Catolico- Mass3acre | Exclaim! | April 2017

Catolico

Mass3acre

CatolicoMass3acre
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If you were to compare the music of Scottt Catolico to that of a visual artist, his style would best be described as mixed media. On his third LP, the Vancouver-via-Winnipeg producer shows off his penchant for blending sonic textures alongside a left-field manner of delivering melody and rhythm.

Although Catolico delivers 14 tracks in just over an hour on his album, Mass3acre never seems to drag or run short on ideas, even when it evidently does (as apparent throughout the shrewdly reclaimed beats of “You Waiting for Those Drapes to Hang Themselves?”). While Scottt works off of no-frills, repetitive electro-movements (“Placebo Jesus,” “Attila the Hun, He’s Out to Get You” and “Eye Luv This Song”), he adds stimulating musical drops, accents and vocal samples that keep these tracks feeling buoyant. It helps that Catolico is also attracted to so many different eras of electronic music; he brazenly cops the bright piano sound from ’90s-era ambient house on “Ketamine Lotion,” the skeletal backbeats from ’80s post-disco on “It’s the One That Says Bad Mother Fucker” and the warm synth sound of ’90s pop on “It’s Gonna Be Great.” Almost a dozen guests help shape the album’s feel, but Catolico mostly utilizes their contributions as vocal samples or spoken word interludes.

On Mass3acre, Catolico scours his influences, instruments and boundless imagination to come up with a unified sum that’s much greater than its parts. (Catolico Film & Sound)

Fujiya & Miyagi- Fujiya & Miyagi | Exclaim! | April 2017

Fujiya & Miyagi

Fujiya & Miyagi

Fujiya & MiyagiFujiya & Miyagi
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In 2016, Fujiya & Miyagi released two four-song, limited run 12-inch EPs that found the Brighton, England quartet exploring some of their most inspired and well-conceived songs since their breakthrough sophomore LP, Transparent Things, a decade earlier.

For their new self-titled LP, Fujiya & Miyagi have combined both EPs, along with songs from a third 12-inch that was, puzzlingly, put out the exact same day. But no matter which format you choose to consume these 11 tracks, it’s clear that the quartet have crafted a clear and uniform vision for their new(ish) material. Working off of the dance-y Krautrock sound they’ve been known to favour, Fujiya & Miyagi keep things fresh and resourceful here with tracks like the groove-centric “Serotonin Rushes,” the punk-y “Outstripping (The Speed of Light)” and the pulsating, disco-indebted “Impossible Objects of Desire.” Yet it’s tracks like the spoken word, self-referential/-explanatory “Extended Dance Mix,” the motoric instrumental “Synthetic Symphonies” and the heavy guitar snarler “R.S.I.” that earn this collection repeat listens.

It’s true that Fujiya & Miyagi have a particular formula, and they seem to follow it on their self-titled LP, but they’ve managed to figure out when to use this formula to satiate listeners and when to tweak it to make listeners salivate. (Impossible Objects of Desire)

Hauschka- What If | Exclaim! | March 2017

Hauschka

What If

HauschkaWhat If
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As is often the case with musicians who make their living crafting cinematic, neo-classical instrumental music, pianist Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka), has become an in-demand composer, creating scores for a handful of motion pictures, including 2016’s Lion, for which he was Golden Globe-nominated.

With his first-non-commissioned work since 2014’s uneven Abandoned City, the German composer has opted to produce something less serious and brooding with What If. Choosing to once again write his songs with his player piano, Hauschka largely abandons the traditional piano for the less-static and more adventurous sounds of a Roland synth and Eventide programmer.

The resulting nine tracks come off punchy and strangely jaunty, as Hauschka swings from pulsating electro (“I Can’t Find Water”), to rhythmic soundscapes (“My Kids Live on Mars”) and melodic space-age effects (“Familiar Things Disappear”), all while keeping his compositions sounding vibrant and colourful. But it’s his penchant for augmenting the hammers and strings on his player piano here, and his dedication to crafting varied and absorbing rhythms there, that allows Hauschka to move along these tracks at a certain charming and loose pace that most composers won’t.

On What If, Hauschka delivers an unbuttoned works that’s just as revitalizing for the listener as it sounds for the artist. (Temporary Residence)

Teengirl Fantasy- 8AM EP | Exclaim! | March 2017

Teengirl Fantasy

8AM EP

Teengirl Fantasy8AM
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Released five years after their guest-heavy sophomore release, Tracer (featuring Panda Bear, Kelela and Laurel Halo), Teengirl Fantasy’s latest release, 8AM, feels more like a spiritual predecessor to their 2010 debut, the similarly titled 7AM. Where tracks from their last LP began to utilize traditional song structures, complete with choruses and bridges, the 12 tracks that make up 8AM find the Ohio duo returning to the more shapeless, free-flowing dance tracks that constituted their early material.

Although they’ve made some major adjustments to their sound over the years, moving away from vocal samples and becoming more infatuated with Detroit techno and Chicago house (rather than British R&B and Southern soul), Teengirl Fantasy still seem to have the ability to make their songs sound large and present. But what makes 8AM truly a standout is how Teengirl Fantasy manage to achieve this while keeping each track sounding spacious and uncluttered, never forcing too many ideas together, as the psychedelic slow jam “Crash Soft,” the cascading polyrhythmic “Star-rise,” the dark vibe of “Seeds” (featuring Khalif Jones, aka Le1f, the album’s only guest spot) and the squiggly, driving closer “Wet Eyes and Exhilaration” come off buoyant and lend themselves to repeat spins.

