Tag: world music

New Audio: Internationally Acclaimed Omar Souleyman Returns with a Swooning, Club Banger

Omar Souleyman is a Tell Tamer, Syria-born, Istanbul, Turkey-based Sunni Arab vocalist, whose music career started in earnest back in 1994 when he was a part-time wedding singer. His overall sound has largely been influenced by  the incredibly diverse milieu of Northeastern Syria — and as a result, Souleyman and a rotating cast of musicians and producers he has worked with since his early days have found a way to draw from and mesh the sounds and themes of the Kurdish, the Ashuris, the Turks, the Iraqis and the larger Arabic world in a way that’s familiar and novel. In fact, Souleyman is considered the region’s pioneer of dance music/wedding music. 

Amazingly Souleyman has managed to be wildly prolific, releasing well over 500 stdio and live albums with about 80% of those releases made at weddings. Those recordings are first presented to the newlywed couple and then copied and sold at local kiosks. Over the better part of the last decade, Souleyman has released four compilations 2006’s Highway to Hassake, 2009’s Dabke 2020, 2010’s Jazeera Nights, 2011’s Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts and 2011’s Leh Jani and three full-length albums to the West, 2013’s incredible Wenu Wenu, 2015’s Bahdeni Nami and 2017’s To Syria, with Love –and all of those efforts have brought the sounds and grooves of the Middle East to the West, while expanding the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist’s profile internationally. Adding to a rapidly rising international profile, Souleyman has played sets at some of the world’s biggest festivals, including Paredes de Coura, a Caribou co-curated ATP Festival, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, Bonnaroo, Roskilde Festival, Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival, Pukkelpop Festival, Electric Picnic,  Treefort Music Festival — and oddly enough, one of the strangest House of Vans bills I’ve ever seen, in which he opened for Future Islands. And before I forget, he’s also collaborated with Bjork, contributing vocals for three remixes, which appear on an Biophilia.

Dericing its title for the Arabic word “how” or more literally “which color,” Shlon, which is slated for a November 22, 2019 release through Mad Decent/Because Music is the first batch of new material from Souleyman in a couple of years. The forthcoming album features double keyboard work from Hasan Alo, a fellow native of the Hasaka region of Northeastern Syria, who has recently been active in Dubai’s vibrant nightlife scene, a well as saz work from Azad Salih, a fellow Syrian, who currently resides in Mardin, Turkey. The album also finds the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist continuing his longtime collaboration with Syrian-born, Turkish-based lyricst Moussa Al Mardood, who the wrote most of the album’s lyrics spontaneously during the recording sessions. 

Unsurprisingly, his fourth album is vintage Omar Souleyman — 6 songs which mesh the dabke and baladi music of music beloved by the Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, the Kurdish and Iraqis with thumping, synth-led techno — but at its core, the material is comprised of swooning tales of devotion, adoration and love. “Layle,” Shlon’s propulsive, club banging first single is centered around Alo’s dexterous and arpeggiated synth work, layers of tweeter and woofer rocking polyrhythmic percussion and Souleyman’s imitable vocals. And while the track instantly reminds me of the sounds of my home borough — particularly Astoria and Jackson Heights — the song is centered around some gorgeous poetry,. describing a woman’s lips as sweet as the dates of Hillah, making the song a slick synthesis of the classic and the modern. 

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New Audio: Montreal’s Corridor Returns with an Explosive Post Punk-like New Single

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a little bit about the Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar) and Julien Bakvis (drums), received attention across the Francophone world and elsewhere with the release of 2015’s Le Voyage Éternel and 2017’s Supermercado. In fact, Supermercado received glowing praise from NPR and Vice, who referred to Supermercado as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ” 

Last year, building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the Quebecois band toured across Europe and made their Stateside debut with appearances at SXSW and Northside Music Festival. Shortly after, they returned to the States, touring with British post-punk act Shame. And earlier this year. they opened for Crumb on a sold-out Stateside tour, and have made appearances at London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival. Building upon the rapidly growing momentum surrounding the band, their third, full-length album Junior is slated for release next week through Sub Pop Records, making them the first Francophone band that the renowned indie label has ever signed.  

