I’ve written a lot about the Halifax, Nova Scotia-born and based singer/songwriter, electronic music producer, electronic music artist, indie rock musician and JOVM mainstay Rich Aucoin over the past 18 months or so. Initially spending time as a guest musician in his older brother Paul’s band Hylozoists before developing a reputation as a solo artist with the release of his debut EP, 2007’s Personal Publication, a concept effort written as an alternative soundtrack to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Interestingly, Personal Publication was also the first of an ongoing series of collaborations with charitable foundations, as he supported the EP with a cross Canada tour made entirely by bicycle to raise money for Childhood Cancer Canada. After completing his first solo tour, he went on to join his brother’s band while they were on tour; however, Aucoin suffered a debilitating iron deficiency that cut his time on the tour short. But once he recuperated, Aucoin went on the road again, running partial marathons between tour stops to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. During both of those early tours, the Halifax-born and-based singer/songwriter, electronic music artist, electronic music producer and indie rock musician spent time writing the material that would eventually comprise his full-length debut, 2011’s We’re All Dying to Live, an effort that featured over 500 guest musicians, including Sloan‘s Jay Ferguson, You Say Party‘s Becky Ninkovic, The Meligrove Band‘s Michael Small and Rae Spoon. Adding to a rapidly growing profile. the album was long-listed as a nominee for a Polaris Music Prize — and the video for “Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E.” won a Prism Prize in 2013.
Building upon a growing profile, the Nova Scotian producer and electronic music artist released his critically applauded sophomore effort, 2014’s Ephemeral. Several years passed before the release of last year’s Hold EP, and with singles like the sprawling and propulsive “Release”, the swooning M83-like “The Middle,” the jangling guitar pop meets synth pop “The Fear.” and the slow-burning and wistful “The Dream,” the EP further cemented Aucoin’s reputation for crafting slickly produced, infectious and thoughtful pop.
Released earlier this year through Haven Sounds, Aucoin’s third full-length album Release was co-produced by the Halifax-born JOVM mainstay and drummer Joel Waddell. Inspired by the work of David Bowie, Holly Herndon, Fatboy Slim, Bjork, John Lennon, Future Islands, Caribou and Chic among others, the album finds the Aucoin further cementing his growing reputation for his own unique blend of organic and electronic instrumentation — while thematically, the album finds Aucoin grappling with mortality, by using Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor for life’s journey. A few months ago, I wrote about the album’s first single “The Mind,” a pulsating instrumental track, centered around a slow build up of increasingly textured sounds — including arpeggiated synths chopped up, ethereal vocal samples and propulsive drumming that finds the JOVM mainstay drawing from drum ‘n’ bass and Kraftwerk-like minimalism before an explosive conclusion.
Release‘s latest single “The Change” continues a run of earnest, incredibly upbeat and swooning pop, centered around a cinematic arrangement consisting of twinkling keys, thumping beats and enormous hooks, brief blasts of horn and classical harp paired with Aucoin’s plaintive vocals. The song as Aucoin explains in press notes “is about embracing change and letting go of the fear of it to take that chance. It’s also about the inevitability of that change so you can either fear it and resist or you can float down the river learning to swim amongst the current which you cannot control.”He further notes that “musically, this features my first jamming partner and I playing the two drumkits together, Paul Keddy (Verbal Warnin). Another church organ played by composer Peter Togni. I played 6 different pianos on the track including 3 grand pianos. Ellen Gibling plays classical harp. There’s a horn section and the first choir of the record featuring another powerful group of artists: Babette Hayward (Vogue Dots), Rose Cousins, Melanie Stone (Heavy Blinkers), Stewart Legere, Virgil Muir (Museum Pieces), Margot Durling and Jeff Torbert.”
Directed by Hanlon McGregor, the recently video is an incredibly cinematic and symbolic visual. “The Change is in you. If you let go. To it all…” McGregor says of the video in press notes. “Michael Finn aka Hanlon aka Papa looks back at his younger self through the mirror. Sees the moments when he knew something wasn’t quite right. The moments before he had language or understanding for that difference he saw in the mirror,” McGregor says of the video. “Glimpses of the time before he was free to dance and to swim without limits or fear …the dream of so many trans people. His daughter Irene plays his younger self struggling to be seen. A Phoenix appears to help clear the way, to remind him that on the other side of the flame, on the outside of the cocoon, the pain ends and the wings emerge.”