Montréal chamber rock ensemble Esmerine return with the new full-length album Lost Voices, the most dynamic and incendiary record of the group's career, following its highly-acclaimed and Juno award-winning 2013 release Dalmak. Led by co-founders Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) on various mallet instruments and Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) on cello, Esmerine also includes drummer/percussionist Jamie Thompson (The Unicorns, Islands, Little Scream) and multi-instrumentalist Brian Sanderson.
Lost Voices can fairly be called Esmerine's "rock" album, expanding upon the band's celebrated prowess at deploying structure and dynamic, balancing melodic expression against methodical restraint through a diversity of stylistic touchstones while allowing for explosive crescendos of exuberant density and maximalism that most notably distinguishes this record from previous work.
Lost Voices is a deeply satisfying and evocative journey and another brilliant iteration of Esmerine's distinctive instrumental chamber rock; cerebral and visceral, controlled and volatile, and wholly cinematic in scope throughout.
Radwan Ghazi Moumneh returns with a second full-length album from his acclaimed Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) project, conceived and recorded in his dual homes Montréal and Beirut. Since the release of his first album in 2013, following many years during which the project was a strictly Montréal-based live/theatrical happening, Moumneh has brought JIMH to mesmerized live audiences in Canada, Europe and the Middle East. While JIMH continues to expand to include a larger cast of players for select engagements and commissions, the group is currently an immersive and performative audio-visual duo at its core, with Moumneh responsible for all sound/composition and filmmaker Charles-André Coderre creating 16mm visuals and live projections/installations.
Moumneh expands his compositional palette on If He Dies, If If If If If If, exploring new deconstructions and juxtapositions of both traditional and popular Arab musical currents, with an album that oscillates between powerfully emotive vocal tunes and instrumental works that primarily make use of Radwan's expressive acoustic playing on buzuk and zurna as a point of departure. If He Dies, If If If If If If is an adventurous, scrupulous, impassioned and highly original work of modern contemporary Arabic music and a gratifying sign that JIMH is situating itself in recorded works with the same thoughtful and dynamic intensity previously accessible only in live performances.
Ought returns with their second full-length album Sun Coming Down, following a break-out year for the Montréal quartet that saw its 2014 debut More Than Any Other Day make well-deserved waves, with a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork and appearances on countless year-end lists.
Having spent most of 2014 on the road vitalizing audiences with no-nonsense post-punk and the feverishly observational testifying of singer/guitarist Tim Darcy, Ought spent the first few months of 2015 writing, playing the occasional local gig, and eventually heading back to the studio to lay down a batch of fresh tunes.
Sun Coming Down maintains the band's tight, twitchy, economical sound. Ought pursues an artistically apposite austerity in committing these new songs to tape, referencing the arid and unvarnished production of no-wave and early indie rock while balancing carved-out angularity against an evolving comfort with textural coalescences and measured pacing. It makes for an album that's consistently, insistently propulsive but also feels unhurried and pleasantly unhyped. Sun Coming Down confirms the distinctive vitality and purposive naturalism of Ought, which resists facile primitivism and overhyped dynamics in equal measure, keeping things hermetic but never airless, ascetic but never dispassionate, literate but never prolix.
Two of Constellation's acclaimed solo instrumental artists join forces on this tremendous new album of original compositions for horn and violin.
Colin Stetson has developed a unique and highly-acclaimed voice as a performer/composer, chiefly on bass and tenor saxophones, rallying an array of technical strengths and innovations to make some of the most captivatingly organic, darkly soulful and otherworldly solo instrumental work of recent years with his New History Warfare trilogy. The solo violin work of Sarah Neufeld has emerged more recently, and especially through 2011-2014, in the period between her primary band Arcade Fire's last two albums; she's forged a distinctive and evocative solo violin practice combining rock, folk, ambient and modernist sensibilities, culminating with her debut solo album Hero Brother in 2013.