Junior manages to continues the band’s ongoing collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Ethier but unlike its predecessors, the album found the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity. Although the members of Corridor had just signed to their new label, the band firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album every two years. At the time, Sub Pop gently warned the members of the band that if they wanted to release new material this fall that they needed the completed album by May 10. 

So with the ink barely dried on the finalized deal, the members of Corridor went into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired blitz, finishing the album in mid-April. Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the lyrics to “Bang” written on the eve of the sessions, as the band’s Jonathan Robert began to panic. And as a result, the album’s material features fewer expansive jams, fewer overdubs. Even the album’s artwork came in the nick of time: in spite of other, meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received, Robert’s “shitty last minute collage” (of an egg saying hello) was the one his bandmates went for. “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions.

Junior’s first single “Topographe,” was a crafted, breakneck gallop centered around jittering and jangling guitars, propulsive drumming and reverb-drenched call and response vocals — with the end result being a muscular swoon, evoking the fluttering pangs of love. “Domino,” the album’s second single is a breezy track that was one part New Zealand-styled jangle pop and one part explosive, motorik groove driven jam that revealed a unit that can craft an incredibly infectious track that balances deliberate craft with a wild, improvised frenzy. “Pow,” Junior’s mesmerizing, third single may arguably be the most recognizably post punk-like song of the album. Centered around angular guitar lines,  fluttering synths, ethereal vocals, an infectious yet driving hook, jittery hi-hat and explosive toms, which seem to give the song its explosive title. 

New Video: The Trippy Visuals and Krautrock Sounds of Tokyo’s Minami Deutsch

With the release of 2015’s self-titled debut and 2016’s Tunnel/New Pastoral Life EP, the Tokyo-based krautrock act Minami Deutsch, comprised of Kyotrao Miula (guitar, vocals, synthesizer), Taku Idemoto (guitar) and Keita Ise (bass), quickly established themselves with their homeland’s growing and incredibly vital psych scene. Much like their contemporaries, the band meshes the best influences from the global psych rock scene and meshes that with a delicate touch of Japanese music tradition. 

Their latest effort, Can’t get there, a six song EP, which was released through Höga Nord Rekords earlier this year marks their second release through the Gothenburg, Sweden-based label, and interestingly the EP’s material is meant to crush negativity, sorrow and depressive energy while continuing their long-held adherence to a sound and approach that’s defiantly anachronistic. There are only small hits and elements of modernity throughout; however, the new album finds the band going along and trying some new paths, as the EP features a cover of Index’s 1968 song “Israeli Blues” and two remixes from Hoga Kord labelmates and mainstays Jamie Paton and Mythologen. 

Clocking in at a little over seven minutes, Can’t get there’s latest single, EP title track “Can’t get there” is an expansive and trippy composition that’s a seamless synthesis of classic krautrock and psych rock. Centered around a performance that feels like a free-flowing jam and tightly rehearsed, the track features shimmering and angular bursts of guitar wrapped around a forceful, motorik groove making it the rare song that’s perfect for speeding down the Autobahn  — and for getting high and for trying to get on a different astral plane. 

Directed by Ryohei Kumamoto, the recently released video stars Lou Andreasu as a paranoid woman, wandering the streets of Tokyo, as though someone has been following her. Oddly enough, her moments are almost perfectly synched with the movement of the song. 

New Audio: Two New Shimmering Psych Pop Freakouts from Amsterdam’s Acclaimed Altin Gun

Deriving their name from the Turkish phase “Golden Day,” the Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act Altin Gun, comprised of founding member Jasper Verhulst (bass) with Ben Rider (guitar), Erdinc Ecevit Yildiz (keys, saz, vocals), Gino Groneveld (percussion), Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Nic Mauskovic (drums), can trace their origins to Verhulst’s deep and abiding passion for Turkish psych pop and folk of the 60s and 70s — and to frequent touring in Istanbul with a previous band. During his stops in Istanbul, Verhulst discovered a lot of music that just wasn’t readily available in his homeland. But as the story goes, he wasn’t content to just listen as an ardent fan, he wound up having a vision of where he could potentially take the sound he loved.

