Tag: Polaris Prize

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: Tanika Charles Teams Up with DijahSB on a Strutting and Triumphant Bop

Two-time Juno Award-nominated and Polaris Prize listed, Toronto-born and-based Trinidadian-Canadian singer/songwriter Tanika Charles spent a formative part of her life in Edmonton, when energy sector opportunities brought her family there. But whether they were in Toronto or Edmonton, music was a constant presence in the Charles household: Her father would return from two weeks on site with the latest jazz records for Tanika and her brothers to play and jam out along.

Several years later, Tanika’s eldest brother would be the first to coach her on how to sing and how to record a song. As a young adult., Charles relocated to Vancouver, where she picked up gigs as a backing vocalist and got a taste of tour life. When she returned to her birthplace, the Trinidadian-Canadian artist’s long-held dreams of becoming a professional artist began to come to fruition: She assembled her first backing band, and with that band recorded her debut EP What? What! What?! With the release of her debut EP, Charles quickly became a local scene fixture.

Back in  2016, Charles independently released her full-length debut Soul Run within her native Canada. The album was sensation nationally, with the album receiving a Polaris Music Prize nomination and a Juno Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. The following year, Italian purveyors of funk and soul Record Kicks released Soul Run internationally to critical applause from the likes of Exclaim!, Music Republic Magazine and others. Album singles like “Endless Chain,” “Love Fool,” and album title track “Soul Run” received regular radio rotation on stations across Canada, the US, the UK and France.

Charles’ sophomore album, 2019’s The Gumption was released through Record Kicks. The 12-song album picked up where Soul Run left off, further establishing the Canadian artist’s sound and approach in which classic soul is mixed with modern production. Thematically, the album saw Charles tackling moments of vindication, uncertain love, forbidden fruit and the state of the world. “It’s a little more mature,” Tanika said at the time. ““It’s not feeling guilty about being up front, not being afraid to address situations that aren’t comfortable for me. I’m comfortable in my skin now in a way I never was before.” The Gumption was long-listed for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize and nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.

Along with her latest backing band, The Wonderfuls, Charles has toured across Canada and eight other counties to support Soul Run and The Gumption. Those tours have prominently featured stops across the local, national and global festival circuits, including Rennes Trans MusicalesNXNELärz FusionPop MontrealCanarias Jazz FestivalCBC Music FestivalTD Toronto Jazz FestBirmingham’s Mostly Funk, Soul and Jazz Festival, the Pan Am Games and a list of others.

The Canadian artist’s music has appeared on HBO’s Less Than Kind, ABC’s Rookie BlueThe CW’s SeedCTV’s Saving HopeCBC’s Kim Convenience and Workin’ Moms and a nationally broadcast KFC ad campaign. She also has appeared as a reoccurring guest on CBC Kids and as a lounge singer on Global TV’s Bomb Girls. Between a busy schedule as a touring musician, Charles appeared in the touring production of Freedom Singer in 2017. She returned to that role in February 2019’s Now We Recognize

Charles’ third album Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly is slated for an April 8, 2022 release through Record Kicks. The album, which features guest spots from Toronto-based emcee DijahSB and multi-disciplinary artist Khari McClelland was written and recorded during and after pandemic related lockdowns and restrictions. Much like its immediate predecessor, the forthcoming album is reportedly anchored in growth and maturity. 

The album’s title is derived from an unlikely source, a creature that soars after the sun has set, but often goes unnoticed until light is shone on it. Referred to as “papillon de nuit” by some, the animal is more commonly known as a moth, possibly revealing a linguistic bias. “I always thought it was a strange insect,” the acclaimed Canadian artist says in press notes. “Once while in Paris, a friend swatted at one and I asked: ‘Was that a moth?’. I was told: ‘No, that’s a papillon de nuit.’ I thought that was the most beautiful description for this otherwise overlooked creature. When I later learned of the symbolism associated with it, I felt that really spoke to both my own situation and also what we’ve all been going through.”

Last month, I wrote about the funky, old-school soul-inspired bop “Rent Free,” a fiery tell-off to the energy sucking vampires, deadbeats, naysayers, haters, time wasters and other shitty people of life, centered around Charles’ effortless, Motown era-like delivery. We’ve all had those sorts in our lives, and this song is the sort of song that tells you that it’s okay to push those toxic people out of your life for you to feel better — or to succeed.

The album’s latest single “Different Morning” is a collaboration that features Toronto-based emcee DijahSB, whose album Head Above the Waters was featured in Exclaim Magazine‘s Top 50 Albums of the year and landed a Juno Award nomination — and a performance slot at the award show. Sonically speaking, “Different Morning” is a slick and strutting synthesis of Larry Levan-like house and neo-soul centered around twinkling Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, swinging J. Dilla-like beats, and ebullient horn blasts. And over that celebratory two-step inducing production, Charles contributes soulful vocals that gradually build up confidence with a celebratory and triumphant verse from DijahSB.

“So much of our days are spent dwelling on the same mistakes, the same misfortunes. That thing we wish didn’t happen, or what we wish we hadn’t done,” Tanika Charles explains in press notes. “‘Different Morning’ is about starting a new day without that baggage, about finding a way to correct course and move past it. What starts as a pitiful interior monologue evolves into a celebration of getting over that hump by being your biggest cheerleader. DijahSB is someone who was able to carry that triumphant spirit that the second half of the song needed. ‘I’m alive today’ is enough of a blessing, enough of an accomplishment, and enough to be thankful for.”

