Thursday marked the second day of POP Montreal, and it was arguably the best day for electronic music lovers. Kaytranada, a Haitian-born, Montreal-raised producer who is known for his groovy, R&B infused dance music, played his second sold out show in Montreal at the SAT.

Since the start of his career in 2010, Kaytranada has been able to cultivate his own unique sound that differentiates his music from other producers, which has allowed him to not only draw in thousands of loyal fans from Montreal and across Canada, but also grow rapidly as an intentionally recognized producer.

I attended some Kaytranada shows a few years ago, back when he was opening for bigger producers and playing at smaller club-type venues, like Le Belmont. The setting was intimate, and everyone who attended was there for the music. I knew this wasn’t going to be the case on Thursday, simply based on the fact that this was a sold out show at the SAT, which is a sizeable concert venue.

Planet Giza and Graves were the opening acts of the show, and the crowd loved them. Or maybe they were just really stoked for Kaytranada. Before the opening acts were even over, I had a layer of sweat all over my body from how crowded and hot the space had become. I was already nervous about how I was going to be able to withstand that level of heat for the rest of the night.

Once Kaytranada came on, everything went wild. I became a human sandwich, pressed hard in between people in the crowd. Kaytranada started his set with one of his classic tracks, and continued his set with catchy beats that just make you want to dance.

The problem was, you couldn’t dance because there was simply no room for it. Every couple of minutes, an intoxicated person would push through the crowd, falling on the people around him or her, trying to get as close to the front as possible.

It was hard to immerse myself in the music when I found myself caught in the middle of all of this. Kaytranada seemed to be okay with this though, because at one point during his set, he took the microphone and said “this isn’t a concert, it’s a party!”

Kaytranada played a good set, but I wouldn’t say it was spectacular. He played many of his older songs, which I enjoyed, but there were definitely points in the night where I had trouble telling the difference between one song and another. This may have been a result of his staple sound that can be found in most of his music, or because I wasn’t able to immerse myself enough into the show.

It disappointed me when I realized that much of the crowd was not there to enjoy the music, but simply for the hype that Kaytranada has become. I’m thrilled for him to have found fame and success, and he definitely deserves it. Despite that, I’ll forever miss those raw, intimate shows he was able to play before he became a mainstream musician.

As a long time fan of Kaytranada who went to the show for the music, it was difficult to fully enjoy myself. However, I have no doubt that those who went to the show to party had an amazing time. I wish Kaytranada the best with his career and I will continue to support his music, but I can’t say I am planning to ever go to a Kaytranada show again.

Flume’s ephemeral pulsing is something I imagine one might hear perusing the racks at American Apparel, but don’t let that somewhat abrasive association put you off. This young beatmaker from down under has serious chops; and please, don’t buy that T-shirt.

Flume, whose given name is Harley Streten, is by all reports an unassuming 22 year-old, but his self-titled first album has caused quite the reverberation— reverb being in this case, an apt modifier.

His beats are emotive and lilting and laced with that classic J Dilla warp and wooze. There is a distinct hip-hopness to Flume’s sound, but it’s also infectiously poppy and danceable. I’d go so far as to say that some of these tracks could play on pop radio, which in nearly every case is the most damning statement a critic can make.

It’s always been a preoccupation of mine, this pinning down what makes a tune more than the sum of its parts – like why is Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn so good? I don’t know, it seems to me like it should suck. But it doesn’t; it sings minory, sad and emotional right down my spine. I can’t tell you what it is, though. In Spanish they call it duende — having soul, a heightened emotional resonance, an authenticity of expression.

For real, though, Flume’s got that unquantifiable something that makes his music resonate with a listener on an emotional level. I’m so looking forward to seeing him spin at Osheaga. You should most definitely let this album play through and tell me it don’t pull you in.

Flume performs at 7 p.m. at the Piknic Électronik stage on August 1. Osheaga runs from August 1 to August 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

The king of Syrian techno music is returning to Montreal. Omar Souleyman is making a stop at La Sala Rossa on June 18 to share his electronic blend of traditional dabke dance music and synth-driven trance music with Montrealers once again, this time as part of the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival.

Souleyman began his career as a wedding musician in Syria, which allowed him to explore and update traditional dabke music. Weddings in Syria are said to be important for both the preservation of Syrian musical heritage as well as the experimentation with new sounds and innovations. After building a reputation as an invigorating performer in Syria and throughout the Middle East, Souleyman’s presence grew through bootleg recordings and Youtube videos. He has since developed a large following in the West and has been a frequent performer at festivals and various venues across the U.S. and Canada.

