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

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.

The Uncoverables Podcast: Evan Shay and Kyle Hutchins (Run and Hide) Interview

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Evan Shay and Kyle Hutchins are Montreal musicians whom you may already know, but Run and Hide is a stark change of artistic pace for both of them.  Comprised of a pair of sax players, Run and Hide is a highly melody/improvisation driven work involving a lot of conversational playing.  On this episode we talk about improvisation, purple cows, and finding inspiration in and outside of the classroom.

Playlist:

Jessica Ackerley Trio-“Clockwork” from Coalesce

Run and Hide-“Which Way is the Highway? ” and “The Well Lit Road” from Run and Hide

Craig Taborn-“Phantom Ratio” from Daylight Ghosts

Jessica Ackerley-Coalesce: Album Review

Jessica Ackerley is a Canadian-born jazz guitarist who has since relocated to New York City.  On Coalesce, she seems to have completely accomplished her goals.  To quote her liner notes: “Coalesce is an exploration of the guitar trio. The compositions have been a three-year process of honing the perfect balance between compositional form and complete free improvisation.”  It’s clear that the songs on this record are structured and planned, but the group’s flexibility is impeccable.  Melodies melt into open sections of improvisation with ease; solos flip-flop between individual focus and collective conversation effortlessly; and the group finds room to embrace space and silence between their primal noisy jam sessions making for a record that offers constant surprises and a perfect balance between not only improvisation and composition, but anticipation and stimulation.

To some degree, the final track ‘merica provides the best summary of the group’s various dynamic levels and playing spaces.  As the longest track of the collection, ‘merica builds up from near silence to a heavy final vamp, touching upon all the levels of the spectrum in between.  Ackerley opens alone with wandering guitar melody.  The line is rather simple and alters between a small handful of notes, but the delivery—especially considering the pounding heaviness of the preceding track—is quite unpredictable, drawing the listener closer for every strum.  As the presence of drummer Nick Fraser and bassist Mat Muntz grows in the middle, the group offers some great textures especially when Muntz rips squealing high notes out with his bow.  Towards the end of the track, Fraser rounds out the sound with frantic cymbal work as Ackerley lays down dramatic distorted pillars of guitar sound.

On other tracks, the group takes a variety of different approaches to song form, but focusses a bit more on specific levels of volume.  The opener, Clockwork, offers a comfortable middle ground to introduce the band.  The structure of this one is rather straight-forward as well with the group diving from main theme into a ‘solo’ section, then back to the main theme.  Again, I use the term solo rather cautiously because the forms are still rather fluid and each player seems to be constantly changing their playing style to fit wherever the melody is headed.

Minneola opens with guitar solo before jumping into a head with a bunch of different sections.  The end of the track doesn’t revert back to the beginning, rather Ackerley transitions from her solo to a vamp to give Fraser room to play around for the last couple minutes of the track.  Because the head never comes back in full, the track has a highly improvised sensibility.

Snakes in the Grass is perhaps the most bombastic tune.  Ackerley opens with some heavy-handed chords, and although there’s a bit of a digression after the initial head, madness overtakes a great deal of the track.  The primal intensity of this track is well earned and keeps things pushing towards the end.  Perhaps my only complaint on this record would be that the middle of the track-listing can be a bit slow, but this track and the final come together for a rousing finale.

The album shows a mastery of guitar tone from Ackerley.  Her subtle array of effects always seems to place her perfectly within the context of each piece.  On the introductory Clockwork, Ackerley keeps it rather clean, but when given space to her own on the aptly titled Solo Guitar, she plays around with an echo effect to fill up the room a bit more.  Heavy numbers obviously inspire distortion, but as we see at the beginning of ‘merica, Ackerley also finds time to caress slow melodies with waving foot pedal action.

Coalesce is a sensible name for this project.  It’s an experience that blends everything together super well, resulting in a dynamic 48-minute block with shining standout moments as well as a cohesive flow from idea to idea.  New York is a crowded place, but Ackerley is sure to be one of the young stars around town in the coming years.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10

On The Monthly: February 2017

Best of February. No Particular Order.

Sampha-Process

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Sampha has been lurking in the shadows for years as a songwriter and collaborator; Kanye, Frank, and Solange look good on a resume, but this album was Sampha’s chance to jump out into the spotlight.  On all accounts, Process is a victory.  Perfect instrumentals fill every corner of the work from modest piano/voice tracks to risky drum charts and sweeping backing vocals.  Sampha’s words are heartfelt throughout, addressing everything from the importance of his mother, to the tough aspects of relating to one’s family members and a few tunes about overcoming heartbreak.  It’s an emotional journey that also happens to include some early contenders for best single of the year.

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Priests-Nothing Feels Natural

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Stormzy-Gang Signs & Prayer

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Stormzy will tell you himself that this debut record was a long time coming.  Since gaining recognition as best grime act in the 2014 MOBO awards, he’s been a bit aloof, releasing only singles, mixtapes and music videos.  The air gets cleared quickly on Gang Signs & Prayer as each of the first three tracks hit hard and emphasize—convincingly—that there’s nothing to worry about—Stormzy is clocked in a ready to go.  He also quickly convinces us that he’s not one dimensional with a gospel number and later features offered by Kehlani and Nao.  Perhaps the album is a bit of a mixed bag and perhaps a few too many tunes gush with excess, but this record showcases a dynamic songwriter who commands each and every minute with his striking personality.

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Julie Byrne-Not Even Happiness

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There are certain formulas that have stood the test of time and the folk singer/songwriter equipped with acoustic guitar is clearly one of them.  Although the pillars of the 1960s and 70s—Dylan and Mitchell—might still be the ones truly at the tip of your tongue when the topic is brought up, Chapman, Elliot, and Sufjan have carried us on to modern day.  Aided by some blissfully subtle decisions from producer Eric Littman, Julie Byrne has carved out a nice niche for herself on Not Even Happiness.  The album’s transient landscape effortlessly maintains a natural sensibility, while also tapping into some gorgeous electro-acoustic findings.  Byrne’s lyrics are beautifully introspective and focused so the album reads as a personal journey with words of wisdom for all people.

Full Review

Lisa Mezzacappa-avantNOIR

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On AvantNOIR, Lisa Mezzacappa showcases a knack for achieving a great overall ensemble sound in an aesthetic that strikes a balance between noisy avant-garde jazz and more straight-ahead materials.  Beginning with a quirky three-minute tune, diving into some ambient realms in the middle, and ending with a floating, back-beat jolt, this album truly offers seven contrasting tunes, yet there’s a moody quality that connects each number.  Mezzacappa has been around the bay-area jazz scene for quite some time now, but this is my personal introduction to her music and it’s clear that she will become a staple of my jazz listening for years to come.

Review