After an extended break, Teengirl Fantasy return wiser and sounding somehow more like themselves. (Planet Mu)

Spiral Stairs- Doris and the Daggers | Exclaim! | March 2017

Spiral Stairs

Doris and the Daggers

Spiral StairsDoris and the Daggers
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In Pavement, Scott Kannberg played the straight man to Stephen Malkmus’ warped vision of indie rock. That may be why his post-Pavement material (including his early ’00s band, Preston School of Industry) has always come off so stiff and torpid. But on his second solo LP under the name Spiral Stairs, Kannberg has finally embraced his relative squareness, putting out his best work in close to two decades.

Released a whopping eight years since The Real Feel, his last album, Doris and the Daggers finds Kannberg using his role as indie rock forefather to enlist the National’s Matt Berninger, Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Shudder to Think’s Adam Wade to help across these ten cogent and poised anthems. Although tracks like the bubbly “Dundee Man” and the Pavement-inspired title track still trade in goofy lyrics and nonsense sing-alongs, much of the album — including the terrific lead single “Dance (Cry Wolf),” the touching ode to his daughter “The Unconditional” and punchy ska-inspired “Exiled Tonight” — are incredibly tight, emotional and well-structured.

It may be his time spent living with his family in the Oceania region, but much of Doris and the Daggers seems heavily influenced by the early ’90s New Zealand indie rock scene that included no-frills bands like the Clean, the Bats and the Chills. Here, Scott Kannberg finally comes to terms with what originally made him such an important part of Pavement and the ’90s underground scene — and runs with it. (Nine Mile)

The Shins- Heartworms | Exclaim! | March 2017

The Shins

Heartworms

The ShinsHeartworms
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For a band that have seldom changed up their formula, the Shins have managed to get formidable mileage from their brand of straightforward indie rock — even their 2012 work with Kelly Clarkson and Sia producer Greg Kurstin, Port of Morrow, proved to be a buoyant triumph.

So, with nary a weak album to their name, the Shins have returned from the second consecutive five-year break of their career with Heartworms, an album as varied, ambitious and stride-breaking as ever. Hand it to frontman (and only original member) James Mercer for recognizing that the Shins may have exhausted their original sound, as the 11 tracks that make up this fifth album come off blissfully indebted to a hundred different genres at once… and at the same time, none at all.

Mercer seamlessly injects vocal samples into lead-off single “Name for You,” layered synths into “Painting a Hole,” programmed beats into “Cherry Hearts” and multi-track vocals into “Half a Million,” but Heartworms never sounds precarious or forced. The second half of this enterprising LP seems much more organic, as Mercer tries his hand as strummed folk (“Mildenhall”), anthemic soft rock, (“So Now What”) and polyrhythmic indie rock (“The Fear”).

Although the core songwriting is never quite as captivating and merciful as it was on previous albums, Heartworms nonetheless has an adventurous outer shell, and the Shins seem to revel in the newfound space inside of it. (Columbia)

Thundercat Brings Kendrick, Pharrell and Kenny Loggins to Fusion Project ‘Drunk’ | Exclaim! | February 24, 2017

Bass of Operations: Thundercat Brings Kendrick, Pharrell and Kenny Loggins to Fusion Project ‘Drunk’

Bass of Operations: Thundercat Brings Kendrick, Pharrell and Kenny Loggins to Fusion Project 'Drunk'
Photo: B+

In the four years since dropping Apocalypse, bassist Thundercat has appeared on over a dozen albums by other artists, including Suicidal Tendencies, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Kirk Knight, Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Vic Mensa, Ty Dolla $ign and Kendrick Lamar.

Turning to his own muse, Thundercat just released his third full-length, Drunk, on Brainfeeder, an album that veers from woozy jazz fusion to sultry grooves and smooth soft rock. “That’s why [the album] feels like ‘Wow, where did some of that stuff come from?'” the man born Stephen Bruner tells Exclaim! “I didn’t try to put any boundaries on the idea of what the album’s supposed to be.”

One of the collaborators Thundercat is most closely associated with (along with Flying Lotus) is also an inspiration. “I feel like one of the defining moments would be meeting Kendrick Lamar,” Bruner explains. “Being around him inspired me to work harder and create more. He brought me into his thought process and inside of that, it was like somebody being exposed to the sun. It blew my mind!”

Thundercat brings some guests of his own to assist on Drunk; some are predictable (Kendrick, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell), while others a little more surprising, like AM radio heroes Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, who both appear on soft rock-inspired track “Show You the Way.”

He’s aware that high-profile guests will help shine a light on an experimental fusion project that can be a harder sell. “These artists’ names just resonate with people more, because they are bigger artists, so that was something that was intentional,” he explains.

With 23 tracks in just over 50 minutes, Thundercat manages to incorporate an ambitious stable of ideas and sounds into Drunk, exploring funk, electronic, jazz, rock and soul, all filtered though his signature six-string bass, the instrument with which he writes every song. And although he’s crafted a whole world of sound with his solo work, Thundercat still considers himself primarily a bass player.

“It’s always been the bass for me. I started out from there, but then realized the different role the bass could take on, the different influences and the different things that would come through with it, it would be based on the ‘no bounds’ thing that I would look at it with.”

Thundercat plays Toronto on February 28 and Montreal on March 1; check out the whole tour itinerary here.