'Never were the way she was' charts an expansive sonic trajectory with a multiplicity of structures and voicings that belies the fundamental economy of two acoustic instruments combining in real time. The resulting musical chronicle powerfully establishes its own spatial and temporal horizon; Stetson and Neufeld offer up an impressively immersive integration of composition, performance, timbre and texture. 'Never were the way she was' is a sum quite definitively and thrillingly greater than its parts.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GYBE) returns with its first single LP-length release since the group's earliest days in 1997-99. 'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress' clocks in at a succinct 40:23 and is arguably the most focused and best-sounding recording of the band's career. Following Godspeed's return from a long hiatus at the end of 2010 to begin playing live shows again, and with the hugely acclaimed 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!' release in 2012 marking their first new release in a decade, the group slowly and steadily put the new album together through late 2013 and 2014. This mighty slab of superlative sonics is shot through with all the band's inimitable signposts and touchstones: huge unison riffage, savage noise/drone, oscillating overtones, guitar vs. string counterpoint, inexorable crescendos and scorched-earth transitions. 'Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress' finds Godspeed in top form; a sterling celebration of the band's awesome dialectic, where composition, emotion and 'note-choice' is inextricable from an exacting focus on tone, timbre, resonance and the sheer materiality of sound.
Eric Chenaux has emerged as one of the most distinctive, innovative and original voices in what might be called avant-garde balladry, juxtaposing his gorgeously pure and open singing against a guitar sound and style that truly stands alone. Skullsplitter is the impressive new album that confirms Chenaux's singular aesthetic: genuine, natural, unaffected vocals gliding through slow, smoky melodies while electric and nylon-string guitars are deployed with adventurously experimental, dextrous, semi-improvisational technique and texture. Skullsplitter stands as a welcome evolution from Chenaux's previous song-based album Guitar & Voice (2012), which was widely celebrated as his best work to date, championed by The Wire, Said The Gramophone, Stereophile and others for its unique sensibility and sensitivity. Skullsplitter builds on these strengths, with Chenaux working his concise array of signal-bending devices (volume, wah and freeze pedals) with a remarkable and idiosyncratic fluidity that's integral to the expressivity he brings to the guitar, and his voice at the calm center of this stormy micro-climate of bodily kinetics and woozy playing. On Skullsplitter, Chenaux's vocals are like a high pressure system, riding on clear bright air, stabilizing the roiling, changeable atmosphere of the guitars underneath; a gem of an album in an increasingly luminous discography.
Matana Roberts is one of the most acclaimed, socio-politically conscious and aesthetically intrepid avant-jazz practitioners of the 21st century. The critical accolades for her multi-chapter Coin Coin work place her at the vanguard of stylistic innovation and radicalization, while confirming the deep substance and soul that guides her compositional agenda. Roberts has long employed the phrase "panoramic sound quilting" to describe Coin Coin, and with this third chapter in the series she implements this metaphor most overtly, creating a sound art tapestry from field recordings, loop and effects pedals, and spoken word recitations, alongside her saxophone and singing voices. Coin Coin Chapter Three: river run thee unfolds as an uninterrupted album-length flow, in what Roberts calls "a fever dream" of sonic material, inspired by a solitary research-based road trip Roberts took through the American South in early 2014. Fragments of traditional song are the album's main touchstones, with Roberts' singing voice riding atop waves of radiophonic texture, layered spoken word, and an often dislocated, wandering horn. It is the first explicitly solo work in the Coin Coin series, and a fascinating extension of the cycle; yet another adventurous, socially engaged definition of what Jazz can mean in this day and age.
