a view into a whole other culture for me, and the first time I paid close attention to the lyrics in music.

My Mom realized how angry I was with her for taking my rap music away from me, so she replaced my N.W.A. and 2 Live Crew tapes with the PG rated “He’s The DJ, I’m the Rapper” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, while my Dad was trying to get me into Zeppelin and The Beatles. But still I would go to my friend Justin Smith’s house, because his Mom let us listen to all the gangsta rap he wanted, plus let us watch R-rated horror movies and eat an endless pile of junk food. Eventually, once I started playing guitar, those classic rock discs my Dad kept pushing on me would take over my musical tastes, which would then lead to metal and indie and post-rock. But then, in first year of university I heard Aquemini by Outkast and it was one of the most amazing albums I’d ever heard of any genre. This was the start of my rap renaissance, as I got into Def Jux artists like Aesop Rock and El-P, old skoool heros like Tribe and Nas, new skoool stars like MF Doom, and even Kanye West. Since then I’ve never stopped listening to rap, but it’s definitely been a minute since a hip-hop record has excited me as much as good kid, m.A.A.d city. And what a record it is! It deserves all the attention it’s been getting, because it’s a truly original, compelling rap record, unafraid to risk taking a moral stand, with the confidence to successfully execute Lamar’s ambitions.

The narrative thread is familiar: black kid growing up in the projects has dreams of making it as a rapper, yet is pulled in directions he doesn’t want – crime, drugs, gangs, etc. – and after his friend is killed in a shoot out he decides to no longer get caught up in the game, and effectively pave his own way in the world. Yet even if the story is familiar, the delivery is not. Interspersed with amazing voicemails from his Mom and conversations with his homeboys, we see Kendrick as son, as well as, as a young kid growing up out there in the “m.A.A.d city”. Musically, the album is obviously indebted to Outkast (see “The Art of Peer Pressure”), but has such a strong sense of place that it deftly sidesteps the derivative. Kendrick uses many influences but he deploys them strategically, unexpectedly, which helps the record already feel like the classic it surely will become.

2013 will be an enormous year for Kendrick Lamar. Let’s hope he can hang on to the vibe he’s got going right now, because good kid, m.A.A.d city is the year’s most powerful record both lyrically and musically. Ya bish, ya bish!

Top tracks: “Money Trees” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)

fourtet-pink

1. Four Tet – Pink (Text Records)

In a way this can be considered more of a lifetime achievement award, as Kieran Hebden’s has been an innovator in the world of electronic music for over a decade now. That said, Pink is still the most exciting electronic album of the year for me. Under his Four Tet stage name, Hebden has released groundbreaking albums that span electronica’s sub-genres from leftfield to post-rock to IDM, yet over the last few years Hebden has had his ears set not to the sky but to the ground, namely the dance floor, after he started DJing at the Plastic People Club in 2009. The next year he released the superlative There Is Love in You, which saw him writing more dance-oriented tracks like the excellent “Love Cry”. His Fabric mix followed in 2011, and now with Pink, a collection of 12-inch singles, we find him writing some of the best techno music of the year.

Hebden has eschewed the quirk and abstract he is known for and applied a more clinical approach to get booties shaking and fists pumping and the results are spectacular. This is not to say that he’s lost any of his playfulness, these songs still maintain an inherent organic quality even though they follow the techno formula, mainly because Hebden always throws in a little something extra – chimes, synths, vibes, bass wobbles, piano, skittering vocals, and more. Compositionally, he seems to have been inspired by artists like Omar S, Burial, and Pantha du Prince, easily pushing songs into the 8-minute mark. Stand out track “Pyramid” uses a great bass line and repetitive vocal lick: “I remember when you walked away” to amazing effect, this track is a late-night banger, one that urges you to get up and dance. But, it’s dark too and has a great Steve Reich breakdown in the middle before the house beat and funky bass return to keep you shakin’. Opening track “Locked” starts off the album with nothing but minimal, interlocking drum loops for well over a minute, before a characteristically beatific melody emerges, and spirals around those shuffling drums, phasing in and out of focus accented with occasional deep bass wobbles. Elsewhere, “Ocoras” and “Jupiters” reveal Hebden’s knack for rhythm and groove, and the sprawling “Peace For Earth” momentarily eases away from the dancefloor with a komische-y, near beatless ten minutes, before throwing us back on the floor again for awesome closer “Pinnacles”.

