The Uncoverables Podcast: Géraldine Eguiluz Interview

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This week’s episode features a discussion with Montreal-based musician Géraldine Eguiluz about her new album Ontologies that was recently released on the great Mikroclimat record label.  We talk about her long history as a musician and some of the specific compositional strategies for this release.

Playlist:

Arthur Blythe-“Illusions” and “Carespin’ With Mamie” from Illusions

Anthony Braxton- “69f” from Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993

Eguiluz Trio- “Homéostasie” and “Thymus” from Ontologies

Dek Trio- “Raj 1” from Burning Below Zero

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The Uncoverables Podcast: Ernesto Cervini Interview (Myriad3)

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This week’s podcast features an interview with Myriad3 drummer Ernesto Cervini in anticipation of their gig March 22nd at Casa Del Popolo alongside Montreal’s Parc Ex Trio. Topics include tourin’, rehearsin’, and composin’.

ENJOY

Playlist:

Trio3 (Andrew Cyrille, Reggie Workman, and Oliver Lake)-“Bumper” from Visiting Texture

Myriad3-“Skeleton Key” from Moons

Aki Takase and David Murray-“A Very Long Letter” from Cherry-Sakura

 

 

The Uncoverables Podcast: Ida Toninato Interview

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Ida Toninato is a Montreal-based saxophone player who’s been involved with a great deal of different musical projects around town including La La Human Steps dance collective and supermusique.  We speak about her recent endeavors including her 2016 Kohlenstoff records release Strangeness is Gratitude and her upcoming presentation at SAT with her duo project Jane/Kin.  Also listen in for some new releases from Montreal and Toronto.

Playlist:

Eguiluz Trio-“Absolution” and “Noûs” from Ontologies

Ida Toninato-“Wanderers” from Strangeness is Gratitude and “To Go Toward More Light”

Ugly Beauties-“Strange Attractors” from Strange Attractors

Parlor Walls-Opposites: Album Review

Armed with konked-out free jazz saxophone and no-wave punk sensibilities, Parlor Walls paint an emotionless, futuristic void to speak about modern mundanities, societal constructs, and relationship tensions.  Self-described trash-jazz musicians, the walls pit Alyse Lamb’s raucous vocal deliveries and scrapping guitar musings against Kate Mohanty’s screeching horn over open-faced drum grooves from Chris Mulligan in a number of different aesthetic realms.  Crime Engine Failure opens with a straightforward distorted landscape, but tunes like Me Me My and Cover Me jump into a more industrial realm, leaving the tumultuous jam session Teach Me Where to Roam out in left field as an outlier.  At this point in time, the lines between free jazz horns and punk-induced yelps have been drawn before, but Mohanty’s lyrics leave room for interpretation and the dynamic songwriting approach makes for a riveting experience.

The lyrics on the project certainly require a bit of interpretation, but Lamb’s way with words makes her lines particularly unique and enticing.  Crime Engine Failure opens with passing remarks: “cut it into little watches/I got the script you hear my voices/running images across the screen/scan for the one’s dear to me.”  The idea of running images across a screen is decently discernable as something to do with technology—Instagram?—and the script implies something rehearsed, whereas the last line touches upon emotional meaning.  I sort of draw this together as the faux-emotions of the internet where you almost have a script of things to do in order to convince your friends that you still care.  The chorus bursts out with “but you pulled the chord right out of me and now I don’t know how to call out,” which again touches upon technology as Lamb doesn’t know what to do when she’s unplugged.

Other areas on the album allude to various figures in Lamb’s life.  Play Opposites seems to be about gender, particularly when one’s parents feel as though their children didn’t turn out as expected: “Is this what you wanted mother/empty shells to fill your hole.”  The “play opposites” tag refers to some sort of binary, perhaps a childhood game in which brother and sister play opposite.

With pounding 7/8 in full swing throughout, Hesitation creates a particularly violent atmosphere for a dystopian take on having feelings for someone: “crawl through your infatuation/can you say my name.”  With a chorus about tearing down the walls between each other that gets delivered in complete anarchy: “welcome through I’ll leave my light on/rearrange my shade/we can imagine partition/see it fall away.”  The mood of the tracks is always reflected in Lamb’s words and although the line “burn it to the ground” seems to be rather all-encompassing for the record, there’s a great deal of variety throughout.

