Hellenica, the solo project of Montreal DIY artist Jim Demos, released a new album earlier this month entitled Blood Moon Wolf Head. His first full-length work under this moniker, the album was released on November 2, to coincide with El Dia de los Muertos, and is meant as an offering to the deceased. Gloom and doom are prevalent throughout all of Hellenica’s music but this album takes on a more otherworldly feel to it – the theme of death adding a darker dimension and heavier feel than his previous EP, 2012’s They Are Out For Blood.
Blood Moon Wolf Head is an excellent follow-up to Hellenica’s 2012 EP. They Are Out For Blood presented just a little taste of what Demos is capable of, a fact that is apparent on this new release. His newest work journeys further into the weird and unexpected. Demos experiments more with the structure of his compositions, by using improvised guitar parts layered with field recordings and other sounds to create a collaged effect. He manages to do this well, without compromising comprehension and fluidity in his sound.
Below is a short, self-produced film for “Monos”, the third track on Blood Moon Wolf Head.
Suoni per il Popolo, Montreal’s premier experimental music festival, has been dedicated to showcasing the weird, the fringe, the avant-garde and the just plain out-there for over ten years. Part of their mandate is to dissolve musical borders and genres and to promote a culture of collaboration. The result is a truly diverse collection of performances with some surprising combinations. This year’s festival runs from June 4 to June 22 and includes workshops and art exhibits as well as nightly musical performances.
Today we’re presenting only a small sample of musical acts participating in the festival but you can see the full calendar here.
Crosss — Halifax-born, Toronto-based — blend elements of metal, sludge, doom, psychedelia and grunge. Going over to the dark side can be overwhelming if you’re not already into that but Crosss extend a sweet invitation and gently pull you in. They’re joined by the unabashedly poppy Sheer Agony and new Montreal punk band Shitsu.
It feels like they’ve been around forever but USA Out Of Vietnam will be launching their debut album Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes Thursday. Blending elements of drone, dream pop and psych, the band favours lush harmonies and infectious melodies and takes the time to build them up properly. Toronto garage rock band Public Animal and electronic pop songstress Marie Davidson open up the show.
Montrealer Steve Bates is an audio/visual artist whose work often explores our relationship with time. He also runs The Dim Coast, a space dedicated to experiments with sound. Seijiro Murayama is a Japan-based percussionist who focuses on improvisation and electroacoustic, conceptual compositions. They first played together at the legendary Rhiz club, Vienna’s go-to venue for experimental electronic music. The duo are joined by Sam Shalabi — composer, guitarist and oud player (Land of Kush and Shalabi Effect) — and Stefan Christoff — pianist, journalist and activist. Their work is a mix of Western free jazz improvisation and makam, a system of melody types used in Turkish classical music.
It’s been 12 years since the last Die Like A Dog performance, back when the group was a quartet. This time around, German free jazz legend Peter Brötzmann is joined by double-bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake.
Omar Souleyman‘s story is the stuff of legends and I won’t do it justice in three lines of description that I’ve confined myself to here. Basically, he’s a Syrian artist whose sound blends traditional Middle Eastern folk music, Shaabi (a form of working-class Egyptian street music) and electronic elements. He built up his fame performing at weddings throughout the Middle East, recording over 500 cassettes in the process. He was picked up by North American label Sublime Frequencies and released his first studio album, Wenu Wenu, produced by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden.
Jerusalem In My Heart live is a totally immersive audio/visual experience. The group makes modern experimental Arabic music, blending traditional sounds and melodies with contemporary electronic elements.
What is this and where is it going? You may ask yourself those very questions listening to local Montreal band The Artsy Chicks. The truth is you’ll never know and that’s just fantastic. For now, let’s describe their music as experimental, although that will change from one album to the next according to the band’s keyboardist Zach Scholes.
Scholes met fellow bandmates Dominic Caterina (guitar), Juan Cruz Fernandez (guitar/vocals), Mario Lombardi (bass, tenor saxophone) and Corey Tardiff (drums) while studying music at Vanier College and formed The Artsy Chicks exactly one year ago, in the spring of 2013. They had already released a full-length album, Kwoto Zeetrus, by November. The album is a rambling exploration of noise, post-rock, a good measure of jazz and a hint of surf rock. It showcases the band’s impeccable balance between chaos and structure. It’s some good noise, that’s for sure.
