Loscil Explores End Times on ‘Monument Builders’ | Exclaim! | November 16, 2016

Loscil Explores End Times on ‘Monument Builders’

Loscil Explores End Times on 'Monument Builders'
Photo: Mark Mushet

It only seems appropriate, given the end-times vibe that’s dominated 2016, that Loscil‘s eighth full-length, Monument Builders, explores despair and hopelessness, and the beauty to be found in it.

“I wanted to force myself to get away from some of the themes that I’ve explored a lot over the years,” the man born Scott Morgan tells Exclaim!, “environment and water — things that are strongly West Coast.”

Those more “West Coast” themes included building albums around classical music (2001’s Triple Point and 2002’s Submers), the literature of the 1960s (2012’s City Hospital) and the geography of his Vancouver hometown (2004’s First Narrows, 2012’s Sketches from New Brighton).

Monument Builders, which Morgan describes as “thematically darker and more intense,” is made up of compact and digestible instrumentals that purposely sound warped, warn or damaged. He was inspired by rewatching a VHS copy of the 1982 experimental documentary Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, and namely Philip Glass‘s soundtrack.

“I was playing around with fidelity, obviously I was attracted to that, just noise and interference and pitch — instability,” Morgan explains. “I think the addition of the French horn is a little bit of a nod to Glass, and some of the simple and repetitive harmonics are also a bit of a nod.”

Drawing additional influences from the imagery of St. Catharines photographer Edward Burtynsky — whose celebrated work depicts large scale images exploring the impact of industry — Morgan explains, “I have seen a bunch of his stuff online and it’s like aerial footage of mining pits or places that have been environmentally impacted by industry. I guess there’s a balance with some of the sounds I was looking for, where there’s a calmness but there’s sort a lurking, gritty foreboding quality to it. Finding that edge is a really interesting place to find.”

In addition to the work of Burtynsky, Morgan also found himself drawn to British philosopher John Gray, whose writings have been called “anti-humanist.”

“He’s critical of the ‘myth of progress,’ this notion that we’ll all be saved by our own intelligence,” Morgan says. “I’m a firm believer in averting climate change and solving problems that we’ve created for ourselves, but at the end of the day, it’s kinda like the earth doesn’t need our saving. I think we have this notion that it’s all about us, but really we’re all just part of this whole bigger picture of what’s going on and there’s something both freeing and bleak about that.”

Loscil’s upcoming Canadian tour dates include Montreal on November 22, Kingston on November 23 and Toronto on November 24. Check out all the upcoming dates here.

Read about the inspiration for Loscil’s “Drained Lake” video here or just watch the video below.

Monument Builders is out now on Kranky.


​AraabMuzik Offers a “Rollercoast of Styles” on ‘Dream World’ and Reveals Upcoming Collaborations | Exclaim! | July 8, 2016


AraabMuzik Offers a “Rollercoast of Styles” on ‘Dream World’ and Reveals Upcoming Collaborations

AraabMuzik Offers a "Rollercoast of Styles" on 'Dream World' and Reveals Upcoming Collaborations
Photo: William Bond

Five years after the release of his debut full-length Electronic Dream, AraabMuzik just released its follow-up, Dream World, through Empire Distribution. But the Rhode Island beatmaker hasn’t been silent during that half-decade — his prolific recent output has included three mixtapes, a remix collection and two EPs in the last four years.

His most recent release, the Goon Loops EP, saw AraabMuzik moving away from his hip-hop origins and into more EDM-inspired sounds — it turned out to be a tease of what Dream World has to offer, a borderless blend of genres and moods that focuses heavily on dance, pop and house music, alongside his typical low-end beats.

“This one definitely has a different feel than Electronic Dream,” AraabMuzik tells Exclaim! “It’s more a different mixture of styles of music, and they also have original vocalists on a couple tracks and a couple of different producers on different songs. I don’t like giving people just one side of me, I wanted to make the album interesting, colourful, something different.”

Bringing in a slew of guest vocalists and producers to help craft the album’s diverse feel; for that, he dipped far into the underground, collaborating with up-and-comers like Phear Phace, Mavati, WattzBeatz and Raiche.

“With this album I just went with the people that I wanted to work with. On Electronic Dream, the songs all had the same type of feel and style, but for this one I kinda wanted to give them a little bit of hip-hop, pop, dance, R&B, a couple of house tracks. I wanted to show how versatile I can be. I wanted to give them a rollercoaster of different styles.”

But the fertile producer plans to work with more established musicians in the near future, saying, “For my next album I want to do something I haven’t done before, working with big-name artists, and the next one could be more of a hip-hop album than electronic-y.”

