Tag: Joseph Shabason

New Audio: Joseph Shabason’s Trippy Re-work of Absolutely Free’s “How to Paint Clouds”

Acclaimed Toronto-based psych pop outfit Absolutely Free — multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matt King, Michael Claxton (bass, synths) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg (drums, synths) — is an offshoot of experimental rock outfit DD/MM/YYYY, an act whose multi-rhythmic, boundary pushing raison d’être provided a springboard for Absolutely Free’s sound and approach. 

Their full-length debut, 2014’s Absolutely Free. received a Polaris Prize nomination and widespread critical applause from the likes of PitchforkThe FADERStereogumBrooklynVegan,Exclaim!Under the RadarPopMattersAllMusic and countless others. 

Over the past decade, the members of the Absolutely Free have cultivated and developed a long-held reputation for an unorthodox approach to both conceiving and performing music: Since the release of Absolutely Free., the Toronto-based psych pop act have released an array of multimedia projects and releases including 2019’s Geneva Freeport EP, which features U.S. Girls‘ Meg Remy. Adding to a growing profile they’ve toured alongside the likes of AlvvaysYouth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and they’ve shared bills with Beak>, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, U.S. Girls and Fucked Up

Absolutely Free’s highly-anticipated Jorge Elbrecht-produced sophomore album Aftertouch was released last year through Boiled Records. Deriving its name from a the name of a synthesizer function, the album is fueled by the trio’s desire to “. . . to create an album that wasn’t bound by a physical ability to perform it live, to not only expand our palette, but also to consider the live performance as something completely separate.”

Culling from a myriad of influences including krautrock, New Wave, early electronic dance music, and an array of international psych and funk complications, the album sonically and aesthetically finds the trio shifting in, around and between analog and digital sounds, and real and fabricated images while simultaneously reveling in and refuting the loss of tactility. Thematically, the album explores narratives of hegemony, grief and exploitation in the present while sustaining curiosity for the unknown post-everything future. 

I managed to write about three of the album’s singles:

  • Interface,” a dreamily maximalist song featuring glistening synth arpeggios, percussive and angular guitar blasts, a chugging bass line and an insistent rhythm paired with plaintive vocals that reminded me of  Amoral-era Violens — in particular, “Trance Like Turn.”
  • Remaining Light” is a sprawling track with two distinct parts — a cinematic and atmospheric instrumental introduction featuring twinkling keys, glistening synths and clinking marimba. At around the 2:20 mark, the song slowly morphs into a slow-burning and brooding bit of pop featuring King’s plaintive, reverb drenched vocals ethereally floating over the mix. The end result is a song that — to my ears, at least — sounded like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens. 
  • Epilogue,” a slow-burning and reflective track that slowly builds into a maximalist crescendo towards its conclusion centered around a lush, New Wave-like arrangement featuring glistening synth arpeggios, skittering beats, a relentless motorik groove paired with King’s achingly plaintive vocals ethereally floating over the mix. But underneath the breezy and expansive arrangement, “Epilogue” managed to possess a wistful, melancholy air.

Because of their exploratory approach, the members of Absolutely Free have revisited Aftertouch album track “How to Paint Clouds” with How to Repaint Clouds, an eight-track remix effort using on MIDI (Multi-Instrument Digital Interface) files — a digital language that contains harmonic and rhythmic blueprints, but no actual recordings.

“The song’s lyrics reflect upon the transcience of taste and how an artist’s feelings toward their work change over time,” the band says. “When a musician revisits their old songs, new interpretations are informed by changing contexts and evolving preferences. We wanted to stray from traditional modes of remixes based upon manipulating a song’s individual audio tracks, to provide the arftists with an unusual freedom from the original material, to create new sounds and reassemble the motifs of the song.”

The eight remixes interpret the track’s original structures untethered from its instrumentation, across a diverse aesthetic range from dark techno to psych rock. The first remix by Toronto-based musician Joseph Shabason turns the song into an otherworldly, woozy and ambient, New Age-like meditation centered around distorted saxophone bleats paired with twinkling synths.

How to Repaint Clouds is slated for a May 5, 2022 release through Boiled Records and will arrive with a tactile rendering: 20 one-of-a-kind AI-generated cloud painting turntable slipmats.

