Saltland: I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us
Saltland is the new project led by Montreal-based cellist Rebecca Foon (Esmerine, ex-Silver Mt. Zion), joined by Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Esmerine) on miniature percussion, programming and signal processing.
I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us is a beautifully restrained debut album that telescopes the directness and delicacy of Foon's compositional and vocal styles into lush, twilight atmospheres aglow with luminescent tendrils and flickering particles. Foon sings of childhood innocence lost, of serene utopic reveries and downcast dystopic horizons, and the search for soft, stoic strength in a darkening world, in most cases propelled by Thompson's handmade percussion and understated programming/processing.
The album's ambience also owes much to the work of Mark Lawson, the award-winning producer (Arcade Fire) who collaborated closely with Foon to record and mix these songs. With contributions from Laurel Sprengelmeyer and Jess Robertson (Little Scream), Mishka Stein (Patrick Watson), Colin Stetson (Bon Iver), Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) among others, Saltland offers up an unassumingly immersive debut album of searching songs that blend several core influences into a distinctively naturalistic sound. Saltland stakes out a unique space where minimalism, shoegaze, dream-pop, coldwave, chamber music, drone and ambient/electronic coexist and coalesce.
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Colin Stetson established himself as an intensely original solo composer and performer in 2011 with the release of the widely acclaimed New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, which ended up on countless year-end lists. Anyone who has seen Stetson in solo performance can attest to the stunning physicality of his circular-breathing technique and capacity to produce a seemingly impossible palate of multiple voicings simultaneously in real time.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the final installment in a trilogy of solo albums, again recorded live in single takes and again mixed by groundbreaking producer Ben Frost. Colin's membership in Bon Iver has also led to vocal contributions from Justin Vernon for this record, who appears on four songs, and whose voice constitutes the only overdubbing on the album.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the most cohesive and fully realized of Stetson's solo albums to date. It should reliably stand as the apotheosis of the New History Warfare trilogy, and certainly signals the full flourishing of Stetson's unique talents as both composer and performer, pressing his arsenal of virtuosic techniques into the service of vivid, impassioned and conceptually astute songcraft.
Jerusalem In My Heart: Mo7it Al-Mo7it
Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) has been a live audio-visual happening since 2005, with Montréal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at its core. Moumneh is a Lebanese national who has spent a large part of his adult life in Canada and has been a fixture of the Montréal independent music community from his early days as guitarist in various notable 90s hardcore bands to his tireless activity as a sound engineer and producer over the last decade.
With performances occurring 1-3 times per year, no two JIMH events have ever been the same, with Moumneh's vocals and purposefully blown-out sonic sensibility as the single constant.
JIMH has always been an immersive sonic and visual live experience; on the musical side, an evolving effort to forge a modern experimental Arabic music that weds melismatic singing in classical Arabic modes to electronic compositions with a punk-rock production sensibility. Mo7it Al-Mo7it, a unique and profoundly emotive album of contemporary Arabic music, captures and conveys all of this.
Jerusalem In My Heart has lately solidified around a core duo of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh carrying musical duties and Chilean filmmaker Malena Szlam providing live visuals using analog 16mm film projections and multiple site-specific screen installations.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don?t Bend! Ascend!
A full decade ago, Godspeed You! Black Emperor released Yanqui U.X.O. with no publicity or press availability, no marketing plans, no cross-promotions or brand synergies, driven by word-of-mouth from a passionate and committed fanbase galvanized by the group's sonic vision and its dedication to unmediated, unsullied musical communication.
To suggest that such simple principles and goals have become harder to maintain and enact a decade later is an understatement, but Godspeed is looking to try all the same. The band wants people to care about this new album, without telling people they should, knowing full well that these days, anti-strategy risks being tagged as a strategy.
The band has been blazing its own path again since 2010. We think they have made a new record that maintains if not exceeds the standards of their previous work. After almost two years of post-hiatus practicing, playing and touring, Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! delivers two mighty sides of music that are definitively stunning, immersive and utterly true to the band?s legacy. The future looks dark indeed, but on the evidence of this new recording, Godspeed appears wholly committed to staring it down, channeling it, and fighting for some rays of sound (and flickers of light) that feel hopeful and true.
