A few weeks ago, my friends and I went to the Horticultural Building at Lansdowne in Ottawa for the Ukrainian edition of Ottawa Welcomes the World. We were treated to two great sets of live music by some of Ukraine’s finest, ONUKA and Mad Heads… for free.
Ottawa Welcomes the World invited embassies and high commissions to mark their country’s national celebration in Ottawa with free events which highlight their nation through food,art, music and more. I had no idea about these events and I have clearly missed out on a lot of really fun days and nights, but lucky for me my buddy invited me to go check out Ukraine.
The evening started with a sand art performance where the artists moved sand around on a back-lit platform creating beautiful images to tell the story of Ukraine and Canada’s connection. All of this accompanied by a violinist. It was very impressive and visually stunning.
Mad Heads, from Ukraine, performing at the Horticultural Building in Ottawa.
After a few speeches from very distinguished guests, including the ambassador to Canada, it was time for the music. Up first was Mad Heads—a ska band and the reason we were there. Little did I know they had been performing and releasing music for over 25 years and 8 studio albums. They were high energy and a lot of fun. I didn’t understand a word, other than their cover of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but their music was infectious and had us dancing.
ONUKA, from Ukraine, performing at the Horticultural Building in Ottawa and putting their big “horn” on display.
Headlining the night was ONUKA. ONUKA, which means granddaughter, are an electro-folk act and were introduced as a band with chart-topping hits all over Europe. The band has four main members, a singer/wind instrumentalist, keyboardist, percussionist and a banduryst (which is one of the coolest looking instruments ever with so many strings). For their live performance they also had a three piece brass ensemble with a french horn and two trombones. During some songs one trombonist switches to this massive 10 or 12 foot horn. All of this was performed in front of an ever changing video screen ranging from the abstract to animals. All that to say that it was quite a sight to see and even better to hear. One of the most touching and heavy moments was when they performed a song “Vidlik.” Lead singer Nata Zhyzhchenko simply introduced the song saying “let’s all pray for the victims of 1986,” which was a reference to the Chernobyl disaster, the biggest disaster in the country’s history.
All the great music was complimented by traditional Ukrainian food, including perogies and cabbage rolls, as well as Lvivske—a Ukrainian beer which traces its roots to a monastic beer of 1715. It was an amazing night and of this is a sign of what to expect from other Ottawa Welcomes the World events, I strongly encourage you to check them out.
Just when you thought winter 2.0 was here for good, the fresh new electronic group Eerie Loom have brought some warm weather along with their new video for “Wakened.” The band dropped a three-track EP on Bandcamp back in March, and are hitting the ground running.
While the trio is newly formed, the truth is that they are Ottawa music veterans and have all been in successful groups in the past. Jordan David was the lead singer of acclaimed group The Love Machine and organizes parties with music.art.ppl, while Matt Gilmour was a member of the group Hamilton and currently contributes his smooth vocals to Slack Bridges. Michael Holmes was a member of the now-defunct group many Ottawans know well called The Gallop. Needless to say, they’re no strangers to music.
“The idea of Eerie Loom came about rather naturally, premised on a longstanding friendship initiated by playing shows together, but developed through a mutual respect for each other’s art,” explains David. “We have all participated in rock bands for the longest time yet somehow, through our own ventures, discovered our pop sensibilities and an affinity for compelling electronic beats. Michael Holmes acts as our main producer, but we are all multi-instrumentalists that add our various insights, riffs, progressions, lyrics, and vibes. We have all been friends who have supported each other’s projects for over a decade, so collaboration creates both fun and familiar dynamics.”
Their music conveys emotions through electronic sounds and imagery, providing listeners with futuristic soundscapes to get lost in. The group also enlisted another friend as Creative Director, accomplished designer and artist Brendan Wilson.
“Our band has a love for sonic experimentation and sound design of all kinds, but we hope to bring a novel human element to our art as there many emotional ideas that still can be conveyed through an electronic medium,” says David. “When Brendan Wilson came on board as our Creative Director, we were thrilled. He had the idea of including images of geometry, space, and futurism blended with images of a humanity that is beautiful yet strange. The combining of visuals with our sonic aesthetic produced exciting art and fun dynamics.”
The longtime friendship between each of the members provides a strong basis for chemistry, and when you’ve made music for as long as these guys have, you know how to have fun with it. The collaborative approach to their music is evident from the first beat of “Wakened,” as the drum loops and synthesizers layer together smoothly to create delicate moments that transform into powerful hooks.