The band have another record coming out this summer and Scholes explained that this time, their sound will be much more surf rock oriented.
“One of the reasons we all got together is we wanted to be in a project that does whatever it wants to do. We just like to try and do different things and do our best. All of us really enjoy music, we all study different things and continue to study so we wanted an outlet for that,” he said. “We’re already working on the next two records and they’re going to be totally different. We’re all musicians and we’re all composers, we all do different things that stimulate us musically.”
Nowadays, it’s common to see so many different influences coming together in a band’s sound. The Artsy Chicks have a bit of a more novel approach in that they go through phases with their composition, much like many listeners, myself included, go through phases with music. You might be really into a certain genre for a little while and eventually you start feeling something else.
The one thing the band conscientiously strives for when it comes to their sound is honesty, not just with listeners but also among themselves.
“That’s the feeling that I like and that’s the feeling that we’re trying to go for. [Bands who try to sound a certain way], there’s nothing wrong with that. But it doesn’t work for us and the way we think about it,” Scholes said. “We worked really hard to get into a position where you can tell someone flat-out ‘this isn’t working’. That person can tell you to fuck off if they want to. There’s a nice dynamic there. I think it makes for better music.”
The band are taking full advantage of their current dynamic and steady surge of material and are trying to get it all out while it’s there. This explains how they’re managing to work on two albums simultaneously after having released one just six months ago. Not to mention all the shows they’ve been playing in Montreal and the Canadian tour they’ll embark on mid-June (they have an Indiegogo campaign on right now to help fund the tour).
“There are so many great bands,” Scholes said. “We really like playing with Hellenica, it just seems to fit so well with what we’re doing now. It’s amazing to see him live cause he’s one guy with a guitar. It’s quite a mind-trip.”
He said The Artsy Chicks will be playing with Hellenica again for their album launch July 6 at La Vitrola (details to come).
Scholes also had nice things to say about another Montreal band, Feefawfum, who will be performing with them tonight.
“They’re amazing. It’s going to be really out there,” he said. “The guys in the band are phenomenal musicians and we’re really excited to be playing with them.”
The secret’s out. What started as a small gathering meant primarily for musicians to share their work and ideas with one another is now a full-blown monthly series showcasing some of the best local bands operating within the genres of experimental, psychedelic, shoegaze, stoner, ambient, noise and post-rock.
When SMOSAN founder and main organizer Jim Demos started the series, he envisioned a collaborative space where music makers and lovers alike could discuss each other’s work with a big emphasis on the community aspect of the whole thing.
“In the music scene [in Montreal], as good as it is, I felt it would be nice to have one kind of place,” Demos said, “people would eventually get together and watch each other’s music being made and perform. People can talk about ideas, get things going. Even if they don’t come through, even if they never pan out, it’s just a good idea to get people talking.”
What really sets this series apart from others is the presence of some phenomenally good-quality live visuals provided by renowned VJs Zef and Santoz, who also perform together under the moniker Zef&Santoz. Together, they recently performed with Ghyslain Poirier at the Jutra awards after-party at the Société des Arts Technologiques [SAT]. They’ve also provided visuals individually and collectively for Igloofest, MUTEK and for Montreal electronic music duo Beat Market.
Providing a strong visual element, according to Demos, is a major part of the series’ raison d’être.
“Most of the bands who play the series are very underground,” he said. “it can be hard to get gigs that are a little more serious, have the visuals and have a really great spectacle. The bands that are just starting out, who maybe don’t have the resources, it gives them that opportunity.”
As someone who makes music for more than one project, Demos knows all about wanting to create that perfect atmosphere in a live music setting. He’s taking the opportunity this Thursday to perform some new music with composer Alex Janusz as Golden Tombs. He described Golden Tombs as in the same vein as his solo project Hellenica but more focused and meticulously structured.
“I never usually play gigs at the series because I run it. So I feel a little weird about it but I figured for the anniversary, it was ok,” Demos said.
