Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Live on Elgin has a very different vibe from other venues I’ve been to in the past. More interactive while reserved, it held a fresh energy.
The first act to go on was Charlie the Kid – and while he did host, he put on a comedic and upbeat show. While maintaining a Beans on Toast kind of folk sound, Charlie not only told personal anecdotes but created a youthful vibe. He painted the scene with chalky oranges and vivid mustard yellows. His voice, though unclean, created a wash of yellow-green – almost a pear colour. The higher notes painted peachy streaks through the air. His performance was vivacious and lively, not having missed a beat.
The guitar he played was light and airy – an acoustic performance polished but holding an authentic vibe. It held a hollow sound, a little dissonant at times, but bright. At times Charlie the Kid played choked chords that slowly transitioned to ones that hung in the air. His technique added splashes of rusty red to the yellow atmosphere. The occasional blue snuck its way in with the license plates he used as a makeshift drum.
Steph La Rochelle performing at LIVE on Elgin in Ottawa, ON.
Next up was Steph La Rochelle, a pop singer whose music borders on country. Her soft and melodic voice sent waves of serenity through the audience and painted the scene soft pinks and peachy oranges. It carried and had a hard edge despite how mellow it was. The covers she performed were outstanding with the way she controlled her vocals – high notes with a gentle vibrato, and drawn out lyrics. Her originals came directly from the heart and you saw it painted on her face.
Her guitar playing combined alternative picking and strumming of airy chords. It was bright and metallic, the steel strings truly emphasized throughout. Tapping the wooden surface of the guitar for a drum-like sound added earthy reds to the atmosphere that Steph painted with her voice. Beautiful, mellow, and calm, her performance took you away with her.
Headlining the show was Kyle Ivan joined on stage with a band. High energy and loose fun, there wasn’t a moment where he didn’t seem to be having a good time. He immersed the audience in his performance while creating a space where people were free to dance as wildly as Peanuts characters. His voice was smooth and the harmonizations he created with the bassist were riveting. The vocal range Kyle holds is impressive in itself, tainting the atmosphere a wide range of blue-greens and electric orange.
While Kyle played an acoustic guitar and the melodies created started mellow and slowly built up, the bass added a depth that wouldn’t be achievable otherwise. It added bold reds to the otherwise slightly colder atmosphere. To add to the bold colours, the drums came in with warm toms and cold cymbals, taking over the soundscape. The drummer and bassist only added to the performance with their evident enthusiasm.
If you’re ever in need of a good time with performers who will crack you up, you can always rely on these guys. They have a way with the crowd and a knack for humour that you won’t want to miss out on. Not only are they humourous but they woo the crowd with their amazing tunes and unique voices.
Ottawa’s one and only butt rock band (self-described) Mushy Gushy just released their second EP called More Butter, which also happens to have “butt” in the name…
What is butt rock, you may ask. Well, Mushy Gushy’s sound can best be described as a good blend of experimental garage pop with the occasional hint of surf rock. It makes for some good time rock that makes you smile, bob your head, and maybe even sway your hips. It’s perfect for those hot summer days on the way to the beach, but also excellent for those warm summer evenings on a patio or at a cottage.
The experimental side of things is very present from the get go in the opening track “Around the Bend” from the effects on the vocals, the reverb on the guitar, the well placed whammy bars and the smattering of sound effects subtly lingering in the background.
My favourite track on More Butter is track three, “Schemestress.” This pop number is very catchy both musically and lyrically. Lines like this “I could move mountain babe I’m just going to need some time / I could guess what you’re thinking but I can’t read your mind” are simple but greatly crafted and very relatable feelings to many of us, I’m sure. That is often what really makes a song. It is not always about complicated progressions and incredible prose—sometimes the best medicine is music you can just put on and sing along with while you relate to what the writer was feeling at the time.
Now go put some toast in the toaster, boil some corn on the cob, and pop some popcorn because all the the butter you need is on this album, which can be streamed below.
Be sure to catch Mushy Gushy on the Claridge Homes Stage at Ottawa Bluesfest starting at 4 pm on Saturday July 15th. More information on passes here.
Ottawa’s very own Harea Band just released a new video for their soulful slow burn of a track “Please Hold.”
Sometimes a music video doesn’t have to be complicated. Have the band set up in a simple room and watch them jam out to a track they wrote and love and let the song do the talking. That is exactly what the band did for “Please Hold” with some help from local mister do-it-all Jeff Watkins.