“We do have a weak spot for the music of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Verhulst admits in press notes “With all the instruments and effects that arrived then, it was an exciting time. Everything was new, and it still feels fresh. We’re not trying to copy it, but these are the sounds we like and we’re trying to make them our own.” Although the material, they’re playing has been a familiar and beloved part of Turkish life for a few generations, the Dutch-based act actively interpret and reimagine it through a contemporary, 21st century lens. “Of course, since our singers are Turkish, they know many of these pieces. All this is part of the country’s musical past, their heritage, like ‘House of The Rising Sun’ is in America,‘” Verhulst explains.

Altin Gun’s sophomore album Gece, the highly-anticipated follow-up to last year’s breakthrough On was released earlier this year through ATO Records. Interestingly, the album finds the Altin Gun further establishing themselves as masterful interpreters of a beloved Anatolian rock and folk history with the band bringing together music and sounds from several different sources. Additionally, the band further establishes themselves as a new voice from a rapidly growing, global psych scene. Now, as you may recall, earlier this year I wrote about the rising Amsterdam-based band’s hypnotic and swooning take on Muzaffer Sarısözen’s “Süpürgesi Yoncadan,” which was centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Casio-like synths, complex polyrhythm, thumping beats and a propulsive, club-banging hook.

Since, the release of Gece earlier this year, the members of Altin Gun have been rather busy: the band went on a critically applauded Stateside tour that included a July stop at Rough Trade. The band will be returning back to the States for their second ever Stateside tour with a handful of Midwest dates opening for Tame Impala, an appearance at this year’s Desert Daze Festival and a handful of headlining dates that includes an October 19, 2019 stop at Elsewhere. (You can check out the rest of the tour dates and specifics below.)

To build up buzz for their upcoming Stateside tour dates, the Dutch band have released two new singles off Gece — “Gelin Halayi” and “Div Div.” “Gelin Halayi” is a mischievously anachronistic, and slinky  take on psych pop centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, dexterous lute playing, a sinuous bass line, propulsive percussion and a sultry yet ethereal vocal that’s a feverishly hallucinogenic club banger. “Div Div” is any incredibly uptempo and percussive gallop centered around a plaintive vocals, a chugging motorik-like groove, dexterous lute and guitar that’s one part stomp and one part psych rock freak out. Both songs continue to reveal a band that’s introducing an amazing and unfamiliar sound to new audiences.

New Video: Rwandan Folk Act The Good Ones Latest is the Heartbreaking Lament of a Desperate Father

The Kigali, Rwanda-based folk act The Good Ones, which features core trio and founders  co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro can trace their origins back to the roughy 1978. The members of the band, who were children were taught music and how to play by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Tragically, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors.

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that  have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. Like countless musicians. who are poor and barely getting by, they find ways to be creative. Sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar. But in most cases, they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools. 

Now, as you may recall, the Rwandan folk act’s forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Loved is slated for a November 9, 2019 release through Anti- Records, and the album’s material can be traced from a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material thematically centered around meditations on his 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Interestingly, the album was recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm  — and the sessions were imbued with loss’ their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan‘s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions.

While the album was recorded during a period of profound loss for the band and their producer, the album focuses on a variety of things in the bandmembers’ lives and experiences. Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a national — but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to barely get by. Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages. The album’s second and latest single “Where Did You Go Wrong, My Love” is a heartbreaking song that’s one part aching lament, one part desperate plea, one part bittersweet reminiscence over the loss of innocence of a young one, as the song is about a father’s desperate attempt to rescue his daughter from going down a bad path in her life. And as a result, the song is imbued with the powerless fear that countless parents have felt about their children. Much like it’s predecessor, the song is centered around a gorgeous yet sparse arrangement: al looping and shimmering 12 bar blues-like guitar, galloping percussion and the interwoven harmonies between the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira and co-lead vocalist Havugiamana.