Golden Tombs is a reincarnation of sorts of Janusz’s and Demos’ band The Dead Letters and Thursday they’ll play their first gig. They have a full record in the works, something Demos is really excited about since the project was “a huge undertaking” due to one member living in Winnipeg.
“We changed the name because we wanted a fresh start, we hadn’t done anything in a while and it felt like the right thing to do,” Demos said. “Plus there are like 30 000 bands called The Dead Letters around the world and new ones pop up every year [laughs].”
Golden Tombs will be followed by Montreal shoegaze nostalgia trip Femme Accident and avant-garde electro-rhythm quintet Avec le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche, two bands that have been making waves in the underground music scene. Femme Accident has played POP Montreal and Montreal Psych Fest and will be playing at Canadian Music Week in Toronto in May. Avec le Soleil Sortant de sa Bouche have performed at Suoni Per Il Popolo and M for Montreal.
Booking quality live acts and providing stunning visuals has built SMOSAN’s reputation and the series’ popularity has experienced a healthy, steady growth in the past year. But Demos is not concerned with numbers nor with the competitiveness that can come with putting on shows in a city as bustling as this one.
“If you have a series or if you do shows or stuff like that [in Montreal], there’s so much going on that it takes time for people to remember that something is going on and to put in the time to follow and find out about the next one,” he said. “We’ll probably be good at Le Cagibi for a while.”
The Secret Museum of Sound and Nature one-year anniversary party takes place Thursday, April 24 at Le Cagibi (5490 boul. Saint-Laurent). The show starts at 9:15 p.m. and tickets cost $8 at the door.
A new monthly event comes to us from the collective known as Witching Hour Events. To be held every new moon cycle, events feature short works by local filmmakers, performances by local bands of every genre, multimedia activities and visual arts. The event’s creators say it’s all in the spirit of exchanging ideas and information and sharing creative experiences to inspire change.
This version will feature performances by NooM, Light Bulb Alley, Bearmace, and Hoax. Attendees are even encouraged to bring a small instrument or other sound-making device to use during a short jam to honour the new moon.
Dressing like an alien for this edition is also encouraged.
Triple pant layers for slippery grocery shopping trips.
Post-holiday back to the grind panic attacks.
I’m slowly working my way into a winter funk and I am sure I’m not alone in this. Here’s what I’m betting on as the perfect remedy:
Rx – One vigorous dose of Archery Guild’s launch of their sophomore album Manitòk this Friday.
For those of you unfamiliar with these Montreal music makers, Archery Guild isan experimental indie rock band. Their line up currently includes Michael Cota (vox, guitar, synth), Marshall Vaillancourt (drums), Tristan Giardini (Bass), Mariah Andrews (trumpet, synth, vibraphone), Ian Gibbons (cello), Huei Lin (sax) and Casimir Kaplan (guitar).
Archery Guild is known for their dynamic wall of sound and their joyful cacophonous melodies. I greatly anticipate experiencing their new tracks and haven’t looked forward to a show like this in quite some time.
This line up of local musicians is pretty sweet: I’ve seen experimental psychedelic pop act The Walls are Blonde and enjoyed their tunes and stage performance thoroughly. I’ve yet to see Montreal’s psychedelic prog surf rockers Snooker Emporium and noise pop duo Look Vibrant live.
See you there. I’ll be the head bobbing, feet swaying gal wearing wool socks. Don’t be shy, come say hi.
This Thursday, December 5, Montreal instrumental collective Sweet Mother Logic are going out with a bang.
Since the release of their debut EP Ascension Island in 2008, the 5-piece band have crafted their signature sound from a blend of pop melodies and complex classical compositions. They’ve received acclaim from The Gazette and the now-defunct Montreal Mirror. Their music has been featured on CBC and has been used as the soundtrack to National Geographic channel’s adventure travel show Departures. They’ve also played some of Montreal’s best festivals including POP, Fringe, and MEG.
Despite all they’ve accomplished in the last few years, the band has decided that it’s time to call it quits.
“Collectively we decided to focus on other aspects of our lives,” said Justin Wright, cellist and manager for Sweet Mother Logic, adding that new school programs and other creative projects have gotten in the way leaving less time to devote to the band.
The decision is one that’s bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s clear that Wright and his fellow musicians really care about this project. The experimental nature of the band have led them to develop a proclivity for collaboration; the band often had guest musicians perform with them live.
