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

The Uncoverables Podcast: Nick Fraser Interview

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This week’s episode (is four days late….) features excerpts from an interview I did over the summer with Canadian Improvising Drummer Nick Fraser.  We spoke a bit about his philosophies surrounding improvisation and the process behind his latest album Starer which you can find at nickfraserthedrummer.bandcamp.com!  New music from outside the jazz world included after the interview portion.  Tune in!

(photo credit: Christer Männikus)

Playlist (artist-“tune” from album)

Nick Fraser-“Sketch #20/22” from Starer

Gintas K-“Minmi” from Under My Skin

Sarah Davachi-“Ghosts and All” from Vergers

Sneaks-“Inside Edition” from It’s a Myth

The Courtneys-“Silver Velvet” from II

 

Holy Fuck-Congrats_Album Review

Holy Fuck present electronic punk music with an aesthetic sometimes as violent and shocking as their name.  Beginning with two driving punk tunes with enough energy to warrant both dancing and screaming, the group’s new album Congrats focuses on quick-hitting dance beats with mixed results.  Despite beginning with endless energy and smoldering, dance-able production, the songwriting by the end of the album remains all too dedicated to similar industrial efforts, slowly losing the bite that makes the group stick out in the first place.

The first couple tracks on this album are not to be overlooked.  “Chimes Broken” begins with a driving groove state supported by heavy drum work and wobbling bass distortion.  Distant vocals enter the mix as more instrumental layering leads into a massive wall of sound with dance-able rhythms and menacing melodies.  On “Tom Tom,” another dark beat breaks out with slightly more pronounced vocals coming into the equation.  The lyrics are still quite hard to decipher but they add a certain primal violence to the soundscape of the distorted guitars and driving synthesized bass making for another intriguing experience.  “Shivering” shifts to a more ethereal sound conception, contrasting the pummeling industrial approach on the first two tunes.  Arpeggiating guitars serve as the foundation for the development of a chilling vocal melody.  The band’s production is well done with a certain warmth coming into the darkly-tinged industrial landscape throughout.

As the album moves forward, the band provides more dance-able rhythms and digressions into cool, spacey melodies, losing a lot of the spirit of the first two tracks.  “Xed Eyes” starts off with another fun-loving bass line, but the build-up is very weak and the vocal melody boring leading to stagnation.  “Neon Dad” is the band’s attempt at a ballad or slow song of some sort with the focus placed on melody.  The song reads as a nice change of pace and it is generally quite beautifully put together.  Unfortunately, the vocals are far too low in the mix for the hook to be memorable.  Holy Fuck are clearly a solid group of instrumentalists, however, the lack of emphasis on vocals seems to be hurting them a bit.  When they do have vocals it usually works well with the development of their songs, so they do have the potential for more vocally-centric songwriting, the instrumental part just always takes\ the front seat.  This lack of focus on vocals makes the instrumentals that follow quite strange as well.  In a way, the instrumental approach never really changes so hearing vocals on certain tracks and not on others makes the songs that lack vocals all-together sound a bit incomplete.

“Neon Dad” marks the end of the first half of the record and after this track a series of duds ensue with predictable song development and energy levels.  On “House of Glass” the band relies on a relatively lackluster melody and bass line at a sluggish tempo.  The tempo increases a bit with “Sabbatics,” but the end result stands a bit too close to the sounds of the first two tracks on the album with another wobbling bass-line filling out the lower frequencies.  This is also one of those tracks that unjustifiably lacks vocals, sounding like a backing track. Perhaps the tracks on the second half of the record would stand-out if played amongst the efforts of less intense bands on the radio, however, the band fails to conjure up enough contrast from track to track on this specific project making for an arduous second half.

Congrats showcases Holy Fuck’s capacity for dance-able groove music, but the band fails to entertain from front to back by committing to instrumentals that are all too similar and ignoring vocal presence.  The light vocal work on tracks like “Neon Dad” and “Tom Tom” show that the band has potential for vocally-centric songwriting, so hopefully the next Holy Fuck project will hold more impact with better vocals and lyrics.

Good band but a bit of a bland effort. 5.5/10

Nick Fraser-Starer_First Impressions

Starer cover art

Nick Fraser is a huge name in the canadian jazz scene.  His exquisitely modern drum chops never cease to take risks making him a force to be reckoned with in the live setting.  On his new album, Starer, Fraser takes his ensemble through a quick moving collage of various jazz sound aesthetics culminating in a release that values contrast without dwelling on specific ideas for too long.

One of the standout aspects of the album is it’s quick-hitting nature, a rare quality in the landscape of modern jazz.  Although the album includes one song of over 10 minutes in length, Fraser wastes little time in his idea development, quickly moving from minimalist beginnings to high-energy final blows.  The opening track “minimalism/416-538-7149” begins with quiet, oscillating plucked strings with Fraser himself playing a bit of a solo amongst the rhythm section.  Eventually, saxophone player Tony Malaby joins in along with other sparring melodic moments from the rest of the ensemble.

Fraser’s drum chops are on display constantly.  His textural approach to tom playing outlines the melodic developments perfectly without becoming too heavy.  Also, he seems to have a true knack for rhythmic articulation in a non-specified rhythmic space.  The album, as a whole, simply moves forward very well never remaining in stagnant, open-spaces for too long.

The group uses the two string musicians quite well.  Along with Fraser’s drum conception, Andrew Downing and Rob Clutton add an interesting texture that matches the singing nature of Tony Malaby’s saxophone phrasing.  Also, the idea of texture is reinforced by the ability of the ensemble to include both plucked Bass lines and elongated cello lines in the same space, which makes the absence of piano an afterthought.

Overall, Starer seemed to be a very well put together album on my first listen.  Fraser’s ensemble takes risks and maintains a heightened sense of musicality throughout resulting in a sleek, modern release with little room for excess.

DB