Critics have sort of harped on Hebden saying he’s made great strides into club territory but still hasn’t quite fleshed out his style as a dancefloor artist. And while Pink technically shouldn’t be considered a proper follow-up to There Is Love in You, I think even as a singles compilation it suggests that Four Tet is still capable of going deeper and expanding higher than almost anyone else out there. Great stuff!

Yes! I made it to the fucking end!

 
HONORABLE AUDIBLES (click album to sample a track)

Andres - New For U

Andrés – New For U

Bersarin Quartett- II

Bersarin Quartett- II

Crystal Castles - III

Crystal Castles – III

Floating Points - Shadows

Floating Points – Shadows

Green Kingdom - Egress

Green Kingdom – Egress

Loscil - Sketches From New Brighton

Loscil – Sketches From New Brighton

Luke Hess - Keep On

Luke Hess – Keep On

Smallpeople - Salty Days

Smallpeople – Salty Days

Strië - Õhtul

Strië – Õhtul

Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold

Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold

Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

The Sea and Cake - Runner

The Sea and Cake – Runner

Twin Shadow - Confess

Twin Shadow – Confess

the xx - Coexist

the xx – Coexist

 

jason noble

R.I.P. Jason Noble (1971 – 2012)

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2011
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2010
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2009

Best wishes for 2013 and onward! Cheers to good muzik, friends, many laughs, and brief moments of (un)clarity.

love,

ml

5-10-15-20

October 13, 2012

Welcome to INAUDIBLE’s third installment of 5-10-15-20 in which we blatantly lift a feature from Pitchfork and use it to ask fantastic people about their torrid and varied musical love affairs at five year intervals of their lives thus far. This third edition features Montreal based music pundit Michael Ellis having visceral auditory flashbacks of the albums and artists that helped shape him into the man he is today.

AGE 5

Some of my first memories of being on this big gay earth are connected with family vacations to Rice Lake. I looked it up recently and I can’t figure out why my parents would drive all the way there with four sons fighting and shouting the entire time. We hauled balls down the ‘Highway to Forever’ in our Chrysler K-car and I always had to sit in the front between Mom and Dad. Being too small to peer over the dash, all I ever saw was the digital clock and tape deck. Before my parents fell for Billy Ray’s “Achy Breaky Heart”, they listened to cooler shit. Mostly Motown. They also listened to American Fool by John Cougar. So the summer my oldest brother chucked my snowtrooper G.I. Joe figure into the lake, promising it would come back with the tide (it didn’t), was also the summer I really listened to music for the first time. I guess you could say it hurt so good.

AGE 10

How can this exist?

This song smells like raked and rotting leaves. I found a German guy on Discogs selling an unopened LP and considered buying it.

AGE 15

My friend Glenn used to live a latch-key existence. His mom would gather the wash, claiming she was going to the laundromat, and then disappear for weeks at a time. While this lady was undeniably a piece of shit, her absence gave my friends free reign of the house. It was our club house. Glenn had a little brother he basically had to take responsibility for, making sure he was watered and fed. Being 16 or 17, and understandably not very mature, he let all kinds of shit go down in that place so long as he got something out of the deal. Stolen wares stored in his basement? Sure, but you had to buy him some Little Caesars. Having someone come over to grab a lil bag of weed? Fine, but he always got some of the money.