There are a few creative elements beyond just shooting the band playing, such as a phone on fire, but the beauty of this video is the KISS strategy. Keep it simple stupid. Just wonderfully shot video of the band playing and singing along. I must admit though, my favourite part is the look on the guitarist’s face during his solo… priceless. Well don’t just take my word for, check it out below and groove out with Harea Band.
It’s that time of year – bands are in full bloom for the summertime. We’re very excited to premiere the debut EP called Tight Snake by a new group in town, Mushy Gushy. This 4-track garage pop EP is a quick burst of fun summer tunes that’ll be sure to inject some life into any backyard BBQ or pool party. Mushy Gushy is a new 4-piece group consisting of a few Ottawa music scene vets – bassist Jon Pearce (Winchester Warm), drummer Kyle Woods (fmr. Kalle Mattson), guitarist Cory Lefebvre (Baberaham Lincoln), and vocalist Dave Gervais (The Gallop).
This new “butt rock” band (don’t worry, I have no idea what that means either) played their first ever show at Black Squirrel Books this past May, opening up for Telecomo at their tape release party. Their set was wild and fun, and you can really tell this band loves playing together.
Speaking of which, Showbox will be presenting Mushy Gushy’s tape release show on July 16th at Bar Robo, along with other great local acts, Stay Classy and Elementals. Taking us late into the night, Kitchen Party DJs will be spinning your favourite jams, too. If you want to see a bunch of really talented buds play really fun music, I suggest you mark that date off on your calendar. Check out the Facebook event here and have a first listen to Tight Snake below.
A new band in town, How Far To Mexico, is ready to break onto the scene in a big way this weekend. We’re excited to premiere the exclusive first full listen of their debut EP Drought, a 4-track effort that incorporates jangle pop and psych rock elements. Their so-called “psychedelic escapism” comes though as reverb-laden, twangy guitar parts, mesmerizing drum patterns, pulsating bass lines, and singer Jamieson Mackay’s relaxed yet pervasive vocals. Let’s just say it’s the kind of music that can take you somewhere else on a beautiful summer day while soaking in some sun in a park downtown. The sound and style recalls influences such as The Smiths or early R.E.M with a pronounced and definitive pop appeal – and, frankly, a sound that the world could use a little bit more of.
Drought will be made available on CD or a limited run of tapes, or online on Bandcamp.
Mehdi Cayenne recently released a new video for “Je Te Vois,” the first single from their third album Aube.
The video is a lot of fun but also quite complex and has some depth to it. The song itself is a step forward for the band, as there is clear growth and musical maturity as the band continues to progress. At the same time, it is also very Mehdi and has many of the elements that have made so many people, whether English or French, fall in love with the talented singer and song writer.
We caught up with Mehdi during Megaphono in Ottawa. Check out the video for “Je Te Vois” and read the interview below.
Can you tell me a bit of the story behind the song?
It was a love song of sorts, eh? It’s kinda mystical and erotic, and whimsical and dark (like the video too). I think the original feeling came from meeting someone that I felt as though I had known them forever – I’d never felt that before. I wrote it on my guitalele in my living room, in the morning. It took me a while to own up to how poppy that chorus is! [laughs] Also it went through at least 4-5 different versions. I’m really happy with how well the drums and bass sound, that took a while.
Can you tell me about the story behind the video?
Frédérique Bérubé, the director, was really cool and full of ideas and super fun to work with. She came up with the bulk of the scenario, and I was happy to go along, for once! I really like the duality of the two alter egos, and the ambiguous emotions therein. I basically came up with a certain way to move… I think there’s a very interesting (albeit abstract) commentary on double lives, on sexuality, on owning up to our shadow selves. The contemporary dance classes I’ve taken in the last year really came in handy (and in footy!).
The video looks like it was a lot of fun to be a part of? Any highlights or fun stories?
It was! Again, working with Frédérique was superb. She brought in her roommates to help with the lights and the smoke (the smoke blowing at the beginning is from a cigarette – that guy had to smoke for the cause!). The idea for the bling-bling cameos happened very spontaneously, we were just thinking of cool people to go visit, and realized all the peeps therein were mutual friends of ours. Also, I was floored that Bernard Adamus spent his whole day driving us around to shoot, in his own touring van! So the shoot is full of special, funny and touching memories for me.
How was been the reception of the new album? And new music?