It has also affected the way they write music.
“We have a very egalitarian approach to songwriting,” Wright said. “We always do it as a group. Any time someone has an idea, our policy is to try it and at the end, we’ll all know for sure whether we like it or not. The interesting thing that we’ve learned is that, a lot of the time, we have the same idea.”
On the other hand, the end of this project means they each have more time to devote to other artistic endeavors, some that may have been on the backburner for a while. Wright said they’ll all continue to play music in some form or another, possibly with each other at times.
Wright has another project going, one that he started before Sweet Mother Logic decided to end. He describes this project as somewhat of a reaction to what Sweet Mother Logic was all about.
“It’s very stripped-down. All the things that were logistically complicated or frustrating about [playing in Sweet Mother Logic], it’s the opposite with this one,” he said.
Although Thursday’s show will be their final performance as Sweet Mother Logic, Wright said that the band might decide to get together again, possibly in another form, at some point in the future.
“We want to record and release what we’ve been writing,” he said. “We might have a different name or different band members, but we’ll pick it up again in some way.”
Listening to Montreal band Atsuko Chiba can most accurately be described as an Experience. I say accurately described because in reality, there are few words that can properly capture what happens to one’s brain and emotions when Kevin McDonald, Karim Lakhdar, David Palumbo, Eric Schafhauser, and Anthony Piazza all get together and play music.
This is mostly due to the fact that Atsuko Chiba is much more than five people playing music together. It’s a force all its own, almost an autonomous being with its own energy, life, and purpose.
Without getting too carried away, it’s safe to say that these five very talented people have managed to combine their ideas and abilities to create something so seamless, it acts as one unit. According to them, their music would not exist were it not built on a solid foundation of teamwork and trust.
“It’s like a freight train now,” guitarist Karim Lakhdar said. “Everyone has the same purpose, no one’s second guessing, no one has one foot in the water, everyone’s all in. We’re five guys with a drive, it creates a good energy. If you’re not feeling it that day, you have someone else to help you out.”
Bassist David Palumbo agrees.
“It’s really comforting to have four other people share that same vision,” he said.
A last-minute show put on by students in Concordia’s electroacoustics program – where guitarist Kevin McDonald and Lakhdar studied – brought the five of them together on a stage for the first time almost two years ago. Since then, they’ve managed to put together a full-length album and are very close to finishing their second full-length, which has been in the works for a year.
Their signature sound, which falls under the umbrella of experimental but includes elements of psychedelic, punk, post-rock, metal, and prog-rock, is the result of an organic writing process whereby everyone pulls their own weight and feeds off the others.
When it comes to writing music for Atsuko Chiba, McDonald says there is no real formula.
“Most of the time, one of us comes up with a cool idea and that becomes a springboard,” he said.
“We try to set a certain mood,” Lakhdar added. “We want it to feel like a certain place or thing, that we might even invent; it only makes sense to us.”
He compares the writing process to a relay: one person brings an idea forward and someone else picks it up and brings it further.
“[For this album], we had bits and pieces, song ideas and transitions in mind already,” said Palumbo. “But besides that, we had a whole concept for the album, kind of like a story that we referred to every time we were working on a song. The music is very visual so we almost invented this whole world where these characters live.”
Although these concept ideas that the guys are referring to are very abstract, the listener is definitely left with the impression that their album is a work that needs to be listened to almost completely from start to finish.
“There are some songs that you can listen to individually for sure, but on some level we’re imposing a long listening experience on the listener,” McDonald said.
A somewhat bold move in our internet age of short attention spans, downloading and listening to songs on shuffle. However, Atsuko Chiba are not opposed to people listening to their music for free and definitely see the internet as a strong ally for a local DIY band.
“It’s almost like a business card,” Palumbo said. “Listen to my album for free and if you like us, come see us at a show or help us out any way you can.”
“At the end of the day, I’m happier knowing that people are listening to our music than anything else,” McDonald added. “But I also want to keep playing music, so where do you draw that line?”
“You have to trust people, that’s what it is,” Lakhdar said.
