New Music: Tölt by Flying Hórses
I listened to the entirety of Tölt, the long-awaited debut LP by Ottawa’s Flying Hórses, approximately six times before finally understanding that I would hear a different narrative on each pass. First I walked through Gormenghast, then through Cirith Ungol, but also through large meadows that could have been Hyrule. The music called “post-chamber” by two of the city’s most interesting musicians have created a bestiary of dark and beautiful creatures, deadset on being released August 15.
Cellist and composer Raphael Weinroth-Browne is part of several prolific bands that play a range of neo folk, classical and experimental chamber music. He said that Tölt would surprise most people who were familiar with Jáde Bergeron’s original compositions that she’s often played live over the past few years. I have to concede he wasn’t just hyping me up—this isn’t the same trip to the “Dollhouse” or ride around the “Carousel” that we’ve heard before.
And it’s not just the preeminent production by Birgir “Biggi” Jón Birgisson of the Icelandic Sundlaugin Studio that has brought on this change. The idea of the album still hinges a collage of childlike wonder that Bergeron has been exploring through music boxes and devotional bells, but it goes further now.
There are sonatas for cello accompanied by Bergeron’s piano, and what sound like piano/celesta duets. Sometimes the pairing of cello to piano is replaced with bells or chimes that Bergeron plays in what she credits as “sacred places” in Montreal and Reykjavík.
A song named “Spiladósir” begins much in the same way as some of the vignettes in this 14-track album but, unlike its shorter cousins, it fires off a dark and ambient rush of energy. It grabs you with a dissonance of music boxes, some even lending their mechanical crank to the metal storm.
On one listen, these shadowy songs reminded me of the score to 2014’s RPG Child of Light, composed by Béatrice Martin a.k.a. Coeur de Pirate. The orchestral arrangements by Gémeaux-nominated composer Anthony Rozankovic give the role-playing fairy tale story of that game a beautiful depth. However, listening to that music alone feels as though something is missing (a palette of pixels?) whereas an amble down Flying Hórses, with no supporting images or words, fills the listener with northern histories, nostalgia, and creatures far stranger and dazzling than pegasi.
The title track “Tölt” does not exactly trot, the most precise translation would be an ambling gait that is instinctive in Icelandic horses. It’s different than a gait though, and as a movement for horses it’s known to vary quite quickly.
I enjoy ambient background music as much as the next writer, but I’m also a sucker for liner notes and lyrics. Here, the song titles create a 14-word story that spans three languages: English, French & Icelandic. I’ll add a fourth, the German, since Tölt is a Bildungsroman—a coming-of-age story. It’s also a dream-like ride into dark places that are lit up by Bergeron’s vision of innocence and memory.
“Oubliette” is a dirge, maybe even a requiem. It’s the longest track of the 14 and does not conclude the album with a ribbon nicely tied at the end—it ends the album more than the final track “107” because it builds into an ellipsis, followed by a question mark that seems to say, “and the light shone so brightly that it blinded, covered everything, and suddenly there was—”
What? What was in the light?
A sophomore album, I hope.
New Music: Odyssey by The Reverb Syndicate
Ottawa’s premier, maybe only, instrumental surf and go-go band, The Reverb Syndicate is releasing a new album April 18.
In their tenth year as a band, The Reverb Syndicate are releasing their fourth studio album, Odyssey. The band’s bio perfectly describes them as “reverb-drenched surf/spy-fi sounds to accompany ’60s spy films, westerns, sci-fi films and old school video games that don’t exist.”
“Back in 2006 I asked Mike [Bradford, the current guitarist] if he wanted to start a band with me,” Bass player Jeff Welsh explained about the origins of the band. “He told me he wanted to start a surf/instrumental band. I thought it sounded like fun but I wasn’t convinced. I figured we would play three shows, but then we would move on to something else. That was several years, four albums, two oversea tours and many, many amazing evenings ago.”
And why an instrumental band you may ask? “Because it’s a fun style of music that’s accessible and without any pretension.”
The new album Odyssey is a “kind of our tribute to Devo, ’80s video games and Commodore 64 era of home computing,” and best of all Welsh said “you can dance to it.” But how does one come up with such an out of the box concept for an instrumental album in 2015? “As an instrumental band, to help our writing process we come up with a theme or story for each album. It keeps us from just doing the same old thing each time. For this one, we created a man vs machine/man in the machine story. So there are lots of references to computer errors in the song titles and we even rig up a real Commodore 64 on stage and use it during our live show.”
The boys are no strangers to stories and adventures, their other albums have taken them all over the place. In 2006, they began with blend of ’60s spy movie music and classic surf rock on Operation: Jet Set!. Then in 2007, they ventured into the stars with the space-themed Sputnik A-Go-Go. Four years later in 2011, they saddled up and headed to the wild west channeling the sounds of the spaghetti westerns with Mondo Cacti. (Eat your heart out Will Smith.) And now, in 2014, The Reverb Syndicate is embarking on a new adventure, one that finds them pitted against an evil uprising of old home computers.