Actually, amazing! I was pretty scared by the end of the process – most of my previous music was quite abrasive, and “cool” [laughs]. This record is much more vulnerable I’d say. I am very attracted to the risk of candor, of emotional nakedness with no posturing – with the straight-up-ness of a church hymn or something. So very scary for me, and very exciting. I’m happy that people seem to understand what I was trying to do, which is mixing up very familiar musical elements with more unusual ones. Ive always done that, but for Aube the goal was to create such a wide palette of sounds and vibes, within a much smaller decibel range, you know? Also this time, it’s a story of sorts, with a narrative – also usually very difficult for me – here all the lyrics actually interconnect and build the story, with recurring themes and characters. And, I had to own up to the fact that it’s a love record. But with a unique perspective – which I’m very happy about. Obviously, Geneviève L Richard’s design and the hearts & ears of my beloved Cayenne Clubbers (François Gravel, Oli Bernatchez, Olivier Fairfield and Charles Fairfield) were absolutely essential in bringing Aube to fruition. I can’t say enough good about their good taste, talent and humility.
Can you tell me about how you feel to be part of Megaphono?
Man, I love Megaphono! They do an amazing job at bringing together O-town’s different scenes. For example, I was so proud to see Elsa (of Everett and Babely Shades renown), whom I’d been privileged to perform for back when she was in high school, perform the same night as Boyhood and Duchess Says, and of course alongside scene luminaries Fet Nat – of whom I’m a great, shameless fan (no really, best damn band in town yo). That variety is a nice big breath of fresh air for this town. Props to Jon Bartlett, Rachel Weldon and co!
What’s coming up next for Mehdi Cayenne?
I’ll be working on more visuals and videos, and releasing Aube in France in early June. I also have a few cool projects related to Aube I have to be hush hush about… But some cool surprises coming up!
On August 2, a two-year marathon of songs by a young Ottawa artist was released as a debut album titled Stills. The only thing you have to know about Megan Landry is that she’s a truly self-propelled artist with no small amount of talent. Just start with the song “Fork”:
Or perhaps the startling video for her song “Wallpaper”, which she directed and shot. Hey, all her videos—not to mention her album cover art—are self-made.
There is the recurring theme in Miss Landry’s dreamy indie pop of the latest of nights, particularly the earliest hours of the morning. She subscribes to the philosophy that the best ideas are up for grabs when everyone else is asleep. This seems to be working: she’s an adventurous multimedia artist and an accomplished singer-songwriter who’s already a professional photographer and videographer at the age of 18.
Having to point out her age seems like a bit of a defeat for this writer. I don’t think that the age, sex, creed or colour of an artist should have anything to do with the appreciation of her or his art. Adding information to an article is always helpful, but sometimes what makes an artist stand apart is the last thing that should actually be taken into account. Miss Landry finds herself at the junctions in life that are incredibly important to many of us at that age. What her art says is there’s a lot that came before that was just as important, if not more. We tend to pay attention to the big dates, the coming of age, the impatient rush to get to “adulthood.” Miss Landry has needed none of these landmarks to create her mature, weird, fun, and heartfelt music up until now. All she’s needed are her earnest voice, and her mature and poetic take on life in the 21st century.
She was lauded three years ago for a violent song about the effects of bullying titled “Stronger“. Last year she signed a publishing deal with Streets Music UK and now graces their homepage, and she’s been recently working with Grammy-award winning Serge Coté. These are not seeds being sown, they are sprouts already growing into healthy saplings.
I highly recommend Stills to anyone who likes indie pop, thought-provoking lyrics, and seeing an artist be as brazen as they should be. Stills is available on iTunes & CDbaby.
A sweltering Saturday afternoon, with crowds that were much more manageable than on Friday, made for a great day 4 of RBC Bluesfest. Save for a bewildering set from Allie X, everything I caught on the day was pretty captivating.
Shakey Graves performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Scott Penner
Shakey Graves beamed with charisma and perfectly captured an Austin, Texas, vibe during his set in the early evening at the Canadian Stage. Indie-folk rock in the vein of Tallest Man on Earth with some blues sprinkled in, he even controlled some of the driving percussion with his own feet and a suitcase drum. He engaged the crowd and spoke of songwriting as a teenager, when everyone feels like they already know it all. For those in the audience who didn’t already know Shakey Graves, he surely left a lasting impression.