“The fundamentals of the tracks are often collaborative, but our ideas are all birthed from Michael Holmes home studio, where they are developed, recorded, and mixed into fulsome songs,” says David. “Our tracks were mastered by Philip Bova (who has mastered for Feist, Land of Talk, and Bahamas, among others). They are composed and produced using a variety of analog gear. Our project is still evolving and we are still discovering our sound, which excites us.”
As Eerie Loom experiment with new and exciting sounds, the band plans to start playing more live shows and continue to release new material. Watch the video for “Wakened” below, and stream the EP for free here.
Jack Moves is a solo artist from Toronto, Ontario, who has recently released his new EP I Been Working, which he has been working on for the last year.
For a good amount of time Jack took part in metal bands, and in 2014 he broke away from that genre as he found it creatively limiting. Through seeing live looping performances by Reggie Watts, he became inspired to try it out himself. He says he has yet to find his footing in this whole new genre.
His Jack Moves EP consists of four songs, all created solely with his voice, beatboxing (which is also technically considered his voice, I suppose) and a looping pedal. Not to mention, they’re all original songs. The music is somewhat electronic, however, he’s not limiting it to a specific sound.
All of the songs on the EP are high energy songs that differ from one another in rhythm and key. The first track, titled “Sleeperhold,” is one that has a faster tempo, and the second track, “W.T.P” starts very rhythmically and finishes off with a multitude of layers to it, but manages to keep it harmonious. The song “Gray Morning” takes the EP down a more sombre sounding and serious direction to counterbalance the two previous songs.
It ends with a song that, if you weren’t paying attention to the lyrics, has the hint of a rock background but has a certain vivacity to it. The song is titled “We’re Not Going Anywhere” and is probably my favourite off the EP. Knowing the title of the song and hearing the lyrics makes you realize that the song isn’t exactly as positive as it leads you to believe.
All that being said, the EP is available to listen to on Soundcloud, and comes with a free download, so be sure go check out this talented live looper.
Local hip-hop artist Andre Thibault aka DRAE recently dropped his debut album E/SCAPE.
DRAE has been producing and mixing music for artists from the Capital region, Toronto and Montreal for years, but it was now time for him to step out and take center stage himself. The 11 track release blends hip-hop, electronic and has flares of dub steps, his calling card as a producer. The beginning of the album has you thinking this is going to be pretty dark, especially the album’s first single “Nightmare.” The tone begins to shift and isn’t all serious and dark, songs like “Drink Up” and “Wild N Young” will make you want to party all night thanks to the fun beats, party lyrics and sing-a-longs.
E/SCAPE is not short of great cameos by some of our favourite locals such as Yusso, Aron the Alien and Nicholas Poupponeau of Zoo Legacy. Poupponeau features on the second single “First Time” which is an uplifting song with lyrics praising the magic of being in love for the first over a very positive and grooving rhythm, even including finger snaps in the beat. I can picture this song perfectly fitting in on the club scene and having people grinding and swinging their hair around on the dance floor.
Many people have moved on from dubstep, and while DRAE does not focus on it, it creeps in through out the album and then he drops the bass and gives you heart palpitations in “Almost Famous.” I can only imagine how hard that drop with hit you live. BOOM.
Have a listen to E/SCAPE below and if you like what you hear go party with DRAE and his boys Yusso and Aron the Alien for his album release show at Mercury Lounge this Friday November 11. More information on the album release show here.
Logistically, as I headed into my Thursday I knew this was a marathon and not a sprint. Thursday and Friday, back-to-back shows topped with everything else life was throwing my way turned in to what I can only describe as a whirlwind couple of days. This is whirlwind, part one.
My musical journey with We Are the City began a couple of years ago when another artist I was listening to went on tour with them as their openers. Since then, I have done my best to keep up with their music and when I saw they were passing through Ottawa, I made sure I would be there. Based out of Vancouver, We Are the City brings high energy with an electronic rock fusion set. Having just released their new album Above Club in November, this show was a must-see.
A similar story for HIGHS, I don’t remember exactly what or who put me on to their music in the first place, but I enjoyed their album and decided that, after missing them once, the next time they were in town I’d find a way to make it out to see them. It came as a happy surprise when they were added to the line-up for a show that I had already placed so much anticipation around.