Hangedup & Tony Conrad: Transit Of Venus
Kanada 70: Vamp Ire
Pacha: Affaires Etrangeres
Various Artists: Musique Fragile Vol. 02
A limited edition series of 3xLP box sets with extensive screenprinted art/packaging for the slipcover box, the individual LP jackets, and three different posters (one for each album). Volume 02 features "lost" and/or recuperated recordings by Hangedup + Tony Conrad (previously unreleased 24-track and 2-track sessions captured in Montréal several years ago), Kanada 70 (aka Craig Dunsmuir, compiled from his many obscure CD-R bedroom recordings released in Toronto since the mid-2000s) and Pacha (aka Pierre-Guy Blanchard, from a CD-R released in Montréal in 2009). A trio of stunning instrumental albums, all remastered for vinyl and pressed on 180gLP in a hand-numbered box set edition of 500.
Les Momies de Palerme: Brûlez ce coeur
Les Momies De Palerme is the Montreal-based duo of Marie Davidson (violin, synths, vocals) and Xarah Dion (synths, vocals). Brûlez ce coeur is the first official full-length from the group, who create an uncategorisable sound built up from a core of keyboards, processed violin and voices: slow-paced without being ponderous; synthetic without being retro; methodically restrained and strangely devotional without being easily tagged as ethereal or gothic. Brûlez ce coeur is often like an ersatz sacred music: canticles on acid, full of strange quirks and avant sounds while remaining soothing, meditative and incantatory.
Recorded at David Bryant's (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Set Fire To Flames) studio The Pines in Montreal, Brûlez ce coeur takes advantage of the fantastic acoustics of this space and Bryant's fine collection of spring and plate reverbs.
Brûlez ce Coeur was originally released as part of Constellation's Musique Fragile Vol. 01, a three-album collection of recordings by new artists in an elaborately-packaged limited edition box set. Now available as a stand-alone CD release, the album comes in a beautiful 4-colour screenprinted jacket with artwork by Jacinthe Loranger.
Elfin Saddle: Devastates
Elfin Saddle deepens its compositional and conceptual agenda on Devastates, the band's third full-length album. It weds an operetta-style song cycle to an organic, junkshop aesthetic to great effect, forging a unique hybrid folk music that weaves Honda's trilling vocals (often singing in Japanese) and McKenzie's woodsy, unaffected baritone with threads of clattering steam-engine percussion, ukulele, accordion, glockenspiel and pump organ. The addition of Kristina Koropecki's cello alongside long-standing third member Nathan Gage (Shapes & Sizes) on upright bass allows for a doubly melodic/rhythmic low-end.
Recorded in a small abandoned chapel in rural Quebec, Devastates is intimate and humbly epic, anchored by a DIY aesthetic and fuelled by the desire to say something both critical and hopeful about our common earthly trajectory. This is profoundly un-escapist and engaged folk music that avoids the obvious trappings of folk traditions, grounding the listener in a sonic and narrative terrain that stakes out a highly original and distinctive definition of protest song.
Devastates is framed by the beautiful and subtly disturbing artwork of McKenzie, with its front cover conflagration of mutant birds serving as the perfect visual analogue for the album's themes. The 180gLP format is lavishly packaged with a full colour liner notes insert and a screenprinted art poster, both printed on archival paper.
Eric Chenaux: Guitar & Voice
With this fourth album for the label, simply and aptly titled Guitar & Voice, Eric Chenaux has made what in a literal sense can be called his first solo album, in that the recording features only his playing and singing; no guest or supporting musicians, minimal overdubs, and a rigorous structure that alternates back and forth between longform, mostly vocal-based tunes and shorter, cacophonously harmonious bowed-guitar instrumentals.
Chenaux sees the entirety of Guitar & Voice as balladry. The album's four tunes with singing are clearly ballads, but filtered through Chenaux's uniquely distorted, refracted, genre-defying lens. Jazz, consort-music, free/improv, Scottish folk, psych/noise, medieval, baroque and pop influences do not so much compete as synthesise in various ways across these four songs. Heartbreaking lyrics delivered in Chenaux's strong but gentle lilt are set against an ever-shifting array of sounds and strategies elicited from acoustic nylon-string guitar (with the help of a small but expertly-deployed chain of wah-, freeze- and fuzz-pedals). Traditional song structure and lyrical arcs manage somehow to anchor themselves to constantly surprising, unpredictable and virtuosic contrapuntal guitar work, always playing at/with the threshold of sonic experimentation and improvisation. Chenaux's ballads sound like no other.