The band emphasizes that they have a lot of support from friends inside and out of the music scene, something that is crucial to Atsuko Chiba’s survival. Whether it’s for the album art for their first release, Animalia: Several States of Being, done by artist and musician Gianni Berretta; or mixing and sound work by “6th unofficial band member” Matthew Cerantola, the band benefits from collaborations with others in the music community.
“A lot of the work people do for us right now is free, so it feels good to have people that believe in our stuff enough to do that,” Lakhdar said.
Ultimately, it all stems from the band’s own confidence in their work.
“If we didn’t have that conviction, I feel like people wouldn’t really give a fuck about us,” Palumbo said.
It’s a delicate balance: on the one hand, it’s important to stand by your music. But on the other, there’s the acknowledgement that you can always do better. They are constantly aware of this impulse to challenge and improve previous work.
“You can never be completely satisfied. If you’re satisfied, there’s a problem,” Lakhdar said. “You can be happy with something for a bit, like when we finish an album. But as soon as that’s done, we want to move on to the next thing, make it different, make it better. It’s just about continuing and continuing because you can’t stop.”
It’s a universal sentiment felt by artists of any medium. But they admit that it’s important to practice restraint. One way they achieve this is by really listening to the music and paying attention to what a particular song or section calls for.
“You have to be willing to throw stuff away ‘cause you can’t fit more than you have to into a song,” Palumbo explained. “That’s the song at its most pure state and that’s what it should be.”
“Sometimes, it takes doing nothing to achieve that,” McDonald said. “It’s perfect the way it is, I don’t have to add anything.”
It all goes back to the confidence that each member of Atsuko Chiba has in the others to do what’s best for their work. That can sometimes mean putting egos aside and being critical of one another in a way that is positive and constructive.
“If I play something that I’m one hundred percent sold on but everyone else says is not right, I have to understand that these guys are not telling me that I suck; they’re telling me that right now, it’s not what has to be played,” Palumbo said.
“If we talk about it in a way that it has its own life, it’s because it does,” Lakhdar said. “When we play together, there’s an energy and it wouldn’t be the same if it was someone else.”
“There’s a lot of sacrifice involved in doing this. You’re putting all your time into something, you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve,” McDonald said. “When you’re constantly sharing this super personal thing, there’s no veil.”
When it comes to the live concert experience, we expect a lot from the artists up on stage. But what about the crowd? If we demand that an audience display as much energy and excitement as we’ve come to expect from our favourite bands, every show would be like the ORG713 show that happened at Sala Rossa last Thursday.
Most of the crowd were very happily and exuberantly dancing along to every song. As one girl at the show put it, it was as if they were all competing to see who can dance in the most psychotic fashion. Indeed, most people looked like they had lost their minds from sheer joy and good times.
This much frenetic, arrhythmic movement is usually reserved for the most brutal heavy metal mosh pits. But there was a style and grace to the dancing people not present at louder, heavier shows.
The Haiduks’ psychedelic 60s pop started the show off on the right foot. Their warm sound has a tendency to envelop you in a fuzzy blanket of comfort and make you feel a little zoned-out and loopy.
Just when you were feeling nice and relaxed, spanking-new band Blood took the stage. Founding member and show organizer David Kleiser describes Blood as “Elephant 6 forming a KC and the Sunshine Band cover band.” This is when the crazy dancing started. The lights were off and some very trippy footage from obscure old films was playing on a big screen behind the band.
The captivating visuals continued when Archery Guild took the stage. The lights were back on and all nine (and sometimes ten) band members could be properly seen. Sala Rossa is a great venue to see bands with big lineups and even bigger sounds. There’s something about the way those chandeliers and the velvety red curtains get reflected in brass instruments. It makes you feel like you’re in another time.
In all honesty, I missed Ostrich Tuning’s set. The show started well past the advertised start time of 8 p.m. and I wasn’t able to stay until the end. I can imagine how their darker, moodier brand of psychedelic indie rock brought the entire evening to a beautiful culmination.
This video nicely captures the essence of the show, minus the amazing music.
ORG is a multimedia creative collective made up of musicians, artists and filmmakers. They regularly schedule events to showcase music, zines, comics, posters and other pieces of art from members and friends. To read more about the collective, see Pamela Fillion’s interview with David Kleiser.