I had not heard Rebelle before, but arrived promptly as they were starting their set. They were more on the pop/rock side of the rock-electronic fusion theme the evening had going and fit very well with the visiting lineup. During the set, House of TARG filled with an eager crowd awaiting the next two sets and happy to take them in. Siblings David and Rylee Taggart and their band have really been making a name for themselves, and previously known as The Strain. After seeing their set, have officially entered my artists to watch category as they make their way further into the scene.
HIGHS at House of TARG (Photo by Elizabeth Durford)
When HIGHS took the stage, it was clear that the majority of the crowd was well aware of their music. Those who were clear fans pressed to the front of the crowd, but the nice thing about TARG is the ability to have a good view of the show from pretty much any vantage point in the place. Personally, I’m a side stage kind of gal. HIGHS bring a unique light sound with their mixing vocals and tempos. They matched their music’s energy with movement and mixing up instruments, the addition of a second drum in the front added an extra element to the set.
We Are the City set themselves up for a similar high dynamic stage. Big lights, similar to those you’d find in an office or school ceiling, crowded the small stage. They flooded bright changing colors onto the musicians and into the crowd. This group made it clear the talents within each individual as they changed up who took lead on different songs. Despite the crazy fusion between pop/rock/electronics their music is very easy to keep up with and sing along if you so desire.
Each group brought all their energy to the stage, and judging by the crowd, their energy paid off. As night one drew to a close, I left feeling satisfied with finally seeing two groups I had kept my eye on for a long while, and equally as happy to add another group to that list.
Amped to say the least, anticipation for whirlwind, part two, began to grow.
We Are The City at House of TARG. (Photo by Elizabeth Durnford)
An electronic dream pop duo from Ottawa called Willows just released their debut EP this week titled An Empty Room Filled With People. A subdued “Part 1” on their Bandcamp beneath the five tracks is all we have to hint at the possibility of an LP in the works.
Fans of Ottawa’s The Adding Machine will recognize the face of energetic rapper Defckon but maybe not his voice. Here Johnny McArthur takes his vocals to a level that he can’t in rap, taking it higher and lower than humanly possible with synthetic effects. The technological tricks don’t cover up a lack of pitch however, as Johnny is spot on with his harmonics. His partner Eric Moore also adds his voice to the track “Said It’s Over,” and both provide all the bass, guitar & keys on each song.
While this EP and project are brand new, the two have been making music independently and as a duo for a few years running. Willows is the latest manifestation of their work together, however in the past they have experimented in everything from hip hop to down-tempo electro, and even metal.
These are sad songs, hybrids of shoegaze and electro pop. There’s something catchy about all this heartbreak particularly in the track “Destitute” and “True.” What stands out about this record is that the myriad of influences can be heard, even if only briefly. It is pop at its core, but don’t be mistaken – there are layers to the album that can slowly be peeled off with each song and each listen. This kind of music isn’t as prevalent in Ottawa, and it’s refreshing to see artists experimenting with different sounds and styles. Willows pushes the envelope to deliver five songs that truly stand on their own.
Willows played their first show as a unit at Zaphod’s on December 17, which Eric covered. We hope to see them out there again soon, one gets the feeling as though these guys are just getting started. Cop a feel below!
The 11th edition of Ottawa’s greatest street party, Westfest, is chalked full of great talent once again this year. The free festival, yes free, is full of very good bands including Juno nominees and winners.
The festivals is being held the weekend of June 13 to 15 on Richmond road (centered at the Loblaws Superstore at 290 Richmond Rd).Friday night is a blues night, featuring Juno-nominated George Leach, a First Nations guitar man from Saskatoon. Saturday is a Canada centric night, featuring is Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac as the headliner. Also Saturday is the aboriginal artist Shawnee and Ottawa’s pop noir sensations The Peptides. The last day is dedicated to local acts, and the crowd is in for a treat. Ottawa greats such as Pony Girl, FEVERS and Good2Go will play before Ottawa’s own international superstars, A Tribe Called Red close out the festival with their only Ottawa appearance of the summer. You can see the complete schedule here.
It is not just about the music, during the day don’t forget to walk around and check out all there is to see. The 14 block street party includes, dance acts, roaming street performers, buskers, a fun and exciting kidzone, as well as local vendors and charities all day long on Saturday and Sunday.