Tindersticks: The Something Rain
The Something Rain brims and bristles with canny narrative thrust. Slinky, supple compositions are spiked with plenty of barbed edges and sparkling fizz. Right out the gate, album opener "Chocolate" features David Boulter's sequel to the spoken-word classic "My Sister" from Tindersticks' 1995 eponymous release. Boulter narrates the story while the band works up a brilliant, brewing crescendo, abetted by the swirling horns of long-time collaborator Terry Edwards. This is indeed a new Tindersticks classic ? edgier, more exuberant and more expansive ? that spurs The Something Rain into a song cycle of rolling, at times rollicking, and always inimitably Tinderstickian takes on smoky Northern Soul.
Staples' home studio Le Chien Chanceux has figured prominently throughout the Tindersticks reunification period, but with The Something Rain, this space ? and Staples' ongoing immersion in recording and mixing techniques ? has fully emerged as ground zero for the band's sound. For the first time, Le Chien Chanceux studio serves as the location for the entirety of a Tindersticks album production, and Staples himself is solely credited with the recording and mixing. The album sounds terrific, and is a testament to Tindersticks' continuing reinvigoration.
Sandro Perri: Impossible Spaces
Ronen Givony is a New York City music curator and writer and the following is excerpted from a text he wrote to accompany the release of Impossible Spaces:
After four years of writing, recording, and self-production, Impossible Spaces has delivered on the promise so abundantly present in Sandro Perri's earlier work; and with it, a synthesis of the experimental, electronic and singer-songwriter modes that have marked his evolution as an artist. On first listen, Impossible Spaces seems to position itself self-consciously as a collection of music about other music. In this sense, we can think of the album as one listener's personal map of music history, with various voices, phrases, and personalities materializing to guide a song for an instant before disappearing again. Upon further listening, however, and true to its title, the album reveals itself as something more conflicted, and seemingly contradictory: a six-part meditation on the binaries of absence and presence, the possible and impossible, with a symmetrical internal structure reflecting this back-and-forth dialogue from one song to the next, and an emotional push-and-pull within the personality of the singer and songwriter himself.
Colin Stetson: Those Who Didn't Run
To say Colin Stetson has come into his own in 2011 would be an understatement. February 2011 saw the release of Colin's universally acclaimed New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, his second official solo record and an album broadly received as a sonic, conceptual, compositional and technical tour de force.
Having premiered a couple of new songs at a small art gallery show in Montreal in May 2011, we were duly blown away (along with everyone else in the room) and encouraged Colin to consider recording them while still in their raw, stamina-testing glory. He agreed and brought in good friend (and now Grammy-winning engineer) Mark Lawson (Arcade Fire, Islands, Unicorns) to help capture the performances in Stetson's own basement rehearsal/studio space.
The resulting two pieces on this EP both clock in at around 10 minutes and are documented in direct, unadorned fashion, using a handful of mic positions and, as usual, no looping or overdubbing of any sort. These are brilliant single-take performances, one each for alto and bass saxophone, that mark their own sense of time in palpably physical and transporting fashion, showcasing Stetson's love for minimalism as well as his mesmerisingly mantric technical ability.
Siskiyou: Keep Away The Dead
Most of the tunes on Keep Away The Dead were born at Mara Hall in Mara, BC (pop. 350) where bed tracks were laid down in the crisp air during the depth of winter. The arctic atmosphere of that empty, cavernous, hardwood structure was the perfect complement to Huebert's sensibility: a tense and acute restraint; a shivering, biting, sometimes bitter rending of barebones, folk-inflected rock music.
With the addition of Shaunn Watt and Peter Carruthers, Siskiyou has coalesced into a superb, incisive four-piece band, honed over the past year by extensive touring in Europe and Canada, after which the quartet hit Vancouver's JC/DC Studio (Destroyer, New Pornographers) in early 2011, adding to the previous year's Mara sessions.