Nas performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Scott Penner
Hip hop legend Nas showed that he still has it when he rocked the Claridge Homes Stage performing hits from his career that spans more than a decade. Shouting out cassette tapes and former peers like A Tribe Called Quest and Boogie Down Productions, it was refreshing to see someone still commanding the stage so many years later. Opening with the energy of “The Don”, his set lost absolutely no momentum moving forward. Gems like “Halftime” and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” had intro medleys that made them sound fresh and new. Though a veteran, Nas shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Alvvays performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images, Photo: Mark Horton
Toronto’s Alvvays have gone from playing venues like Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox to the largest music festival in the world, Glastonbury, in only the span of a year. This meteoric rise is likely based on the strength of their eponymous debut, and their infectious single “Archie Marry Me”. Their dreamy brand of indie pop, and the floating voice of lead singer Molly Rankin perfectly gelled with the fading day in Ottawa. “Adult Diversion” and “Ones Who Love You” join aforementioned “Archie” as highlights of the set.
Iggy Azalea performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Saturday, July 11th, 2015. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images
The interesting thing about having Iggy Azalea headline the day after Kanye West is that they’re both pretty polarizing figures. While Kanye West alienates some with his persona, no one can question his music. Iggy Azalea on the other hand poses some interesting questions when it comes to her place in hip hop and popular music overall. Having a hip hop icon like Nas basically open for her only serves to further that scrutiny. Despite all this, if you view Iggy Azalea as a pop artist (like how one would view Vanilla Ice in the early ’90s), then there’s not much that you can fault her for. She is dynamic, attractive, and knows how to work a crowd. She was engaging with choreography and her hits like “Fancy” and “Work” had everyone bouncing. Though her set clocked in at less than an hour, she worked hard on that stage. If you can get past her almost-offensive Southern US affectations, then you might even say that she’s a star. Looking around at the smiles in the crowd of mostly young females, I’m sure they’d say as much.
On this day in Hull, an LP came out on E-Tron Records. They call it The First Empire but it will not be the last.
It’s been a long time coming for fans of Scattered Clouds, an experimental noise & psychedelic pop trio led by Philippe Charbonneau, with Jamie Kronick and Pierre-Luc Clément. The band’s beginnings are closely intertwined with the E-Tron’s genesis, as are all the musicians who collaborated on this album. The music is simultaneously quiet and chaotic, patient and peculiar. It’s aptly described as post-apocalyptic but we could drop that prefix and it would still make sense.
The First Empire is a six-song concept album that seems to have more singles than not, starting off strong with the doom-laden “Fallen” and their most recent release “Enchanteresse”, which came out with a twisted music video pieced together by Mike Dubue last month.
“Enchanteresse” grew on me faster than “People Walk”, which I’ve already been listening to for the better part of a year. A free CD of the single was handed out at a show at the Blacksheep Inn last March and the song remains as beautifully choppy and digestible as when I first heard it. It’s a journey of self and insanity, which are two themes that pair up often in The First Empire, and not just in the lyrics.
My favourite track however, which I relish even more because of its brief length, is the wordless “Floating Underwater” which immerses us with a marimba. It transitions catastrophically yet pleasantly into “Deepest Night”, an anthem of darkness that uses Charbonneau’s baritone voice to its greatest ability. It ends with the sunken lyrics “at the strangest hour…” and crashes into the most unhinged and experimental of the songs, the title track. The album almost passes in the blink of an eye but it is complex, what obviously took years to perfect.
Olivier Fairfield, who plays alternate percussion on three tracks, as well the marimba on “Floating Underwater,” also plays an integral part of E-Tron Records as the other co-founder and manager. Both he and Charbonneau began producing music that followed their aesthetic vision they had first encountered on their work with the band J’envoie, where Charbonneau actually came in after their record was complete. Pierre-Luc Clément also had a large part in that collective effort along with Patrick Sénécal & Nathan Medema.
Here’s where the details overlap. Cue The First Empire to get through this mesh of music.
You can’t discuss Scattered Clouds without discussing E-Tron. Both began in 2010 around the time the album La vitesse des chats sauvages by J’envoie came out. E-Tron Mountain was still an undiscovered shrine on the north side of the Outaouais that had yet to house bands like FET.NAT, Her Harbour, BOLD, and Ferriswheel.
“Avec J’envoie c’était un band avec une esthétique. Là, avec E-Tron, on s’rend compte que c’est pas un band c’est un groupe de personnes qui ont plusieurs bands qui font plein de choses différentes qui projettent cette esthétique là.”