Sonically, the material may draw comparisons to bluegrass, country, Americana and acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues but while coming from an older, primordial source. Countless artists consciously aim to create something timeless, the members of The Good Ones somehow manage to seemingly do so in an effortless, breezy fashion while talking about the plight of their fellow farmers, countrymen and working men. (The song features a guest appearance from Wilco’s Nels Cline.)

New Audio: Montreal’s Corridor Releases a Breezy Genre-Defying Jam

With the release of 2015’s Le Voyage Éternel and 2017’s Supermercado, the Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor — longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar) and Julien Bakvis (drums) — quickly won attention across the Francophone world and elsewhere, as they received glowing praise from the likes of NPR and Vice, who referred to Supermercado as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ”  Last year, building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the Quebecois band toured across Europe and made their Stateside debut with appearances at SXSW and Northside Music Festival. Shortly after, they returned to the States, touring with British post-punk act Shame.

This year, the band opened for Crumb on a sold-out Stateside tour, and they’ve already made appearances at the London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival. Adding to an already busy year, the band’s third full-length album Junior is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Sub Pop Records, making them the first Francophone band that the renowned indie label has ever signed.  Junior, which continues their ongoing collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Either finds the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity. Although the members of Corridor had just signed to their new label, the band firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album every two years. Sub Pop gently warned the band that if they wanted to release new material this fall that they needed material by May 10.

So with the ink barely dried on the finalized deal, the members of Corridor went into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired blitz, finishing the album in mid-April. Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the lyrics to “Bang” written on the eve of the sessions, as the band’s Jonathan Robert began to panic. And as a result, the album’s material features fewer expansive jams, fewer overdubs. Even the album’s artwork came in the nick of time: in spite of other, meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received, Robert’s “shitty last minute collage” (of an egg saying hello) was the one his bandmates went for. “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions.

Last month, I wrote about Junior’s first single “Topographe,” a crafted, breakneck gallop centered around jittering and jangling guitars, propulsive drumming and reverb-drenched call and response vocals creating a muscular swoon that seems to evoke the fluttering pangs of love. “Domino,” Junior’s second and latest single is a breezy and infectious track that’s one part New Zealand-styled jangle pop and one part explosive, motorik groove-driven jam, with a tight hook. And while revealing a band with a remarkable ability to craft an infectious tune, the band manages to balance deliberation and order with a wild, unadulterated frenzy.

“People are often glorifying what being an artist or a musician can mean. Art doesn’t necessarily make you a better person,” the band’s Jonathan Robert says in press notes. “There can be angst, stress and so on. It can have a negative, direct impact on the people closest to you. ‘Domino’ is about navigating just that. It is the first song out of Junior that we’ve composed and we’ve played it live quite a few times already.”

Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written about and championed a number of acts from across Northern Africa — in particular, Mali. During that same period of time,  Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between several different factions. In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) took control of Northern Mail; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law: cigarettes, alcohol and music were banned across the region. And as a result a large number of the country’s acclaimed musicians including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate south to Bamako, the country’s capital.

As the members of Songhoy Blues have said, the band was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.”  The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans.  Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes. 

Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards.  The quartet has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.

Building upon a growing international profile, the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Resistance was released to critical praise, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the best albums of that year. Since then, the act has been busy touring, including a stop at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder last year — and the writing and recording of their forthcoming EP Meet Me in the City, which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release.

The effort finds the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti. Interestingly, the EP’s first single, the Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues co-written “Time To Go Home” may be the most electronic-leaning they’ve released to date, it still retains some dexterous and trippy guitar work and the hypnotic grooves of the Desert Blues. And interestingly enough, it finds the band ambitiously desiring to pass the messages at the heart of their material to a much larger, international audience. (There are two different version of the track. One mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Blake Mills and one mixed by David Ferguson.)

Songhoy Blues says, “We’re really happy to introduce this new EP and our English-language debut on the song ‘Time To Go Home.’ Please enjoy it and get ready for a heavy new album coming up very soon.”

