The Uncoverables Podcast: Emmett McCleary Interview/Live Studio Set

Hosted a show live on CKUT with special guest Emmett McCleary to talk about his upcoming album There’s a Better Something which he’s self-releasing on May 12th. Topics include crowds, sadness, and singing quietly.

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Playlist:

Waxahatchee-“Silver” Out in the Storm

Jay Som-“The Bus Song” from Everybody Works

Emmett McCleary-“Honest You” from There’s a Better Something

Vagabon-“The Embers” from Infinite Worlds

Smokes-“4souls” single

Girlpool-“It Gets More Blue” from Powerplant

No Joy-“Califone” from Creep EP

Sneaks-“Look Like That” from It’s a Myth

The Uncoverables Podcast: Anna Webber and Erik Hove Interview

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Pulled from a live radio broadcast, this week’s episode features a double-header interview with Montreal-bred musicians Erik Hove and Anna Webber in anticipation of their joint gig at Cafe Resonance in Montreal.  The show also serves as an album release for Erik, so we speak specifically about his new single “Tessellation” as well as the album in general.

Playlist:

Eivind Opsvik-“IZO” from Overseas V

Anna Webber Trio-“Underhelmed” from Binary

Erik Hove-“Tessellation” from Polygon

Anna Webber Trio-“Tug O’ War” from Binary

Jaimie Branch-“Theme 002” from Fly or Die

Matt Maneri, Whit Dickey, Matthew Ship-“Galaxy 9” from Vessel in Orbit

 

 

Charli XCX-Number 1 Angel: Album Review

Again sporting production collaborations from the illustrious PC music crowd, Charli XCX presents a mixtape that pulls together sounds from freaky pop traditions and those dominating the Billboard charts.  The album seeks out massive bangers to some avail, but also feels a bit like a “darts in the dark” pop record—each punching song sounds like XCX slapping together something insanely catchy, that COULD make the radio, and tossing it in the air to see if anyone’s interested.  Also, the “Emotional” numbers are largely unsuccessful, sounding like another attempt to soundtrack “The Fault in Our Stars.” Cupcakke’s charisma is undeniable, MØ shows up for an especially fun number, but overall “Number 1 Angel” misses the mark.

The record’s highs are certainly high.  We open on twinkling ambience before pillars of metallic bass and riding high hook float in at a fun, un-abrasive clip: “I’m a dreamer, step step out the beamer.”  “3AM” follows suit with a collaboration that was meant to be.  MØ’s rasp and energy combine perfectly with Charli’s hyper-intensive bubblegum aesthetic for the blistering dance-floor banger of the night.  The quasi-dancehall vibe at the hook is absolutely infectious with both verses harping on the ever-relatable fuck-boy that you can’t let go of topic.  Even the attack-on-the-ears “oohs” between the hooks are suitable for screaming out in the car.  “Lipgloss” is also perfection.  Cupcakke’s down and dirty lyrics present the poetic equivalent of the PC music sonic nightmare/rave: “so I can open my legs bon appetite.”  The crackling synths usher in XCX’s equally naughty hook: “I keep it sticky like lip gloss,” making for a bold final album cut.

Besides these three tracks, there’s a small supply of fun, hard-hitting radio material and some overly gushing power ballads, both far too close to completely sterile music industry creations to be of any interest.  Particularly at the chorus, “Emotional” jumps into that soaring movie-soundtrack sound with simple bass and snare combinations that evoke a summer music festival collection of hand claps.  The lyrics are also as dull as it gets: “All over, deep under my skin/You got me so emotional/We had something that never happened/If only we had less control.”  “ILY2” fades in next, almost sounding like “Emotional’s” coda.  The verse is a bit more upbeat, but again we get a soaring chorus that’s just trying a bit too hard with luke warm lyrics: I don’t talk a lot so you should listen up.”

The album is also lacking in the typical PC music hardware, even on the best tracks.  Obviously, in listening to “Emotional,” one can imagine that if the metallic bass sound were replaced with an electric bass or something or other, it’d basically be a Kings of Leon number, but even the chipmunked vocals at the end of “Drugs” sound like a hail mary at the end of an otherwise straightforward studio pop creation.

Charli XCX remains a very inconsistent force in the pop industry.  She’s trying to uplift some experimental pop ideas into the mainstream, but a lot of times it sounds a bit too akin to the material she was making before running into SOPHIE.  In her later endeavors, I hope to see her either take all the risks or perhaps just own the normal pop label and make a bit more of a lyrica statement.

-Donovan Burtan

6/10

The Uncoverables Podcast: Samuel Andreyev Interview

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This week’s episode features an interview with Strasbourg France-based composer Samuel Andreyev in anticipation of his upcoming Montreal concert at Chapelle du Bon Pasteur.  We speak about his compositional ideas, youtube findings, and a bit about the specific pieces being played in Montreal on April 19th.

Playlist:

Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, Ned Rothenberg- “For a Minute, It was Almost Like Opera” from In Cahoots

Samuel Andreyev- Nombres imaginaires (2004) for flute and Cinq pièces (2011) for flute and percussion (excerpt)

Lejsovka & Freund-“Moonshadow Bath Song” from Music for Small Ensemble & Computer

 

Christian Scott-Ruler Rebel: Album Review

As showcased on 2015’s “Stretch Music,” New Orleans’s Christian Scott is apt at blurring the lines between jazz, post-punk, indie rock, and hip-hop, culminating in a pointed, afro-futurist aesthetic.  On “Ruler Rebel,” the first instalment of Scott’s Centennial Trilogy album series, Scott again excels at sonic architecture, but falters in melodic development and structure.