Siskiyou returns with Nervous, a majestic album of carefully constructed art rock built around songwriter and lead singer Colin Huebert's stacked acoustic guitars and intimate, whispery vocals. Siskiyou's sound has been previously dubbed a sort of 'Northern Gothic', conjuring cold winds and the life-saving warmth of temporary shelters and tiny hearth fires. With Nervous, the band continues to push beyond the crisp lo-fi intimacy of its early work, and has forged its most confident and finely-crafted recording to date, moving fully into auteur and chamber-pop territory with a song cycle that brings to mind the meticulousness of mood and sonics found in recent work by PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Tindersticks. Inflected by an anxious, sussurant restraint, Huebert's voice is supported by the falsetto backing vocal counterpoint and economical instrumentation of bandmates Erik Arnesen, Peter Carruthers and Shaunn Watt. Nervous includes contributions from guest musicians Colin Stetson, Owen Pallett, JP Carter, Ryan Driver and the St. James Music Academy Senior Choir, among others. The album features original artwork by Michael Drebert; the Deluxe LP edition includes a series of 12"x12" prints of Drebert's india ink drawings inspired by the album.
Ought has been gathering momentum the old-fashioned way, with a humble and deceptively unassuming post-punk debut that's been worming its way into many ears thanks to its combination of intelligence, authenticity, directness, simplicity and energy; and driven by live performances wherein the band's channeling of genuine passion, politics and charisma is exuberantly galvanizing audiences.
Ought's full-length More Than Any Other Day has been showered with accolades. Discussion of a tour-only release that would commit a couple of the band's self-recorded early tunes to vinyl shifted towards a realization that Ought wanted to update some of this material to reflect how the songs have evolved on stage and in concert. A weekend session at Montréal's Hotel2Tango in June 2014 yielded new recordings of two early pieces, "Pill" and "New Calm Pt. 2" along with the brand new, more experimental "New Calm Pt. 3". The fantastic non-album track "Waiting" from the More Than Any Other Day sessions rounds out this 4-song, 24-minute, vinyl-only offering.
Rather than restrict this freshly recorded material to tour-only status, Constellation is making it available to indie retail; a very fine EP that rounds up Ought's first two years of songwriting and reveals exciting additional facets of the band.
Last Ex is a new instrumental rock ensemble led by Simon Trottier and Olivier Fairfield, long active in Quebec's experimental/punk scene, though perhaps best known as core members of Timber Timbre, which spawned the Last Ex project. When Timber Timbre's ambient music for a horror film went unused back in 2012, Trottier and Fairfield began revisiting the sound palette for the soundtrack, expanding on their techniques and textures, adding drums, bass and various other instruments, writing additional songs throughout 2013 and bringing their obsessions with sound collage, tape-based music concrete and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to bear on the cinematic lyricism of the initial widescreen guitar and string-based material. With its combination of assured lyricism, cinematic guitars, dusky analog atmospherics and taut percussion, this is an instrumental rock album of superb compositional and melodic sensibility, balancing expressiveness and restraint, atmosphere and detail, bound by a highly original approach to production. Last Ex sits snugly between fellow label acts Do Make Say Think and Exhaust on the one hand, Hrsta, Tindersticks and Evangelista on the other. Fans of early Trans Am, early/mid Tortoise, Calexico and (obviously) Timbre Timber should also find this a very satisfying grower of an album.
Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche began in 2011, with bassist, singer and composer Jean-Sebastien Truchy seeking a new live ensemble to fuel his desired return to exploring the highly structured afro-kraut trance rock that was one of several stocks-in-trade during his tenure in early Constellation project and pseudo-legendary Fly Pan Am.
Avec le soleil initially formed with guitarist/engineer Sebastien Fournier and drummer Nasir Hasan; a rotating cast of additional players joined the group for live shows throughout 2012-2013, as the band gained a local reputation for irresistible and levitational live sets that combined an avant-garde/contemporary sensibility with infectiously angular, rubbery grooves. Guitarist Eric Gingras (Pas Chic Chic) emerging as a fourth core member during this period.