Odyssey is scheduled to be released Saturday, April 18 at the House of TARG, and all those in attendance better have their dancing shoes on. “If you come to a Reverb Syndicate show you can expect to want to dance. Simple as that. We’ve played to 250 retirees at a community hall in a small suburb of London in the UK. We just played to a packed house of 20-year-old québécois punk-student-anarchists in Montreal. And the thing that both crowds had in common was they both got up and danced,” said Welsh.
If you can’t wait until Saturday and need to dance, turn the speakers way up and get on your feet, because you can stream Odyssey below!
The 20th Anniversary of Chamberfest Cannot be Contained by Four Walls
After 20 years of orchestral & classical concerts put on every July by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, it’s this anniversary event that will be the Ottawa Chamberfest’s most ambitious line-up to date. While asking around about which locals acts to see, I was informed the international talent simply can’t be ignored at this year’s festival, which runs from July 24 to August 7. It might not be common knowledge that the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world, but it is! Over 15 days without pause, most days will go from 10 a.m. to curfew, and span seven venues for almost 100 performances. Small ensemble music has never been so big!
We’d love to preview all performances but we can only offer you Showbox’s Top Picks for the 20th Ottawa Chamberfest :
The Don Byron Quintet & Divine Brown will wow us with new sound on Friday July 25, 2014 at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.
Don Byron is an amazing clarinetist with a legendary creativity for finding what is said to be “a sound above genre.” This New York musician and producer will play clarinet and saxophone alongside Divine Brown, R&B singer and JUNO Award winner from 2009. We also have it on good authority that the powerful Gryphon Trio (well-ingrained in the making of this Festival) will showcase their music on Aug. 6, absolutely essential viewing! And if you’re looking for something that you’ve never seen before, we highly suggest Luminico on Aug. 3.
There’s a group of gypsy punks called the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, who will transform the ByWard Market into the eighth venue of the festival on Aug. 2 with a parade of music & busking. There will be tributes of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on Aug. 6, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War on July 28, and a sonic & visual remix of the music and images sent into space on two golden records in 1977 on the Voyageur spacecraft on Aug. 1.
JUNO Award winners The Gryphon Trio are the Festival’s Artistic Advisors James Parker on piano & Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin and Artistic Director Roman Borys on cello. They will play at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Jacob Siskind was an eminent music critic who gave much to the Canadian and global classical communities. In his honour, the Siskind Snapshots will take place on every day but the first and last of the fest to offer 45-minute glimpses into the lives of new and well-known artists. These include life & art partners Michel Strauss & Maria Belooussova, the next generation of classical music with Cameron Crozman, Sheila Jaffé & Peter Longworth, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and many more! There will also be four Festival Galas over the course of the whole Chamberfest with the self-conducted young orchestra A Far Cry, the American soprano, Toronto-based Sondra Radvanovsky, Montreal-born, veteran pianist Janina Fialkowska, and Handel’s Il trionfo del tempo with light lyric soprano Amanda Forsythe, countertenor Reginald L. Mobley, tenor Colin Balzer, and mezzo-soprano Krisztina Sazbó.
Amanda Forsythe will perform Il trionfo del tempo with three other soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra on Aug. 5, 2014 at Dominion-Chalmers United Church.
Not a gala, but definitely the event of the whole festival — Chamberfest @20 will be a variety of all music that has played over the last 20 years at the Chamberfest. There will be approximately 13 different ensemble playing a wide range of styles and hosted by Eric Friesen, it will be at Dominion-Chalmers United Church at 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 30. We also have to mention incredible accordion player Manu Comté with his tango Nuevo ensemble Soledad will be performing at Dominion-Chalmers United Church on July 26, their first performance in the nation’s capital! And finally, from Aug. 6 to 7, Ensemble Caprice of Montréal will celebrate their 25th year as an ensemble by paying homage to the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach during The Bach Summit. Sixteen works over four concerts, as well as the Brandenburg Concertos in just two days!
All tickets and passes are available through the Chamberfest’s online box office, at their physical address at 4 Florence Street, Suite 201 in Centretown, or at the following outlets: Ottawa Festivals, Compact Music downtown and in The Glebe, and the Cartier Place Suite Hotel.
Johann Sebastian Bach is Baroque to the bone.
Ming Wu’s Birthday Bash: Flying Horses, Big Dick, DJ Sweetcheecks and Adam Saikaley
Flying birthday boy, Ming Wu, at Babylon in Ottawa.
February 20th has brought us such greats as Kurt Cobain, Rihanna, Angelina Grimké, and Ming Wu. How does one celebrate such an occasion? Well you get Flying Hórses, Big Dick, DJ Sweetcheeks, and Adam Saikaley to perform at Babylon… Oh, and you do so without telling the birthday boy until the afternoon of the show. Ming is an omnipresent individual in Ottawa, going to almost every single event. Ever. He always brings his camera and snaps some shots wherever he goes. His photo blog Photogmusic provides Ottawa with an unofficial photo essay of things that happen in town. Ming also has a twin brother Lenny who we also celebrated .