Sonically, the group is grounded in a certain aesthetic, but the subtle changes at the beginning of each track make for a new context for their improvisatory gestures.  On Teach Me Where to Roam, the cacophonous drums make for a particularly bleak environment.  Mohanty’s smoldering saxophone lines add to the haunting moodiness, trading ideas with the lofty guitar melodies.  Cover Me is even more daring in its improvisation as Mohanty’s manipulated saxophone unleashes idiosyncratic lines throughout, to match the brooding, looped electronic bass sound.

The instrumental, Carstairs, is brought to a much more mellow sound space with glistening, textured electronics.  Of course, Mohanty carries the track into a slightly more anxious place with her melodic climaxes, but it’s interesting to hear a bit more of a barren landscape for their gushing energy than the usual heavy riffs.

Opposites showcases a punk band that’s primed and ready to wreak havoc on DIY spaces all over the continent.  Parlor Walls certainly pay homage to the no wave era, but their integration of improvisation into the punk idiom is pristine and Alyse Lamb’s poetic lyrics inspire deep listening and contemplation.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10

Molly Burch-Please Be Mine: Album Review

On Please Be Mine, Molly Burch showcases her prowess as a frontwoman with simply crafted songs that rely heavily on her charismatic delivery and expressive inflections for success.  There’s sort of an element that Burch never sings the same thing twice on the album.  When a song has two repetitions of the chorus, Burch finds a way to make each one more convincing.  Each song follows a loose, love-song classification, but Burch and her band make each moment shine with their ear for riveting detail.  From the occasional moody modal jazz chord, to the distant sonic sparks and the impressive, yet coy guitar solos, Please Be Mine lifts folk tunes to soaring heights.

The album is certainly a bit monochromatic in terms of lyrics.  Downhearted paints a picture of a person who hasn’t quite come around: “I could be your dream girl/your whole world/if you let me,” then Wrong For You talks about loving the wrong person “you said I was the only one, but I know you say that to all the girls.”  Some other highlights include Loneliest Heart’s gloomy take on the changes we go through in our time alone and Not Today’s sorrowful, nostalgic glance at past relationship’s demise.  Overall, Burch isn’t really breaking any rules with these subject matters, but the sonic material makes things meaningful and she also sticks in some particularly biting lines on occasion: “you say my name it feels like fire.”

Burch’s singing shines on every track.  Again, it’s not necessarily that she uses any flashy material, but she adds so much expression into the mix with dynamics and rhythmic deviations.  On Try—for instance—Burch merely breathes the vocal melodies for much of the track, but then she barks out “I’m your little baby, your little baby PET” to contrast the slow, sweeping instrumental backdrop—it calls attention to itself immediately and shows that Burch has really got the audience by the throat.

Fool, on the other hand, is a prime example of Burch digging in deeper with each repetition of the chorus.  Burch first has this addicting pre-chorus with this big interval jump on “ha-RD,” then the chorus is a bit more anthemic.  First time around, Burch doesn’t too much other than sing out the melody, but during the second verse she plays around with the rhythm much more and just before the chorus she barks out another jolting line “you were not ni-ah-ICE” to kick off her belting reinterpretation of the refrain.

This track is also a good example of the other little sonic details that help along Burch’s expressive gestures.  The chorus has this cool call-and-response with the splashing backing vocals on ahh.  Also, the distant guitar solo compounds the sense of detachment.

The record’s treatment of piano is also particularly stellar throughout.  For Fool, it plays these pressing chords that are only fully realized at the climaxes of the tune.  With Loneliest Heart, there’s these tiny staccato plucks deep in the mix that add a lot of movement to the lethargic tempo.

Burch still needs to develop a little bit as a songwriter.  On later projects, it would be nice to hear other introspective topics or perhaps some sort of storyline, but Please Be Mine is a worthy collection of songs that show just how much of a presence Burch must have in the studio.

-Donovan Burtan

7.5/10

 

Classic Album of the Week: Digable Planets-Blowout Comb

On their second LP as Digable Planets, Ladybug Mecca, Butterfly, and Doodlebug combined their laid-back, internal-rhyme-heavy verses with landscape-sketching beats and infectious yet fleeting refrains for a project that is at once relentlessly mellow and chock full of hidden detail.

Blowout Comb opens on classic horn punches, but a tiny guitar melody follows with warm vocals, before a verse from Ladybug.  Black Ego follows with seven minutes that thrive nearly entirely on instrumentals with a solemn acoustic bass melody combined with highly articulated drums and distant, whispery backing vocals.