Fairfield is a name that comes up a few times in the music corners of Hull. Olivier’s brother Guillaume runs Fairfield Circuitry, an industry-acclaimed pedal manufacturer that lends its powerful effects to bands all over the world. Their father Charles has mastered many of his son Olivier’s collabs as the owner and operator of the seasoned studio known as nCode. Olivier himself plays in FET.NAT (along with Scattered Clouds’ Pierre-Luc Clément), La Mort à la mode, J’envoie & Ferriswheel on E-Tron, and in the duo H. de Heutz, which is a sonic study of paranoia & pseudonyms inspired by the novels of Hubert Aquin, on Black Bough Records. His work has led him to join Timber Timbre, possibly Canada’s most celebrated experimental music at the moment, and to form Last Ex with Simon Trottier, also from Timber Timber.
All these parts of Fairfield’s work are touched on by Charbonneau in some way. Often, it seems, Philippe’s work is subtler than his partner’s, even subdued. He takes to the low vibrations of a deep voice and double bass that have created in Scattered Clouds the deliberate atmosphere of dread and adventure. Fairfield operates on a higher energy, with staccato percussion and piercing vocals. Together, they’ve created something that wouldn’t exist without the other, neither without the considerable collaborations of Clément, Trottier JFNO, Linsey Wellman & Gabrielle Giguère.
So, without leaning too heavily into conjecture I would describe The First Empire as a culmination of the vision that transformed E-Tron from an idea into a music machine. The industrious production they’ve pumped out in only five years has elevated the concept of a distinct music from Hull, and of experimental music in Canada as a whole, to the point where I see them far ahead of where other local labels still want to go. They’re an example to follow, for sure. To
This is the supreme authority that I see described abstractly as The First Empire. But here we are complete lost in conjecture as I feared… It is, before being a symbol, a strong album that was a long time in the making.
Scattered Clouds starts their tour this Thursday, and will host their official release parties in Ottawa & Hull on May 2 & 23. Follow the asterisks!
Another local band coming to a stage near you this afternoon for the MEGAPHONO Festival is the Mehdi Cayenne Club, an intense folk rock Ottawa outfit.
Mehdi Hamdad has been playing music since he was a teenager and he’s been organizing and playing shows for over a decade now. The Mehdi Cayenne Club was formed in 2009, on the day Michael Jackson died — June 25. Mehdi is the songwriter in both French and English for all the songs, but completes his pieces with the help of his bandmates Olivier Fairfield and François Gravel.
“I bring all the songs (they grow on me like fungi), but they’re always enhanced by the composing and arranging skills of the others, who are all accomplished creators in their own right,” says Mehdi. “Songs are mostly about problem solving and, well, who doesn’t have problems?”
A problem he doesn’t have is choosing which language to write in, since it all just comes naturally. In a constant state of output, Mehdi puts every impulse and idea into his craft. Although he doesn’t award any particular importance to his bilinguism, he sees it as a means to an end.
“The apparent dichotomies of my identity are well exemplified by bilingualism,” he explains. “I do think that this ambiguity can foster more understanding between people and cultures. There must be a way out of us vs. them, red team vs. blue team mentalities, and I think bilingualism is perhaps a minor metaphor for developing a sense of being ‘us’ and ‘them.'”
On top of being a band member he performs solo shows, poetry nights, theatre pieces and even MCs events. His wide range of venues, from TEDxGatineau to Hearst High School, exemplify his ability to walk onto any stage and bring his brand of honest joie de vivre easily. He plays so many shows a year he doesn’t know how many.
His dance punk, or folky pop rock with a twist, make him an easy listen. His lyrics, however, are sharp, sometimes sad things. Being as openly emotional on his debut LUMINATA as on his sophomore release NA NA BOO BOO, we can expect nothing less from his third studio album, set to be released in May. The Medhi Cayenne Club is currently in studio with their new songs.
When asked what his favourite accomplishment would be, he had this to say: “There isn’t a specific event more than others… Generally I am grateful for the synergistic exchange that happens every time we sweat together, every time we sing together. I am grateful I can be honest on stage, in my songs – that’s all I have. Prizes and achievements are nice, but the feeling of being vulnerable and honest while going all out on stage… it’s what I’ll take to my grave.”
The Mehdi Cayenne Club will play today at 4 p.m. at Pressed Café with Jeremy Fisher and Amanda Rheaume as part of MEGAPHONO Festival. Check ’em out!