New Video: Tess Roby Returns with Ambient and Nostalgia-inducing “Path”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby. Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blurs the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with a decided emphasis on voice as its own instrument.

The Montreal-based artist’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through her own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director throughout the entire creative process.

Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello respectively, adding intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material. 

So far I’ve written about two album singles:

  • The mesmerizing,  Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS-like album title track “Ideas of Space,” which featured glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming and Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.” 
  • The mediative “Up 2 Me,” which featured skittering beats programmed by BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts paired with glistening synth arpeggios and Roby’s plaintive vocals. “The making of this song was very meditative. It was the first song I wrote following a situation that had taken a toll on my mental health, and had kept me out of the studio for a long time,” Roby explains in press notes. “The first iteration came in the summer of 2020, and it rested as an instrumental demo for a while. When I was close to finishing the album, I searched through all my recordings to find a final track – this one stood out to me. I wrote the vocal melody and arranged the song, then brought the instrumental to Austin Tufts along with a beat and asked him to program and expand on the idea. At this point we had been working together for a while and he was totally immersed in my sonic universe and knew the mood I was after.”

“Path,” Ideas of Space‘s third and latest single features an atmospheric production centered around gentle layers of ambient and glistening synth arpeggios, skittering tribal house-like beats paired with layers of Roby’s plaintive vocals. Thematically, the song focuses on time — but through the prism of an older, wizened version of yourself speaking to a younger, more innocent version of yourself.

The accompanying visual features 16mm footage shot back in 2019 by Hugo Bernier before the song was even conceived. We see a slightly younger Roby dancing and swaying and running during golden hour — and during what now seems like a simpler, more carefree time.

“The 16mm footage in this video was shot in 2019 before ‘Path’ was written. Hugo & I sat with that footage for a while, at times forgetting about it completely, but always coming back to its beauty and simplicity,” Roby says in press notes. “I had the footage in the studio with me while I was writing and it ended up inspiring parts of the song. I had never worked in that way before; video footage influencing songwriting – it was an interesting process, reversing the way in which I usually work with video. So much has changed since that footage was shot. It was only natural to pair it with footage of me now, in this very moment, speaking to myself then: ‘you’re looking down, I’m reaching out, if only I could see it like you do.’”

New Video: Montreal’s Tess Roby Shares an Intimate Visual for Dreamy and Meditative “Up 2 Me”

This week will be very busy: I’ll be attending and covering this year’s New Colossus Festival. So while they’ll be posts, I probably won’t be posting with the same regularity this week — but it’ll be worth it. But in the meantime, let’s get back to business around here:

Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blur the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with an emphasis on voice as an instrument. 

Roby’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through the Montreal-based artist’s own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director. 

Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello respectively, adding intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material. 

Last month, I wrote about the mesmerizing album title track, the Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS-like “Ideas of Space,” which featured glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming and Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.” 

Ideas of Space‘s second and latest single “Up 2 Me” continues a run of mesmerizing and dreamy material, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, propulsive and skittering beats programmed by BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts paired with Roby’s plaintive vocals.

The accompanying visual for “Up 2 Me” was shot on grainy VHS and is an interview look into Roby’s creative process (to some degree) as we see a black-clad Roby in the studio playing the song, thinking and dancing along to music, as well as the Canadian artist in a snow covered field gently swaying.

“The making of this song was very meditative. It was the first song I wrote following a situation that had taken a toll on my mental health, and had kept me out of the studio for a long time,” Roby explains in press notes. “The first iteration came in the summer of 2020, and it rested as an instrumental demo for a while. When I was close to finishing the album, I searched through all my recordings to find a final track – this one stood out to me. I wrote the vocal melody and arranged the song, then brought the instrumental to Austin Tufts along with a beat and asked him to program and expand on the idea. At this point we had been working together for a while and he was totally immersed in my sonic universe and knew the mood I was after. When I first heard the track with the drums, it was early Spring in April 2021. Montreal had this ridiculous 8pm curfew– it was 7:30pm or so and I left my apartment so I could listen outside. The sun was setting, the streets were empty, and I listened to the track on repeat until I had to run home.”