Those will come after some already completed collaborations are revealed. “!llmind and I have an album coming out — it’s a collaboration production EP, it should be out soon. I also have a project with Joe Budden, it’s being mastered as we speak — it should be out by late August,” he reveals. “I have a lot of weapons coming out this summer.”

DOOMSQUAD | Exclaim! | April 27, 2016


Family Affair

DOOMSQUADFamily Affair
Photo: Kate Young

When it was revealed that DOOMSQUAD recorded their 2014 debut,Kalaboogie, around the Ottawa Valley resort town of Calabogie — known for its ski hills, kayaking and rock climbing — it instantly worked as an antithesis to the trio’s dark, moody and psychedelic electronic experiments.

After finishing last year’s Pageantry Suite EP at a proper studio in their Toronto hometown, sibling trio Allie, Jaclyn and Trevor Blumas decided to write and record their sophomore album in a locale that fit better with their mystic oeuvre: the barren deserts of New Mexico.

“Some of our friends are from New Mexico, we’ve had the pleasure of playing with them down there and we fell in love with the environment,” says multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jaclyn. “The landscape has a beautiful narrative. Our music changed as the colours of the sand were changing at different times of day.”

It wasn’t just the energy of the landscape that helped shape the nine tracks that make up the musically adventurous Total Time — the trio brought in Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh to produce, and teamed up with Albuquerque two-piece North America to help with the recording session. “I feel the same sort of bond with my siblings as I do with them,” Jaclyn says of the twin brother duo. “There’s this beautiful family vibe; I feel like we’ve all known each other forever.”

Returning to Toronto, DOOMSQUAD invited even more guests to participate, including Fucked Up guitarist Mike Haliechuk and legendary singer Mary Margaret O’Hara, but Jaclyn says that it’s the special connection she shares with her siblings that helped give Total Time its ultimate personality.

“It’s actually crazy how alike our styles are. There are things we disagree on, but when it comes to DOOMSQUAD, we’re so on point. I feel really lucky because I’ve never experienced being able to finish musical sentences with people other than with my brother and sister.”

Matmos | Exclaim!| March, 2016


Laundry Day

MatmosLaundry Day
Photo: Josh Sisk

“Oh man, it’s such an unglamorous answer.” MC Schmidt sits in the home office he shares with his partner, Drew Daniel, blushingly trying to answer the most obvious question about their latest album: “Why make an album from a washing machine?”

Matmos, the team of Daniel and Schmidt, have been making concept-based music since their formation over two decades ago. Their 1997 self-titled debut revolved around Byzantine field recordings (including the nerve activity of a crayfish); since then, the Baltimore duo have created albums from the sounds of household objects, from samples of medical procedures, and in tribute to influential LGBT heroes. Their last LP, 2013’s The Marriage of True Minds, found Matmos conducting four years of ESP-based experiments where Daniel attempted to transmit the concept of the album into Schmidt’s mind.

These make an album centred on a washing machine sound banal in comparison. But there’s a certain brainy intellect behind making a record from their Maytag Ultimate Care II washing machine (aside from it being conveniently located in their basement studio). “It totally matters that it’s a washing machine, because a washing machine has a certain set of sounds and a certain resonant frequency,” Daniel explains. “It has both mechanical and liquid sloshy noises — it has a whole vocabulary. The album is what it is because of that fact, but the album is also what it is because we can take it back into our universe.”

Presented as a single, 38-minute track, Ultimate Care II is an audacious and adventuresome piece of work, one that’s just as influenced by the physical embodiment of the washing machine as it is the philosophical. Daniel responds to the notion that Ultimate Care II may represent their life as a couple rather than a musical duo, one where the allure of home supersedes the call of the nightlife. “It’s cool to push back against the idea of escapism in electronic music as a purveyor of fantasy worlds. There’s something realist about risking the drabness of laundry; it’s an interesting stance because it cuts against a lot of the way electronic music is marketed and what it’s supposedly about.”

Created by an intense and involved process in which Daniel, Schmidt and a host of guests (including Dan Deacon, Jason Willett from Half Japanese, Duncan Moore of Needle Gun and members of Horse Lords) ran sounds from the washing machine onto MIDI players, computer programs, reel-to-reels and even “a CGI, 3D environment of a virtual washing machine with virtual clothes,” much of the music on Ultimate Care II is amazingly captivating.

Like all their work, Daniel sees it as more than a gimmick. “There are some very Krautrock moments of drumming — it feels just very tactile and hippy-ish — and then there are moments of very fake-tape music, and then we end with a rave jam. I feel that our washing machine had a lot of different clothes in it.”