Matt Sweeney adds, “I think it’s safe to say that the brave poets of Songhoy Blues have a different idea what a ‘bad day’ is than pretty much all other rock bands. Their music and singing are powerful beyond words. Making a new song with them was a humbling honor and an unforgettable joy.”

On PBS’ American Masters, Will Oldham spoke of working with Songhoy Blyes, saying, “They are a Malian band that’s really trying to make sense of what they’ve been witnessing, what they’ve been experiencing, and create or transmit a message to people about what they’re seeing and how they’re trying to understand it and make change…And to think, well I want them to know that I’m trying to listen and trying to understand, and if I can give voice to some of what they’re experiencing, that they might be emboldened by this musical connection.”

Songhoy Blues will be embarking on a month long Stateside tour that includes two NYC area dates — September 22, 2019 at The Great Green Wall at The United Nations and October 24, 2019 at Baby’s All Right. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

09.21 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
09.22 – New York, NY – United Nations | Great Green Wall
09.23 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
09.24 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
09.26 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
09.27 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
09.28 – Austin, TX – Antone’s
10.01 – El Prado, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
10.04 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
10.05 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone Berkeley
10.06 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
10.09 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
10.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10.11 – Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
10.12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
10.15 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10.17 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10.19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10.22 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Great Hall
10.24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
10.25 – Easthampton, MA – New City Brewery
10.26 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
10.27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstay El Dusty Teams Up with Tiano Bless on a Sultry Club Banger

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the  Corpus Christi, TX-based JOVM mainstay producer, DJ and electronic music artist, El Dusty. And as you amy recall, the Corpus Christi-born JOVM pioneer has received attention across the blogosphere as a pioneer of a sub-genre he’s dubbed “nu cumbia,” which features elements of hip-hop. drum ‘n’ bass, house music and samples of classic and beloved cumbia songs in a swaggering, genre-defying and club banging take on traditional border music. 

Not only has El Dusty received a a Latin Grammy nomination for his work, he was named on of Rolling Stone‘s 10 New Artists You Need to Know, Billboard‘s New Latin Act and to Watch and was placed on Pandora‘s Latin Artists to Watch. He’s also played at EDC Las Vegas, EDC Mexico, Ciudad Sonido Festival, Fiesta De La Flor, Universal Records‘ Latin Grammy Showcase, Brisk Bodega Tour, the Mad Decent Block Party, Austin City Limits, SXSW, and others.  And adding to a growing profile, the Corpus Christi-born and-based JOVM mainstay released his full-length debut, last year’s Cumbia City, an album that found him pushing his sound and approach in new directions, further revealing why he has quickly become a highly sought-after producer and collaborator. 

Since the release of Cumbia City, El Dusty has been busy producing original music and collaborating with a variety of artists on releases through his independent label Americano Label. His latest single “El Pescador” is a sultry, two-step inducing club banger, centered around thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a classic cumbia sample that prominently features accordion and Latin percussion and an enormous hook paired with 2012 Rototom Latin contest winner, drummer and vocalist Tiano Bless contributing hip-hop inspired rhymes to the proceedings. 

New Video: Montreal’s Corridor Releases a Hallucinogenic and Whimsical Visual for “Topographe”

With the release of 2015’s Le Voyage Éternel and 2017’s Supermercado, the Montreal-based indie rock act Corridor — longtime friends and collaborators Dominic Berthiaume (vocals/bass) and Jonathan Robert (vocals/guitar/synths) along with Julian Perreault (guitar) and Julien Bakvis (drums) — quickly won attention across the Francophone world and elsewhere, as they received glowing praise from the likes of NPR and Vice, who referred to Supermercado as “the best French record of 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021 and even 2022 .  . . ”  Last year, building upon the growing buzz surrounding them, the Quebecois band toured across Europe and made their Stateside debut with appearances at SXSW and Northside Music Festival. Shortly after, they returned to the States, touring with British post-punk act Shame. 