Avec le soleil is by now careening towards mastery of a highly original, deeply satisfying, giddy and heady avant-funk. Anchored by the brilliant bass and drum work of Truchy and Hasan, the group's music is woven with crisp stuttering guitar and keyboard lines and a continually shifting palette of electronic touches and interventions. The pair of exquisite and exhilarating 20-minute pieces (sub-divided into sections for CD and digital track IDs) featured on Zubberdust! are the culmination of the group's first two years of conceptual and somatic development.
Shortwave Nights is the debut album by Hiss Tracts, a new duo featuring David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Set Fire To Flames) and Kevin Doria (Growing, Total Life). The sonic preoccupations of Bryant and Doria are well-documented across many highly acclaimed recordings over the past fifteen years, from the organic, group-based, semi-improvised collage albums of Set Fire To Flames to the glimmering, immersive minimalism of Growing and the more maximalist full-spectrum noise works of Total Life. Hiss Tracts represents a compelling collaboration that opens new procedural and narrative pathways for these fine musicians to continue exploring soundscape-based composition and production. Both are guitar players, and the electric guitar figures as both recognizable and unrecognizable source instrument on Shortwave Nights, but the deployment of a wide range of additional analog sources and signals ensures that there is no confusing this for a guitar-based drone, noise or post-rock record.
Meditative and visceral, often suggestive of decayed/derelict landscapes and the humming electromagnetic atmosphere through which all manner of frequencies, transmissions and surveillances pass and collide, Shortwave Nights strikes an evocative balance between the sonics being captured-channeled-harnessed vs. composed-sculpted-performed, with an almost documentary rigour and restraint that remains profoundly charged and engaged.
Ought has been burning with a strong and steady flame since flickering to life in Montreal just before the inspired months of the Quebec student general strike in 2012. The mass mobilization against neo-liberal austerity measures indelibly shaped the emerging sound, vision and social mandate of Ought.
Then band's earnest, stately and exuberant post-punk is dextrous, deliberate, unfussy and fluid, with debts to Cap'n Jazz, The Feelies, Lungfish, Gang Of Four and early Talking Heads, among many others. They shift from sharp angles and stuttering counterpoint to softer edges and chiming flow, with an economy of elements and fidelity to their basic 4-piece constitution. The instrumental interplay is consistently whipsmart, supple and deceptively simple. Vocalist Tim Beeler's speak-singing can give way to melancholic melodic croons and ragged, desperate yelps, always driven by sincerity of feeling and connection to his subject matter, whether that's the conundrum of our fractured interiority or communion with others in our fractured social space (or, for the most part, both).
Ought are a righteous and humble young band, fiercely dedicated to grassroots organizing and artmaking, taking as self-evident the inseparability of politics and aesthetics; we are proud and excited to be releasing their debut full-length.
Following their acclaimed Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything released in January, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra dust off an old chesnut from their 2005 album Horses In The Sky and coat it in glitter and shards of glass; not remixes really, but brand new recordings that use set-closing live favourite "Hang On To Each Other" as a launching point for some rather glorious dancefloor excursions.
Carla Bozulich, an art-punk heroine with almost three decades of exceptional, iconoclastic musical activity under her belt, returns with the third record of her storied career to be issued in her own name. Boy is Carla's self-proclaimed "pop record" and is a refreshing and much-needed reminder of what pop can mean in the hands of a ferociously commanding singer/lyricist who has cut her teeth on genre-bending, genre-blending, and DIY production for 25 years. Boy is unmistakably a pop-influenced album by way of punk, avant rock and lo/mid-fi; a batch of ten songs that clock in at 3-5 minutes each, mostly hewing to recognizable structures of verse, chorus and bridge, but full of destabilizing accents and strategies. The songs are replete with hooks and melodies, delivered chiefly by the singing itself, with the underlying instrumentation and arrangements always in the service of Carla's voice and lyrics.
Boy is without doubt the sharpest, supplest, most satisfying and most generous album that Bozulich has made in recent years, and also happens to be one of her most immediately accessible. It is a definitive expression – and should serve as a welcome reminder – of Bozulich's unique tastes, talents and trajectories.