Although his career has spanned 20 years and his catalogue of recordings is in the mid-triple-digits, Souleyman only recently recorded his first studio album, 2013’s Wenu Wenu on Ribbon Music. The record was produced by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and encapsulates Souleyman’s musical DNA. It is a fiery, visceral blend of traditional Syrian musical elements and propulsive, four-on-the-floor dance beats. The album also captures the irresistible energy of Souleyman’s live performances.

Souleyman performs with his longtime musical partner, keyboardist and composer Rizan Sa’id, and together with just voice, drumbeats, and keyboards, they create full-bodied songs that would surely catch the attention of most bystanders. Souleyman performs in Arabic and Kurdish and the lyrics focus on themes of love, though certainly not in the Western traditional sense. His songs range in focus from a groom asking God to be with his bride instead of being accepted to heaven to a woman telling her mother she would rather marry her lover than her cousin, a frequent occurrence in Northeast Syria.

All of these elements help explain why Omar Souleyman has been captivating audiences around the globe for over 20 years. His presence on stage is stoic and almost imposing with his signature body-length jelllabiya, keffiyeh, and dark sunglasses, but he is always inviting. His music gives the listener an insatiable urge to move. This show is not to be missed.

Omar Souleyman performs Wednesday, June 18 at 8:30 p.m. at La Sala Rossa. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased in advance via Suoni per il Popolo

imr14cd_1200Anyone who has ever listened to Trentemøller’s music knows that the Copenhagen-based producer’s sound is not easily classified. His new album Lost is no exception. Is it something to pump in the club or to play on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Is it possible that it’s both? Perhaps it doesn’t quite matter what we should call it and when we should play it. The important thing is that this album is worth a listen.

Lost maintains Trentemøller’s signature sound heard on his earlier releases The Last Resort (2006) and Into the Great Wide Yonder (2010) but features a more song-oriented program. His sound could be described as cinematic, and Lost certainly fits that billing, but here each song works on its own as a distinct piece of music. Every cut has clear structures and complex harmonies. The enhanced songwriting prowess is no doubt aided by the plethora of guests who join the album. These include Jonny Pierce of The Drums, Low, Sune Wagner of The Raveonettes, Jana Hunter of Lower Dens, Marie Fisker, Ghost Society, and Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead.

Even with the number of vocal guests, the few instrumental tracks lose none of the intrigue and heart of those with lyrics. Every track has something to say, whether it has words or not. Trentemøller’s sound is an enticing mixture of differing elements. The album sounds wholly organic despite the coexistence of digital and analog parts. He also fuses electronic sound sources and real instruments with seamless ease.

Trentemøller’s demolition of listeners’ expectations should not come as a surprise. We know it will happen and yet the opening track of Lost entitled ‘The Dream’ is still astonishingly unforeseen. The slow, somber track features warm vocals from Low whose heartfelt harmonies and minimalist arrangement lend themselves easily, if unexpectedly, to the Trentemøller aesthetic.


The rest of the album follows a somewhat more traditional (by Trentemøller’s standards) electronic vibe. He masterfully summons various melancholic moods with and without lyrics. ‘Trails’ is a guitar-driven slow jam that builds in intensity before dropping off, making way for a fluttering synth orgy to close out the track. It is the kind of song that could be used as a soundtrack to someone’s life in an action-packed moment.

‘Morphine’ has a haunting, minimal swing groove that evokes mysteriousness and wonder. The acoustic bass makes the song feel like an eerie, jazzed-out dream sequence, in the best way possible.

The longest and perhaps one of the most captivating tracks on the album is the closer ‘Hazed,’ which goes through many evolutions before finishing with a poignant, almost Chopin-like piano solo. Before that, though, we are guided with a pulsing bass through an atmospheric journey of ambient sounds. One could imagine that we are being taken into the recesses of Trentemøller’s psyche. The chords are striking and almost uplifting. That is, until the staggering tritone progression that could send a shiver down one’s spine.

The lyrics on the album, although varied in their content and delivery, all contribute to the work’s overarching sense of introspection. In ‘Gravity,’ Jana Hunter sings, “Let nothing stop you from being alone.” The first single off the album and one of its highlights is ‘Never Stop Running’ which features Jonny Pierce in a Sting-like performance. The song is perhaps also one of the most meditative on the album, with Pierce lamenting, “I don’t know where I’m going and if I don’t feel it in the air then I don’t know who I am.”


Lost coaxes the listener to look inside and search for the true essence of her or his life. It can also make the listener’s every day experiences feel altogether more cinematic and significant. Through his craft, Trentemøller sonically negotiates the dichotomy between life’s importance and its irrelevance. After such an accomplishment, who cares how we label his music?

Trentemøller’s Lost is available on iTunes and on the artist’s website.