Junior Boys | Exclaim! | February 2016

Junior Boys


Junior BoysHomecoming
Photo: Tom Weatherill

For Junior Boys, Big Black Coat represents many things: it’s a return to making music as a duo after a five-year layover; it’s a self-professed new chapter in their musical careers; but most importantly, it’s a love letter to the genre of music they grew up idolizing.

After releasing four albums in seven years, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Jeremy Greenspan views Junior Boys’ first era as “a complete scenario of the band,” which partly explains their four-and-a-half-year hiatus.

Greenspan explains that Junior Boys’ musical sabbatical allowed the duo (alongside producer Matt Didemus) to re-examine their craft — including ditching the songs they had written for their next album. “The songs we had, they didn’t have much life in them, in part because I didn’t feel that invigorated to do anything. It was only through working with Jessy Lanza [on her 2013 debut Pull My Hair Back] and doing stuff for myself [that] gave me a sort of new lease on life that made me want to do more Junior Boys stuff. Because I had other things going on that were doing well, I didn’t put all my eggs in one Junior Boys basket, so it made me feel like I could be more adventurous with it.”

After their creative purge, Junior Boys decided to return to their roots, drawing influence from the electronic music scene that emerged from their Hamilton hometown in the 1990s, “It’s funny that Hamilton had more of a scene for electronic music 20 years ago, in a way, than it does now,” says Greenspan about his teenage years. “There was a record label called Steel City Records that put out techno tracks that was aligned with Plus8 Records in Windsor, with John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin, so all of those people would come and play in Hamilton, the people who were young and into it became the people from the Hamilton dance scene, like ourselves and Caribou, Azari & III and Orphx.”

The resulting 11 tracks that make up Big Black Coat stand as some of Junior Boys’ sleekest, sharpest and least complicated to date, as the duo allow icy rhythms and pulsating beats to drive each track. Greenspan’s vocals come off drier and more repetitive, playing off like old-school techno samples at times.

“I was doing a lot of that, recording a lot of the vocals in real time,” he explains. “Everyone’s got this idea that the only way to record vocals is in a really perfect room with a super high-end microphone. So this time, it was the complete opposite — vocal take, recorded with the speakers going. I wasn’t even using headphones, just that kind of craziness. I wanted the vocals and the lyrics to reflect that feeling of the music. The less you say, the more that can be unpacked.”

The Tallest Man on Earth In the Slow Lane | Exclaim! | June 2015

The Tallest Man on Earth

In the Slow Lane

The Tallest Man on EarthIn the Slow Lane

Photo by Cameron Wittig

For years, the Tallest Man on Earth has come off as a tireless workaholic, but this time around, any perceived ambition is purely situational. After releasing three albums and two EPs in six years, alongside a number of globe-trotting tours, Kristian Matsson (aka the Tallest Man on Earth) originally planned to take the entirety of 2014 off in order to “enjoy life at a slow pace.”

What was meant to be an escape from the pressures of the road ended up revealing its own set of issues, as Matsson explains: “A lot of things happened in my personal life, I went through a divorce [from Swedish musician Idiot Wind] and a bunch of things, so I wrote a lot of new songs because I had a lot of things I had to get out.”

The resulting tracks make up the bulk of his new album, the deeply personal and revealing Dark Bird Is Home. After recording 2012’s There’s No Leaving Now alone in his home during a predictably harsh Nordic winter, Matsson decided to take an antithetical approach for his fourth full-length. “I promised myself that next time it wouldn’t be like that,” Matsson says. “This time, I recorded it in the middle of summer in my new house and I have a studio on the property, which is great.”

The studio in question would turn out to be thousands of miles away from his birthplace of Dalarna, Sweden, situated in the bucolic locale of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, best known to indie rock fans as the headquarters of Justin Vernon and his Bon Iver project. Given such close proximity to so many working musicians, Matsson invited players into the studio to help fill out his newly conceived tracks, including Bon Iver alumnus C.J. Camerieri on trumpet and French horn, Mike Lewis on saxophone and violist Mike Noyce.

Despite their tense origins, the resulting tracks come off surprisingly rich and charming, a tapestry of warm instrumentation and pristine arrangements. For those who view this drastic change of scenery as a response to the events surrounding his last album, Matsson healthily shrugs that off. “I just had the time and I had the equipment and I had the help of others — a lot of good things were lining up. I was able to let out a lot more stuff; that’s why it’s actually more ‘me’ than ever.”