The group wear Brooklyn on their sleeves on Borough Check–which starts with a crunchy, live rap-battle setting, before finding a more smooth studio sound–and Graffiti, where the planets strut their stuff and out-rhyme the whole city.

Political undercurrents pop out on Black Ego‘s sketch of an arrest–“like I ever had rights?” and although the album is famously not radio friendly,  the infectious Ohio Players sample on 9th Wonder (Blackitolism) shines as lyrics address mainstream consumption of black style–“Now glamor boys want to be triple phatted.”

Shouting out Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus (among others), the group owned the Jazz-Rap tag and brought it to new heights on the masterful Blowout Comb.

Nikki Lane-Highway Queen: Album Review

With a song called 700,000 Rednecks and lyrics about “muddy waters” and “viva las vegas,” Nikki Lane truly wears country on her sleeve.  At the same time, her mellow voice and moody band sound don’t necessarily pander to the commercial country crowd.  Highway Queen comes across as a log of Lane’s young adulthood.  First, we get a confident lone wolf, but then, Lane beats herself up for depending on her love interest and by the end she’s heartbroken over the break-up.  It’s not entirely a concept album or a break-up album as some of the tracks are a bit off-topic, but Lane delivers earnest, heart-wrenching material between raucous fun, while also placing country within reach of the modern indie rock crowd.

The record opens on dramatic ambience and suddenly Lane comes in and yelps off a “yippie ki yay” that echoes off into the canyon as her methodical guitar lick gets going.  There’s a lot of ways that the “yippie ki yay” strategy can go wrong, but right after we’ve jumped into a well-mixed bluesy sound space with Lane’s smoldering vocals surrounded by acoustic and electric guitars, the occasional rip-roaring solo and some distant, vintage backing vocals—the goofiness overstay it’s welcome so to speak.

This tune is a fun start to the record that talks about all the people you got to get through to get to the top, but Highway Queen follows with a bit of a dive into Lane’s psyche.  Opening with some soaring slide guitar and pulsing bass, the tune is clearly a travelin’ song and the lyrics speak about a woman who doesn’t stick around for too long and never falls into a dependent relationship with a significant other.  This tune is probably about Lane herself to some degree, but—considering the love songs that come later—it also comes across as an ideal that Lane was striving for at one point or another, which sort of becomes a reoccurring songwriting strategy.  Lane often talks about topics vicariously through other characters making the record simultaneously dynamic and focused.

On Lay You Down, for instance, Lane takes on the underlying anxieties that the lone wolf experiences by discussing the death of a man around town.  We start with him venturing off alone, but his story takes a turn for the worse and Lane paints a depressing portrait of dying alone: “Who’s gonna lay you down tonight?/Put aside the fear and the pain/And hold your hand while you die.”  Lane’s voice on this one is particularly striking.  The chorus is in that slightly strained high range, so you hear her inner fears dripping out of her.  Also, the guitar solo reaches symphonic heights with big tom movements from the drummer and a chorus of Lane’s offering “oohs.”

Next in the story is a fun gambling tune, but Lane also uses it as a metaphor for dating and falling in love. It seems like the thought of dying alone has pushed her to pursue a relationship of some kind and Companion follows with a love song about the honeymoon phase.  Companion is a great example of Lane’s sonic prowess.  The sonic elements—such as plucked bass, arpeggiating guitar, and classic vocal countermelody—are panned left and right and continuously pile up making for a thick instrumental texture.

The second half of the record goes through depending too heavily on someone and dealing with distance, before delving into the end of a relationship.  Muddy Waters offers poetic self-reflection.  Lane talks about her own stubbornness and how her significant other may not have meant to harm her, but she can’t pull herself to believe him and she really rips her heart out on the final track: “And anyone could try to say we didn’t keep the vows we made/But they’d be lying/Cause we said ‘til death do us part and it was true/Cause my heart feels like it’s dying.”

Admittedly, there’s some hamfisted lyrical moments on the record.  Between those heartbreaking words on Forever Lasts Forever, we hear a bit of excessive bluntness with “Yeah, we swore for better or for worse/And it was better at first, and worse at the end.”  Also, Big Mouth is a bit high school for my tastes: “Well, I just heard a dirty secret/Should have known you couldn’t keep it/And now the shit’s done hit the fan.”  It’s also hard to say that the record offers groundbreaking artistry.  However, Lane avoids autopilot and honors the country tradition with great introspective reflection and telling your own story through the plight of others.

-Donovan Burtan

7/10