Each tune falls over a solid beat foundation, combining acoustic and electronic elements from a great deal of eras and traditions, but for the most part, Scott’s trumpet lines comes across as entirely improvised with little refrain to remember them by.  Perhaps the album could be an important moment in Scotts career in terms of relating his trumpet fusion chops to the hip-hop crowd with relevant sounding production, but the work alone doesn’t have enough substance to warrant deep listening.

The beats on the record are certainly notable.  “Ruler Rebel” opens with an ominous drone sound before some non-specific melodic ideas beckon in pulsing synth bass and a nice looped piano texture.  When the rhythmic beat comes full circle there’s a great deal of layers making for a soupy swell of sound to underpin the soaring trumpet melody.  “New Orleanian Love Song II” combines electronic drum sounds and hand-drumming with another hip hop-induced piano line; and “Rise Again” welcomes a bit of trap influence with rattling high-hats.  The production and overall sound on the album is exceptional—Scott should be an inspiration to any jazz musician looking to find a more relevant contemporary sound in the studio.

Guests luckily come here and there to offer a bit more communication with Scott’s trumpet work.  First is singer Sarah Elizabeth Charles on “Phases.”  Her vocals are relatively simple, but through sampling, the group plays around with mere sketches before revealing the full picture in the end.  With Charles’s neo-soul inflections in the midrange and Scott’s singing melodies panning left and right, the climax of this tune is certainly a high point of the piece.

On the backside of the record, prodigious flautist Elena Pinderhughes comes through on a pair of tracks to offer some biting solos.  “Encryption” also happens to have one of the more well thought-out songs in terms of structure.  Pinderhughes and Scott combine forces on a squirrely melody, before a metallic bass function heralds in the solo section.  It seems like when welcoming a melodic guest, Scott is under a bit more pressure to craft a song with room for development.

Scott’s trumpet work is obviously solid as well, it just covers a bit too much of the focus of the project without being tied down to a clear head.  The title-track rambles on for four minutes than fades out, before “New Orleanian Love Song” largely picks up where the last one left off.  Even the dueling trumpet sound of “The Reckoning” only offers a pair of phrases before veering into the solo territory.

Christian Scott is a hugely important creative force, but I’m hoping to hear more well written songs across the Centennial Trilogy that he’s working on.  “Ruler Rebel” is a great sonic work, but I don’t see it having a long shelf-life.

-Donovan Burtan

6.5/10

Kneebody Anti-Hero: Album Review

As many contemporary jazz artists have been in the past handful of years, Kneebody were loosely connected to producer Flying Lotus through his Brainfeeder record label in 2015.  Joining forces with left-field producer Daedelus, the group managed to craft a relentlessly modern fusion sound, relatable to audiences familiar with both glitchy experimental hip-hop and 1970s long-form jam session records.  Having seen the group live, I can attest that they are an incredible crew of improvisers and entertainers, but up until “Kneedelus,” their studio sound was a bit too bright and chops-based to hold much relevance outside of the jazz circle.  Absent of Daedelus’s offerings, the group’s new record “Anti-Hero” doesn’t entirely return to their old sound, but certainly constitutes more of a step backward than one forward.

The album includes a reprisal of their 2015 track “Drum Battle,” which largely showcases the difference between the two albums.  At over 10 minutes in length, the group stretches out individual solos quite a bit more and the pace by the end reaches a frantic state.  In between each solo, both horns blast away this punching line, that after about the 8th repetition becomes completely tired and overwrought.  In comparison, the original “Drum Battle” valued subtlety a bit higher.  After Daedelus and drummer Nate Wood set their smoldering texture into play, trumpeter Shane Endsley and sax player Ben Wendel played through some punching and lyrical lines, but they didn’t crowd the mix too much, sounding distant when laying down the refrains at the end of the solo section and leaving a bit more space between their phrasing at the beginning of the track.

Again, in the live jazz world this sort of playing works well but, as exemplified by the many out-of-date guitar-sounding riffs (that must be carried out on Adam Benjamin’s keyboard?), the group sounds a bit out of touch with what’s working in the studio today.  “Uprising,” for instance, kicks off with a riff straight out of the Black Sabbath playbook, whereas “The Ballonist” gets a bit overly drowned in reverb during the solo.  These guitar sounds may have worked 20 years ago, but they sound a bit dated today and they don’t really make sense within the cleaned up context of the rest of the group.  Another issue is the drumming.  Too often Nate Wood is laying down an open snare/bass rock groove that sounds more akin to a college jam band then the usual array of light tom and cymbal work from a modern jazz outfit.

The record isn’t a completely out-of-touch loss.  The last handful of tracks work with space really well and mostly avoid the cheap funk sounds.  “Carry On” opens with some interesting communication between Wood and Benjamin, underpinned by this haunting soupy backdrop of drones and eventual long tones from the horns.  In the short solo section, Wendel works with this nice electronic effect that echoes his playing around the room.  Following is “Yes You” with some nice interplay between small pieces of the band.  Wendel and Wood throw some ideas back and forth before washes of guitar sound come into play to expand the sound space.  “Austin Peralta” caps things off with another victory as this distant vocal sound sings out a heart wrenching melody amongst the swelling instrumental mass.

Kneebody is a great band, but “Anti-Hero” doesn’t find them in the same relevant sonic world as their last effort.  If they want to continue to forge innovative new ground and stay in touch with the contemporary music world, they should seek out more collaboration with producers outside of the jazz community.

-Donovan Burtan

6/10