Posts Tagged With: canada

Lost Voices – Esmerine

Canadian group Esmerine’s 2013 album effort of ‘Dalmak’ came across as an incredibly concise and impressive musical experience, one showing the chamber-pop band as one that has evolved from its early roots into one willing to explore new ideas and indulge in creative concepts. The groups latest album effort ‘Lost Voices’ continues this reign of impressive musicianship, with the band offering up another beautiful and haunting album experience. It seems on their last album Esmerine really found their footing in their music, and have now found a way to channel it all into an incredibly cohesive and well constructed format, resulting in some of the best albums of their career.

‘Lost Voices’ continues much of what Esmerine established on ‘Dalmak’, though the whole effort seems to take more steps forward than its predecessor. It seems the band are offering a new chapter in their repertoire,  with ‘Lost Voices’ displaying more creative ideas and ingenuity. Whilst beautiful string melodies help form character in the tracks, its the use of electric guitars that anchors most of the album together, creating a drive that hasn’t really been seen on previous Esmerine albums. There’s somewhat of a sinister and dark edge to a few of the tracks, though the fragile beauty we know of Esmerine still remains apparent in most of the songs.

Esmerine’s wonderful and delicate touch on music is hard to fault, with the realization and execution of the project coming across brilliantly on the album itself. Everything feels incredibly well crafted, with such care and attention going into each track in terms of their structure and pace. The Middle-Eastern influence that formed much of the basis on ‘Dalmak’ seems to been removed on ‘Lost Voices’, though this makes the album a much different character, showing that Esmerine have much more to offer in their music than what a single album suggests.

It seems Esmerine have managed to follow up what was easily their strongest album with an album that easily comes across as having equal strength to its predecessor. The new concepts and ideas Esmerine explore come across so naturally, and yet there are so many complexities to the album that those who enjoy listening to every little detail in every second will find ‘Lost Voices’ to keep delivering with each and every listen. This is truly beautiful music in every sense of the word, even when there is some feelings of worry and fear being injected to the songs, it comes with its own achingly beautiful edge, certainly making the album itself one of the best this year.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Neighborhoods Rise
  • A River Runs Through This City
  • 19/14
  • Funambule (deus pas de Serein)

Esmerine’s latest album ‘Lost Voices’ is out now on Constellation Records.

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Lise G. – Alexandre St-Onge

Experimental artist Alexandre St-Onge presents his latest release on Oral Records titled ‘Lise G.’ The new release features St-Onge’s soundtrack for the art exhibition of the same name. On this release, St-Onge pushes out his trademark experimental style to great effect, offering another unusual, bizarre and oddly engrossing sound experience full of incredibly weird concepts and ideas. As with many of St-Onge’s releases, there’s a very inaccessible element running throughout the album, making it a difficult listen, but to those who find the world of St-Onge so engrossing will find ‘Lise G.’ to be another wonderful insight into a weird and unusual world that only St-Onge knows.

‘Lise G.’ comes across as quite radical in terms of its experimental notions. An electronic ambient notion runs throughout the album, setting the scene for an unsettling world. Much of the actual music feels incredibly sparse, with a main driving force being a bizarre vocal track that sounds perhaps like St-Onge choking himself, forcing his voice into weird and unusual shapes  that paints the picture of something that only St-Onge understands. It’s by no means an accessible release, coming across as too weird an exercise to exist and perhaps one of St-Onge’s most challenging releases to date, though its in St-Onge’s approach to the whole notion of production and creation where we find the oddly appealing element.

‘Lise G.’ is hardly a record that will astound and amaze people, though it will perhaps place listeners into a world of interpretation, where the sounds being conjured up place each and every listener into their own head-space, drawing the gap between the consumer and St-Onge himself. It’s perhaps arguable that this isn’t one of St-One’s most impressive releases in his extensive career, though it oddly enough seems to be one that really sticks around in the memory, constantly tempting those daring enough to give it another listen and see what new things they will discover.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Lise G.

Alexandre St-Onge’s latest release ‘Lise G.’ is out now on Oral Records.

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Rêves Sonores À Montréal – Stefan Christoff & Nick Schofield

Canadian Pianist and composer Stefan Christoff teams up with fellow Canadian Nick Schofield for the release of their collaborative album effort ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ (Sound Dreams in Montreal). The new album offers up an electronic ambient album experience, utilizing Schofield’s experimental electronic ideas and teaming them up with Christoff’s gentle piano accompaniments. The result of this partnership offers up an interesting album, one that is at times, quite thought provoking in terms of how its instrumentals, and the techniques used to create them, result in music that is for the most part, rather emotional, but also one that is incredibly relaxing.

‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ features many elements of a conventional ambient album, though there’s many elements and ideas at play that make the record feel anything but. Unconventional techniques and concepts work their way seamlessly into the shared vision of Christoff and Schofield, everything combining together into a cohesive album experience. Both Christoff and Schofield use their own respective talents to guide the album’s musical motifs in ways that highlight each other’s techniques, whilst also working well with each other to create an album experience. Everything results in a very enjoyable musical voyage, one that bursts forth from the incredible amounts of creativity from the two musicians.

Whilst the collaborative effort between the two artists results in a very cohesive and understandable album experience, there’s still a few instances, techniques and ideas that push the album into an unusual and inaccessible territory. Those expecting an ambient-styled album similar to the work of Brian Eno or even Stars of the Lid will most likely find ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ to perhaps be a little bit more than they bargain for, though those who enjoy music with much more of an experimental slant than the norm will find Christoff and Schofield’s collaborative effort to be an incredibly enjoyable album experience.

‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ isn’t the most conventional of album experiences, though it is one that can be more easily tapped into by most people, even with its experimental slants here and there. Christoff and Schofield’s respective talents combine effortlessly into a wonderful album experience, one that is perhaps one of Howl! Arts most enjoyable releases thus far. Christoff and Schofield both seem to have tapped in together into an equally shared vision on ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’, both complimenting each other with their own musical motifs, resulting in one wonderful album experience.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Altitude
  • Generation I
  • Tempête
  • Haunted Lands

Stefan Christoff & Nick Schofield’s latest album ‘Rêves Sonores À Montréal’ is out now, available on Howl! Arts.

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More Than Any Other Day – Ought

First posted on Echoesanddust.com

The latest addition to the Constellation Records roster features the youthful post-punk outfit Ought. The band’s debut album effort ‘More Than Any Other Day’ expands upon the bands’ previous self-released EP, offering an electric and unique blend of alternative rock and punk styles. Sucking us in with phenomenal hooks, Ought command their music with such confidence that is much more mature than the band’s original EP effort, and instantly more satisfying, enjoyable and accessible.

Ought’s debut album ‘More Than Any Other Day’ is highly fitting for a Constellation Records release. Stylistically it departs somewhat more than what the record label usually produces, which the only similar band perhaps being Clues, whose 2009 self-titled release offered a similar electric post-punk style. Ought ultimately make musical style found on ‘More Than Any Other Day’ sound their own, pushing their own stylistic ideas and formats to create an album effort that is truly enjoyable. Ought command their music with phenomenal presence, utilizing a number of more experimental techniques not normally seen within the genre to give the music wonderful flair and character that could perhaps be described as Talking Heads performing the music of Arctic Monkeys.

‘More Than Any Other Day’ opens up in phenomenal style, going from strength to strength in each song, that is until the album reaches its second half. After a wonderfully strong opening half, the album seems to wane in comparison, delivering a little less on a few of the songs and at times sounding a little bit lacklustre. The tracks are perhaps enjoyable in their own right, featuring some of the similar hooks and techniques that make the album itself so interesting. ‘More Than Any Other Day’ certainly does deliver a strong and sometimes powerful album experience though it seems all the magic and all the wonder the band presents is mostly contained within the album’s first half.

Ought might be young and a little inexperienced, but it seems their raw natural talent provides for an amazing album experience that certainly delivers when it needs to. Ought’s style seems fitting for Constellation Records, featuring a perfect blend of varying experimental styles that the record label has become so famous for. Ought certainly aren’t afraid to do things differently from time to time, injecting wonderful motifs and elements that branch their music off from normal conventional senses. ‘More Than Any Other Day’ is unrelenting in how it presents itself, which makes for an incredibly satisfying release.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Today, More Than Any Other Day
  • Habit
  • Forgiveness
  • Gemini

Ought’s debut album ‘More Than Any Other Day’ is set for release on 29th April 2014.

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Black Ground EP – Sarah Neufeld

Following on from her debut album release of ‘Hero Brother’, Sarah Neufeld offers up a new companion EP titled ‘Black Ground’, featuring a reworking of one of ‘Hero Brothers’ tracks, and two new compositions. The new EP continues the same vein that began with ‘Hero Brother’, offering up cinematic orchestral tracks that are both striking yet beautiful. ‘Black Ground EP’ is an enjoyable experience that is sure to be pleasing to those who were taken by ‘Hero Brothers’ wonderful array of cinematic orchestral music.