One day I was glazed and watching some kids play Twisted Metal 2 on a stolen Playstation, when between the couch cushions, I found a flyer for an upcoming show in Detroit – The Wu Tang Clan. We mostly listened to Eazy-E and N.W.A. like so many dumb kids, but the image on the promo was just so different than all that. The sheer insanity of nine members, all drawn in cartoon on blue photocopied paper, with these fang-grills. FANG-GRILLS! I didn’t even need to hear them rapping about Spiderman and kung-fu and goddamned Richard Dawson, I already knew I loved it.

I’m pretty white.

AGE 20

Fuck you Richie Hawtin. We peaked at the same time. It’s just that I was on acid listening to Consumed and knew I would eventually come down. But you seem like you never got over it. Concept 1, Decks, EFX, & 909, Consumed. What a run.

AGE 25

I was leaving home and ending a long lasting relationship and “Shine a Light,” “I’ll Believe in Anything,” and all the rest resounded with me. After moving to Montreal, I saw them with my tallest friend at Metropolis and fuck if it wasn’t devastating. I’m still not entirely sure what Spencer Krug is singing about in “I’ll Believe In Anything”, but at the time I felt that same desperation.

AGE 30

Grados and hash.

Ed: Thanks Mike!

If you’d like, read the first and second installments too. Cheers.

Grizzly Bear at L’Olympia in Montreal

September 29, 2012

23 September 2012

Warp Records recording artist and indie-rock darlings Grizzly Bear, returned to Montreal after five years to close out the POP Montreal Festival in style, and played to a jam-crammed and delighted crowd at The Olympia Theatre. Showcasing tracks from their brand new album Shields, interspersed with hits from their acclaimed earlier work, the Brooklyn quartet revealed why they are one of the most revered bands in the “indie” world – playing their challenging compositions with ease, switching instruments mid-song when needed, and delivering strong and near pitch-perfect vocal performances throughout.

Their stage show was simple yet effective – the band set up in a line on stage and with the help of excellent lighting as a backdrop (18 jellyfish-like lanterns flashing and moving in sync with the music), they created a fitting mood for the duration of their hour-long set.

As they began with “Speak in Rounds” from Shields, I was immediately pulled in, but started having a strange sensation that it sounded almost too good, that there would be no variation from recorded material to live performance, and that I could simply close my eyes and not be able to tell the difference between the two. However, as the lanterns slowly rose from the subterranean depths of the murky sea, and they played Shields opener “Sleeping Ute”, varying the tempo a bit and adding an extra vocal hook I began to truly get sucked in, and by the time they started “Yet Again”, I was one of the converts, not caring that I was a little too far back from the stage than I liked and couldn’t quite feel the sound reverberating through my body. It didn’t matter, Grizzly Bear came to perform and did so like true professionals.

Highlights for me included “Shift”, which was perfectly rendered live, “Foreground”, which with the help of sombre lighting was incredibly powerful, “While You Wait For The Others”, and “Ready, Able”, which are two of my faves from “Veckatimest”, “Gun-Shy”, which the more I listen to is becoming a fave on Shields, and of course the closing track “Sun in Your Eyes“, an eight-minute opus that has hints of theatre and prog and is arguably the band’s best example to date of their overall sound. Just great.

As I’ve said before here on INAUDIBLE, any time a Warp Records artist comes to play in your town, you are wise not to miss them, because you can be assured it’s gonna be tops. Check out Shields if you haven’t yet, as it will surely be on countless end of year lists, including mine. Peace.

SET LIST
1. Speak in Rounds
2. Adelma
3. Sleeping Ute
4. Cheerleader
5. Lullabye
6. Yet Again
7. Little Brother
8. Shift
9. Gun-Shy
10. Ready, Able
11. A Simple Answer
12. Foreground
13. While You Wait For The Others
14. Two Weeks
15. Half Gate
16. Sun In Your Eyes
–Encore–
17. Knife
18. On A Neck, On A Spit

* photo courtesy of Mateusz Garbulinski (from their show at Massey Hall in Toronto)