Roy Haynes; Fountain of Youth | Ottawa XPress | June 28, 2007

June 28th, 2007
Ottawa International Jazz Festival
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Fountain of youth
Daniel Sylvester

  Hear the drummer get wicked

At 81, the legendary Roy Haynes looks to the future of jazz

Roy Haynes has been a living legend for over 40 years – that title was bestowed upon him because of his work with Lester Young in the late 1940s, as a member of the Charlie Parker Quintet in the early 1950s, and for his work with Sarah Vaughan in the late 1960s. Like his contemporaries “Bird,” John Coltrane and Clifford Brown, Roy Haynes has helped shape jazz by pushing the boundaries of what was once referred to as “simple dance compositions” into a uniquely American art form. But what’s really set him apart from the aforementioned is that Haynes has lived long enough to accept such tributes, which are typically ascribed to individuals post-mortem.

Criminally, however, the accolades bestowed on Haynes have not been because of his contributions to jazz and drumming, but rather because of the people he’s recorded with: Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane. His resumé reads like the history of jazz itself.

By 35, Haynes had solidified his place in jazz royalty. In 1962, Haynes, as bandleader, cut his first classic recording, Out of the Afternoon. This celebrated recording featured his newly formed quartet: Henry Grimes on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Roland Kirk on saxophones, flutes and a number of other instruments. These three musicians would become some of the most eccentric, inspired forces in 1960s jazz.

Cut to the new millennium. It’s Jazz Fest time again. Haynes is 81 years old and will headline the festival as part of a searing live quartet called The Fountain Of Youth. The group features Martin Bejerano on piano, David Wong on bass and Jaleel Shaw on saxophone – a trio of beaming, flourishing musicians not unlike those the drummer worked with over 40 years ago.

In May, Bejerano released Evolution/Revolution, his first album as a bandleader; his rhythmic bop-inspired playing has drawn comparisons to Bud Powell. Jaleel Shaw is a robust and smooth saxophonist, something in the vein of Ken Vandermark or Roland Kirk. Like Bejerano, he released his debut album, Perspective, not long ago. David Wong, the youngest of the quartet, is a true virtuoso, cutting his teeth as bassist on the touring circuit with Haynes.

Recently, I discussed with Haynes his appearance at this year’s Ottawa International Jazz Festival, but rather than talking about himself, the drummer redirected the attention away from him and onto his band. So I foolishly asked him how he initially discovered this fresh trio, and once again Haynes deflects the spotlight. “At my age I don’t find musicians, they find me,” he continues, “It’s like asking, How did Charlie Parker find me? How did Lester Young find me? If you’re a good musician, word gets around.” Asked whether the prospect of playing with new players is exciting (considering his age, and the number of musicians he’s worked with over the years), his answer is sharp and poignant: “I wouldn’t be playing with them if they didn’t impress me.”

It’s an answer that one expects, even from a man his age. Haynes’ live performances are much more than a dry run-through of popular jazz standards. “Jazz is all about improvisation. When I was a session player, I would learn to play one style one night and another the next. Not to mention that great jazz musicians are constantly changing their own sound,” he says, explaining why jazz musicians can constantly improvise on stage and why they rotate band members so frequently. Unlike rock or blues musicians who are restricted to an explicit sound or style that defines them, jazz players constantly rely on each other’s personalities to perform. “You are playing with people… personalities, not instruments,” adds Haynes. “I am always learning from other musicians because of this. Thelonious Monk was always challenging me as a drummer – he was so unpredictable.”

When I ask him why jazz drummers make great bandleaders, he seems dumbfounded by the question, almost as if it was common knowledge that “the drummer can make or break a band.”

“Charles Mingus once told me that the drummer is any band’s true leader,” Haynes says.

The same basics that made Haynes such a trailblazing and innovative session drummer in the 1940s and 1950s – his ability to adapt, his buoyancy and his undeniable talent – have also allowed him to become a great leader. “Rock drummers confuse proficiency with loudness and being good with being loud,” Haynes quips. “Any member of a band can covey emotion through their music, and if you have a good enough band, you can have all of the musicians conveying emotion together – the drummer, the keyboard player, everyone.”

Haynes steers the focus of the interview away from himself once again. He wants to speak about his family, specifically his children’s musical achievements, talking about them with grandfatherly passion. “They are all talented musicians,” he says, telling me about his son Graham, who plays the cornet, clarinet and flugelhorn, and has produced hip-hop infused drum ‘n’ bass records since the ’90s. As you would also expect, his grandson Marcus Gilmore and nephew Christopher Haynes both are up-and-coming drummers.

After the interview, I ponder Roy’s enthusiasm about his friends and family and it occurs to me that he comes from a different era of music, an era where jazz was unmarked and ready to shape, looking to the future because there was no past. At his age, Haynes doesn’t rely on his past achievements, rather he looks to the future with his bandmates and family and as a result has become the embodiment of what makes jazz such a viable art form. Haynes will continue to record and tour until he is physically unable, challenging himself and his music until there is only legend.

Roy Haynes
Friday, June 29, 8 p.m., $30
Library and Archives of Canada