Siskiyou's debut was a stunning little scrapbook of short, sharp tunes; Keep Away The Dead ramps up with subtle care and clarity - something closer to a sonic novella. The resulting song cycle yields a strikingly cold-eyed, warm-hearted album, marked by quiet defiance and desperation, where each tune feels like another precious log thrown on a lone campfire burning in the cold night.
Evangelista: In Animal Tongue
Evangelista returns with a fourth album, following the critically-acclaimed Prince Of Truth (2009) that cemented Carla Bozulich's reputation for aesthetic quality, intensity and iconoclasm as she entered a third decade of tireless artistic and musical activity.
In Animal Tongue continues to broaden the sonic canvas against which Bozulich deploys her distinctive voice and lyricism, and reflects her escape from her Los Angeles home base and an increasingly nomadic existence. It was largely written and recorded by Bozulich, in a variety of locations, driven (in Carla's words) "by the forces of rocks, evolution, geology, drugs, boxing, everything-ology and dead stuff that makes the dirt and cement and the tress grow. Plus real versus fake!!!" The album steams and bubbles like a simmering cauldron, with carefully metered elements stirred and coagulating around a core of low-end provided by Tara Barnes on bass, seasoned with piano, organ and cut-and-paste arrangements by Dominic Cramp. The trio is augmented by Sam Mickens (The Dead Science), Shahzad Ismaily (Laurie Anderson, Secret Chiefs, Sam Amidon) and John Eichenseer (jhno), who contribute to several tracks.
In Animal Tongue is a superb addition to Bozulich's canon and as original a voice as can be found at the current nexus of punk, poetry, and experimental music.
Esmerine: La Lechuza
Co-founded ten years ago by percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion), Esmerine enters its second decade with a new album and an expanded line-up: harp-player Sarah Page and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Barr. La Lechuza documents the evolution of Esmerine under the influence of this expanded membership, and is dedicated to beloved and internationally-renowned Montreal-based singer Lhasa de Sela, who died on New Year's Day 2010 at the age of 37 (all four of the Esmerine players were part of Lhasa's studio band for the recording of her final album). Guests include Colin Stetson (Tom Waits, Bon Iver, TV On The Radio) and Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Belle Orchestre).
La Lechuza was shaped by another important collaborator, and a dear friend of Lhasa's: Patrick Watson, who recorded much of La Lechuza at his home studio in Montreal and who sings and plays piano on the album's centerpiece track "Snow Day For Lhasa".
La Lechuza ends on a special note, with a previously unreleased version of "Fish On Land" by Lhasa herself, with Bruce and Beckie (on marimba and cello respectively).
Most of the record was mixed by Mark Lawson (Arcarde Fire, The Unicorns).
Efrim Manuel Menuck: plays "High Gospel
Efrim Manuel Menuck is best known as co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and leader of Silver Mt Zion and has a combined thirteen albums under his belt. He is also co-founder of Montreal's Hotel2Tango recording studio, with dozens of recording, arranging and guest playing credits to his name.
Fans of Menuck will be well versed in his highly original and constantly evolving approach to the sound of the electric guitar. His recasting of various folkways through the lens of uncompromising punk-rock is also well-documented in the discography of Thee Silver Mt. Zion. Perhaps less appreciated is Menuck's work as an inventive signal-bender and sound-sculptor, with an overriding commitment to analog processing, tape manipulations, re-amping and other iterative strategies.
Efrim Manuel Menuck plays "High Gospel" rallies all of these talents and sensibilities to deliver a powerful and personal album that serves as an ode to his adopted Montreal hometown (where he has now lived for two decades), the passing of great friends (Vic Chesnutt, Emma) and new fatherhood. Entirely self-produced and tracked at various Montreal locations, the album offers a confident, focused, humble and enveloping song cycle.
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres
Matana Roberts is one of the leading lights of contemporary African-American experimental music, combining her widely recognized gifts as an alto saxophone player and improviser with an intensely engaged re-definition of American Jazz traditions.
Matana's COIN COIN project is the centerpiece of this engagement and re-definition: a multi-chapter work that combines conceptual scoring (graphic notation, 'chance' strategies), storytelling and historical narrative, performative theatre (personae, costume, multi-media), and a deeply considered channeling of personal ancestry and the 'universal' experience of Africans in America.
COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libre is the first official recording of this ambitious and powerful project. We invited Matana to assemble her Montreal group for a live in-studio performance at the Hotel2Tango facility, before a small but capacity audience of about 30 friends and supporters. The performance was stunning, literally bringing audience members to tears, and went to tape beautifully. The full 90-minute performance was then edited down to around 60 minutes.
While it may sound trite, we truly feel this music speaks for itself. It rallies adventurous improv, experimental voice and narrative, a wide array of black folkways, and Matana's impassioned lead playing to tremendous emotional and conceptual effect.
Colin Stetson: The Righteous Wrath Of An Honorable Man
Pat Jordache: Future Songs
Pat Jordache has been making elliptical sparkling waves in Montreal's vibrant noise-pop community for several years now. His band Sister Suvi with Merill Garbus made a fierce but short-lived impact, serving up dense, lo-fi, supercharged complexity. With the departure of Garbus for the American west coast and her focus on tUnE-yArDs, Pat drew inspiration from that friendship and from Garbus' hermetic solo process, and began to work up his own home recordings of solo material.
Future Songs is the bracing result of Pat's isolation; an album of brilliant off-kilter pop, anchored by woozy baritone vocals, angular guitar lines and a gloriously careening approach to rhythm and arrangement. Evoking sounds and sensibilities that encompass David-Baker-era Mercury Rev, Joy Division, Scott Walker and Can, to name just a few, Future Songs was self-released on cassette in summer of 2010. With almost all parts played by Jordache, the material unmistakably cried out for full band treatment, for which there was no shortage of eager participants. Pat is now supported by the explosive percussion efforts of dueling drummers Phillip Chanel, Jeffrey Malecki and Thom Gillies together with Rory Seydel (Shapes and Sizes) on guitar.
Tindersticks: Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009
Tindersticks have had a long and fruitful relationship with French filmmaker Claire Denis. The group's first soundtrack for Denis, Nenette Et Boni (1996), was also their third album, following two eponymous and now legendary Tindersticks full-lengths in the early 90s. Five more soundtracks have followed, marking one of the more fertile, consistent and resonant relationships between a director and a group of musicians in contemporary cinema.
This box gathers all six of the Claire Denis soundtracks , four of which are previously unreleased. It is a subtle, beautiful body of work and an integral part of the Tindersticks oeuvre.
CD and LP sets each come in a slipcase box made from deluxe uncoated black paperboard with a custom die-cut window and metallic print. Discs are housed in printed sleeves, each of which features an iconic image from the corresponding film that can interact with the window-cut box. The package also includes a perfect-bound booklet full of colour film still prints and an essay by renowned music writer Michael Hill.
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Colin Stetson is a horn player of uncommon strength, skill and genre- defying creativity. He composes and performs otherworldly songs that combine a mastery of circular breathing technique with percussive valve- work and reed vocalisations, making a polyphonic solo music that combines influences as diverse as Bach, early metal, American pre-war Gospel, and the explorations of Jimi Hendrix, Peter Brotzman and Albert Ayler.
New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges is Stetson's second solo record and his first for Constellation. Colin has been making his mark as a staggering solo performer for several years now, in front of audiences small and large, from intimate jazz and experimental music venues to big stages, whether opening for Arcade Fire or The National, or playing at jazz and new music festivals like Moers and London Jazz. His talents have been widely recognised and employed by artists as diverse as Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson, TV On The Radio and Bon Iver. Colin also plays in Belle Orchestre and Sway Machinery.
The music on New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges was captured entirely live in single takes at Montre?al's Hotel2Tango studio, with no overdubs or looping, using over 20 mics positioned close and far throughout the live room. Guest vocals by Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) are the only exceptions to this rule, along with one brief french horn piece that was multi-tracked.
The Judges sessions were co-produced by Stetson and Shahzad Ismaily and engineered by Efrim Menuck at the Hotel2Tango, then taken to Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik and mixed by Ben Frost. The result is a highly original, experimental, euphoric record that fires on all levels: a document of a profoundly gifted player, a compositional tour- de-force, and a studio production bursting with intensity and inventiveness.
New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges features cover art by Tracy Maurice and will be issued on CD in custom 100% recycled paperboard gatefold jacket and on Deluxe 180gLP with a limited edition screenprinted poster and a CD copy contained in the first pressing.