Directed by Cazhhmere, the accompanying video for “Different Morning” features the Canadian artists in a lush, Alice in Wonderland-like maze at night dancing and rocking out to the song. Shit, I wish I could join them because they’re having fun, and just enjoying the moment.

New Audio: Toronto’s Absolutely Free Releases a Sprawling, Politically Charged Single

Acclaimed Toronto-based psych pop act 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. The Canadian psych trio’s full-length debut, 2014’s Absolutely Free. received a Polaris Prize nomination and received widespread critical applause from the likes of PitchforkThe FADERStereogumBrooklynVegan,Exclaim!Under the RadarPopMattersAllMusic and countless others. 

During 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. And adding to a growing profile the’ve toured alongside the likes of AlvvaysYouth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations and shared bills with Beak>, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, U.S. Girls and Fucked Up

Absolutely Free’s highly-anticipated Jorge Elbrecht-produced sophomore album Aftertouch is slated for a September 24, 2021 release 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 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. 

Last month, I wrote about Aftertouch album single “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.” The album’s latest single “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.

Continuing a run of expansive and mind-bending material, “Remaining Light” was originally written in 2016 and was informed by the disturbing trend of rising gun violence against marginalized populations at the time of its creation. The song thematically tackles the weighty issues of structural racism, poverty and injustice that are embedded into society’s often corrupt and exploitive systems — all while sounding like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens.

“‘Remaining Light’ expresses the frustration felt towards invincible and corrupt institutions that uphold structural inequities, including police brutality and manufactured poverty experienced primarily by racialized communities,” the members of Absolutely Free explain. “Written during a heat wave in the summer of 2016, the song dishearteningly remains as relevant as ever today.”

New Video: RJ Sanchez-Directed Visuals for Muneshine’s “Full Throttle” feat. The Darcys Pay a Glorious and Campy Homage to 80s Pop Culture

Rob Bakker is a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-born, Toronto, ON-based multi-Juno Award and Polaris Prize-nominated hip-hop producer, engineer and recording artist, best known as Muneshine. Recently, Converse Rubber Tracks had the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based producer collaborating with the acclaimed Toronto, ON-based art rock/indie rock duo The Darcys on “Full Throttle,” a sultry, classic house music-inspired club-banging single that finds both the producer and renowned indie rock duo using their sound and aesthetic in a completely different and unchartered territory, arguably being one of the sexiest songs both parties have released to date — while thematically speaking, the song is about escaping whatever that weighs you and your life down — work stress, school stress, relationship stress, family stress, etc.

As the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based producer explains of the collaboration with The Darcys “Wes [Marskell] and Jason [Couse] are great to work with. They’re obviously great songwriters and musicians, but beyond that we just get along as humans. We share a similar dark and sarcastic sense of humour as well, which makes our sessions an evil pleasure. I love having an idea on my own and finding my own way to express it, but when you bring other people that you trust creatively into the fold and put your heads together you’re forced to explore possibilities that live beyond your own imagination. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Directed by RJ Sanchez, the recently released visuals for “Full Throttle” pay homage to the 80s — namely Fame, Flashdance, Knight Rider and Magnum P.I. in a way that’s simultaneously campy as hell, but manages to capture the exact tone and feel of 80s pop culture — to the point, that you can briefly be tricked into thinking that the song and the video were released around the period that influenced it. As Bakker says of his collaboration with Sanchez, “I met RJ through Geoff McLean (Vision Film Co.) when I was on the hunt for an exciting new director for my 2015 single, ‘Sunshine’. I hadn’t seen much of his work, but Geoff’s the man and his taste is impeccable, so that suggestion was all I needed to hear. Needless to say, RJ knocked ‘Sunshine’ out of the park, so when I finished up ‘Full Throttle’ with Darcys, I knew exactly where to go for that fire. The only ‘must-have’ I put on RJ was my need for a sexy 80’s sports car (preferably a Lamborghini Countach – my all-time favorite automobile) and he took it from there. We couldn’t source the Countach, but he got his hands on a cherry red Magnum P.I. Ferrari, and who can hate on that?! RJ gets all the props for this masterpiece, I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out.”

Rob Bakker is a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-born, Toronto, ON-based multi-Juno Award and Polaris Prize-nominated hip-hop producer, engineer and recording artist, best known as Muneshine. Recently, Converse Rubber Tracks had the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based producer collaborating with the acclaimed Toronto, ON-based art rock/indie rock duo The Darcys on “Full Throttle,” a sultry, classic house music-inspired club-banging single that finds both the producer and renowned indie rock duo using their sound and aesthetic in a completely different and unchartered territory, arguably being one of the sexiest songs both parties have released to date — while thematically speaking, the song is about escaping whatever that weighs you and your life down — work stress, school stress, relationship stress, family stress, etc.

As the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based producer explains of the collaboration with The Darcys “Wes [Marskell] and Jason [Couse] are great to work with. They’re obviously great songwriters and musicians, but beyond that we just get along as humans. We share a similar dark and sarcastic sense of humour as well, which makes our sessions an evil pleasure. I love having an idea on my own and finding my own way to express it, but when you bring other people that you trust creatively into the fold and put your heads together you’re forced to explore possibilities that live beyond your own imagination. That’s a beautiful thing.”