‘Black Ground EP’ features Sarah Neufeld doing what she clearly does best, with effortless ease. The three tracks offer another insight into the world being conjured up by Neufeld’s imagination, offering a very exciting yet dark world of orchestral movements. The EP’s first track features a reworking of ‘Breathing Black Ground’, now featuring more movements and instrumentals to really bring life to the track. It’s in the EP’s remaining two tracks though that we find the really appealing elements of the EP, especially in the closer which offers another haunting yet wonderfully beautiful cinematic track. If any negatives are to be found on ‘Black Ground EP’, it is in how little the EP actually offers. With just three tracks, it would be much more preferable if the tracks themselves really offered something truly spectacular from Neufeld, or even hinted at something spectacular, making us want another future release. As enjoyable as Neufeld’s music is, it seems that ‘Black Ground EP’ is only a release for the die-hard fans who want everything available by Neufeld.

‘Black Ground EP’ is in some ways an enjoyable EP experience, though it is a little flawed in some areas. In terms of the actual music itself, there is an enjoyable strain running through it, though as an EP experience, it seems to be missing some vital ingredients that make it a worthy release. For those who enjoy Neufelds highly creative and enjoyable music, they will find ‘Black Ground EP’ to be an enjoyable release that serves as a nice after-thought to ‘Hero Brother’.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • Muscle Til Death
  • Requiem For Douglas

Sarah Neufeld’s latest release ‘Black Ground EP’ is available digitally as part of ‘Hero Brother Bonus Edition’.

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Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything – Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s sister group Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra open up 2014 for Constellation Records with the release of their seventh studio album ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’. The album seems to pick up mostly where ‘Kollaps Tradixionales’ left off, with the band forcing more of an urgent punk-rock aesthetic into their deep and brooding music. ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ manages to scope in more on the style Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra have been perfecting in their recent years as a band, giving themselves their own incredibly distinct and enjoyable style.

The band’s latest album arguably features much of the same type of structure that was present on ‘Kollaps Tradixionales’, but this time round it seems more focused and refined. There’s an incredible urgency to the music, as though each band member is desperate to present the songs. There’s a wonderful rock element to the music, though the orchestral elements that have made up previous albums by Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra are still present, adding to the music in such a fine and amazing style. There’s a deeply haunting melancholy on much of ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ which works phenomenally well for Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. Everything comes across as incredibly strong and refined, with the album arguably being one of the bands’ best albums in their discography.

Although there’s a very deep element to what is happening on ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’, it does remain a fact that instrumentally the album offers less than some of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra’s best and most loved albums. Much of the album is dominated by scathing guitar riffs and backing pieces performed by violins and although it works well for the album, it does remain a fact that it is perhaps a little bit disappointing that there’s not much of a chance for the other instruments to really come out and perform. Thematically, ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ offers an incredible amount though it sees the album lacks in terms of having really truly diverse instrumentals.

Despite everything, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra have managed to open up the year in fine style. The politically and culturally charged album ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ offers an incredible amount of scope and (in a somewhat unconventional sense) enjoyment. The album itself features what will easily become some of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra’s most enjoyed tracks, that will certainly be demanded for in live venues. The album easily goes alongside the already strong discography by Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, this time though, with it being the new steps in terms of what the band are going to achieve.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island Of Montreal)
  • Austerity Blues
  • Little Ones Run
  • What We Loved Was Not Enough

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra’s latest album ‘Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything’ is set for release on 24th January 2014, and can be pre-ordered at: http://cstrecords.org/cst099/

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Cosmic Brahjas/Closer To The Tones – Brahja Waldman’s Quartet

The latest album by Brahja Waldman’s Quartet is a double-album experience, offering two different stylistic jazz experiences. ‘Cosmic Brahjas/Closer To The Tones’ is one of the latest releases to come from Howl! Arts Collective, who released Stefan Christoff’s debut release ‘Temps Libre’. Brahja Waldman’s Quartet demonstrate on their latest album a brilliant understanding of all the capabilities of the jazz genre, offering up an incredibly rich and vibrant experience. The two albums cover different grounds, both being very different jazz albums. It is an incredibly interesting jazz music experience, and one that is refreshing to hear in these modern times of music.

Both albums cover different grounds of music, whilst all encompassing the very elements of jazz music itself. On ‘Cosmic Brahjas’, we see the band delve straight into the heart and soul of instrumental jazz music, with the album utilizing the use of the piano in fine style (which is absent on ‘Closer To The Tones’). The result on the first disc is a wonderful array of jazz instrumentals, each weaving their own stories and emotions. There’s a wonderful sense of community in the music, with the idea of each musician coming together to create something that they are proud of. There’s some wonderful pumped up moments of brilliant jazz sections, with one brief inclusion of vocals, which helps to really stands out on the album. On the second disc, the piano is replaced with a tenor saxophone, which helps to draw a somewhat different style out of the genre, giving the whole experience some brilliant vibrancy and diversity. Both albums are incredibly enjoyable, and both rather different to each other in some respects.