This year, the band opened for Crumb on a sold-out Stateside tour, and they’ve already made appearances at the London Calling Festival and La Villete Sonique Festival. Adding to an already busy year, the band’s third full-length album Junior is slated for an October 18, 2019 release through Sub Pop Records, making them the first Francophone band that the renowned indie label has ever signed.  Junior, which continues their ongoing collaboration with their friend, producer (and occasional roommate) Emmanuel Either finds the band jettisoning the languorous creative process of its predecessors — out of inspired necessity. Although the members of Corridor had just signed to their new label, the band firmly committed themselves to releasing a new album every two years. Sub Pop gently warned the band that if they wanted to release new material this fall that they needed material by May 10. 

So with the ink barely dried on the finalized deal, the members of Corridor went into the studio and recorded Junior in an inspired blitz, finishing the album in mid-April. Six of the album’s 10 songs were conceived in a single weekend — with the lyrics to “Bang” written on the eve of the sessions, as the band’s Jonathan Robert began to panic. And as a result, the album’s material features fewer expansive jams, fewer overdubs. Even the album’s artwork came in the nick of time: in spite of other, meticulous and gorgeous artwork they received, Robert’s “shitty last minute collage” (of an egg saying hello) was the one his bandmates went for. “Part of the beauty of the thing is that we didn’t have time to think about it,” the band’s Berthiaume says of the Junior recording sessions. 

Frequently, the songs that manage to be difficult to describe on on hand, yet remarkably accessible catch a hold on my ears and attention. Junior’s first single, “Topographe” is a breakneck gallop centered around jittering and jangling guitars, propulsive drumming,  and reverb-drenched call and response vocals. It’s a muscular swoon that seems to evoke the fluttering pangs of first love. And while being a remarkably urgent track, the song possesses a timeless quality because it’s a deliberately crafted bit of material that also liberally borrows from several decades of rock — particularly, jangle pop, shoegaze, psych rock and so on. 

Directed by the band’s Jonathan Robert, the recently released animated video for “Topographe” features the members band in a Wes Anderson meets Monty Python-like world that’s full of hallucinogenic and surreal whimsy. “While I’ve explored and mixed many different techniques in my past music videos, it’s the first time that I took the process this far, blending all of them together in one place,” Robert explains. “It’s a melting pot of stop motion, green screen, illustration, animation, collage, and live video. It’s the visual equivalent of the progression of the song, a simple idea that takes amplitude through repetition.”

Lyric Video: The Hauntingly Beautiful and Old-Time Folk of Rwanda’s The Good Ones

Primarily centered around its core, founding trio of co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro, the Rwandan folk act, The Good Ones, who hail from the outskirts of the nation’s capital Kigali, can trace their origins back to about 1978, when its members, who were still children, were taught music by Hauvgimana’s older brother. Sadly, Hauvgimana’s older brother, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors. 

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that  have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. The members of the band do what poor people everywhere do. They find some truly creative ways to get by out of necessity — sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar; other times they may borrow a friend’s guitar; but in most cases they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools.  As the band’s primary songwriter Kazigira writes material that routinely features interwoven, intricate harmonies between himself and co-lead vocalist Havugimana that may remind some folks of classic American Bluegrass — but also acoustic, Mississippi Delta Blues.  

Slated for a November 8, 2019 release through Anti- Records, The Good Ones’ forthcoming album Rwanda, You Should Be Love can trace its origins to a batch of over 40 songs that the band’s Adrien Kazigira had originally written. Most of the material centered around meditations on his now 13-year-old daughter Marie Clare, and the life-threatening tumor that has afflicted her left eye. Recorded live and without overdubs on Kazigira’s farm, the sessions were imbued with a further sense of loss: their longtime collaborator and producer Ian Brennan’s mother died and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions. The album also features guest appearances from an All-Star team of indie rock stars, including Wilco’s Nels Cline, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Fugazi’s Joe Lally. 

Interestingly, despite the massive number of profound losses in the bandmembers’ lives, Rwanda, You Are Loved’s first single “The Farmer” celebrates the critical role farmers play in society and to a nation but it’s also an aching lament, acknowledging the bitter irony that farmers often can’t feed their own families and are struggling to get by.  Built around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, harmonized vocals, the song is a timeless one that has seemingly been sung by generations upon generations across the world — and in a variety of languages.