If any weaknesses are to be found, it is arguably in the album’s second disc ‘Closer To The Tones’. Musically, the whole album is brilliant, though when compared to the album’s first disc ‘Cosmic Brahjas’, it seems to pale in comparison. Many of the elements on the disc work incredibly well, though it seems that it never quite manages to reach the heights that the first disc manages to hit. It doesn’t ruin the whole overall album experience though, and in some ways, it is refreshing that the second disc of music on this double-album experience is in some ways different to the first disc. It helps to keep things moving along, and also prevents certain elements from getting stale or boring.

Overall, ‘Cosmic Brahjas/Closer To The Tones’ is one of the most enjoyable jazz album releases to have come out in recent years. What is present on this album is a quartet who clearly have a great understanding of all the strengths of jazz music, but rather than just churn out all the same old jazz music that is often heard, they add in their own heart and soul to the music. There seems to be a great sense that each of the musicians on the album are enjoying what it is they are doing, which helps to make the whole album experience an incredibly vibrant and enjoyable one.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Wise Love
  • My Heart Is A Real Thing
  • Cosmic Dance
  • Lonely Glory

Brahja Waldman’s Quartet’s latest double-album ‘Cosmic Brahjas/Closer To The Tones’ is out now, and can be purchased at: http://brahjawaldman.bandcamp.com/

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Temps Libre – Stefan Christoff

The stunning experience that is ‘Temps Libre’ is a musical story comprised of four instrumental tracks, capturing a story from an incredibly charged and for Stefan Christoff, an emotional time in Canadian history. Drawing heavily from the student movement in 2012, the EP helps capture the emotion and the various stages of intensity that was present during these times. ‘Temps Libre’ is at times a fairly downplayed music experience, with a highly improvisational element. The EP features Christoff on the piano, accompanied by Brahja Waldman on alto saxophone, and Peter Burton on contrabass, who all play an incredibly active role in the EP’s shape and sound. It is instrumental jazz music that seems to have been designed to be experienced, (though it is at the same time highly listenable). There’s a wonderful sense of creativity and talent that exudes through the instrumentals, making for an incredibly thoughtful experience.

‘Temps Libre’ is a somewhat short EP, comprised of four tracks simply titled ‘1-4’. The only clues as to the song’s identities are the history surrounding the recording and influence of the album. Stefan Christoff insists that ‘Temps Libre’ draws influence from the emotional intensity of the Quebec student riots, which when the EP is listened too, definitely seems to be the case. There’s some incredibly interesting elements to the music on the EP, with a lot of emotion coming through in the music. It feels like there’s a sense of struggle for justice coming through well in the music that seems to resonate with the history that has helped influence the record. It’s an interesting EP, where the music comes across as being highly creative and interesting, whilst being something that is simply listenable. There’s an element of improvisation on the music, as though the musicians aren’t 100% sure of how the music is going to end up sounding in the end, but also having some kind of idea of what direction the music will ultimately be going in. It forms a major part of the appeal of the EP which remains to be an incredibly interesting instrumental experience that takes many different unexpected twists and turns that are to an extent fairly unpredictable.

The main problem I can see with ‘Temps Libre’, is that it is a somewhat challenging EP, and one that is almost hard to truly understand unless the history behind it is understood and considered. It makes ‘Temps Libre’ a fairly polarizing album as there’s elements on the EP that may be hard to understand if one doesn’t know, or is perhaps simply not interested in the history. It is also fairly sparse for a musical experience, as there’s many gaps between notes that are fairly lengthy. It’s music that to some extent isn’t the most accessible, and therefore may not spark the interests of all those who choose to listen to it.  It is also music that is somewhat hard to truly understand, as the message is clearly present in the music, but it seems to take time for it to be understood, providing one is willing to allow it to in the first place.

Overall though, Stefan Christoff has produced a marvelous EP that is an incredibly conscious effort to capture what is to Christoff an incredibly charged and emotional time. There elements of jazz music combined with an incredibly creative effort has produced an incredibly interesting EP that seems to be going unnoticed these days. It’s a shame, as it is at the base of what it is, simply just music. It’s interesting to listen too for many reasons, not just for the story behind the EP’s creation, but also for purely how the EP sounds and has been arranged. It might turn out to be one of the most under-rated musical releases of this year, though one that is highly rewarding for those who enjoy creative music.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Stefan Christoff’s EP ‘Temps Libre’ is out now and can be purchased from the Temps Libre website available at: http://howlarts.net/temps-libre

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