Ottawa’s beloved son The Acorn, aka Rolf Klausener, just released a mesmerizing video for the song “Rapids” off his 2015 Polaris nominated album Vieux Loup.
The video, made by Klaus energy himself, begins with drops of india ink falling into water and subsequently dispersing into beautiful dark creations, many resembling pieces from a Rorschach test or the sped-up full life-cycle of flowers. As the video progresses, there is a moment that transported me back to the live launch of The Acorn’s first album The Pink Ghosts. The video glances up at what looks backlit trees, reminiscent of the scene playing behind the band during that memorable release show at Club SAW many moons ago.
As the vocals kick in the video takes its next step. A paint brush weaves the lyrical script on the screen between more droplets of ink disperse into ever more impressive creations. One of the most picturesque elements of the video is when Klausener plays with negatives and flips the black and white of a spiraling dispersion.
Watch the video below and go see The Acorn perform on January 14th with Gianna Lauren at Pressed in Ottawa, more info here.
The evening of February 2nd saw the launch of Ottawa’s greatest mid-winter festival, Megaphono. Following an opening keynote speech from Jessica Hopper earlier in the afternoon, St. Alban’s Church hosted the fest’s inaugural musical performances, featuring Pipahauntas, Emile & Ogden, and The Acorn.
First on stage was Pipahauntas, who delivered an earnest set of vocals over jazzy, schizophrenic beats constructed from eerie samples, and hints of what sounded like R2-D2 [sorry, Star Wars fixation].
The vocalist donned a twinkling top, her hair a lunar-purple in the dim glow of the blue lighting; fittingly, this bedroom R&B sounded like the future. Dreamy melodies transported the audience to the outer reaches of our solar system, drawing us through the Oort Cloud and into the Milky Way. Powerful bass grooves pounded from underneath St. Alban’s large gothic arch, which pointed like the nose of a NASA rocket heading to the moon, blasting off with resonant vibrations in the bulky wooden pews beneath our bodies.
Pipahauntas @ St. Alban’s Church. Photo by Ming Wu/Photogmusic
Pipahauntas closed her performance with a new song, which conveyed a solemn vocal hook delivered over a beat like something from an atmospheric Snoop Dogg album. This performance is what I imagine Chris Hadfield listened to on SpacePop Radio -101.7 AM while he secretly re-populated Mars.
It was strangely satisfying to be pulled back to planet earth so swiftly by Emilie and her beautiful, wooden bandmate Ogden, who filled the great stone building with angelic music. That’s right, Ogden is the harp.
Emilie & Ogden’s set was seemingly flawless; its magnificence augmented by the natural reverberation in the high-roofed church. Her playing was robotic, as bass notes rang confidently like the stomping of your dominant foot, while plucked melodies twinkled and swirled like stars in the night sky, except they were right here, fifteen feet from some of our noses, dancing just like they do twelve thousand light-years away.
Part-way through her set, Emilie jumped into a melancholy rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Style”, turning the pulsating pop-song into a pensive folk tune. Later, her song “10,000” was blissfully mournful, as the singer’s voice tumbled and cascaded over sparkling harp crescendos.
Lastly, hometown heroes The Acorn took the stage, lead by frontman Rolf Klausener. Their performance consisted of many songs from their sleepily-euphoric album Vieux Loup, which translated extremely well into live performance.
This set opened calmly, but quickly escalated into a wonderfully-roaring entity, like a burning fire — full and warm and lighting our faces. At this point, fragments of light danced across the chapel ceiling like shooting stars, adding to this cosmic evening. The Acorn’s music was thick and mellow, with luxuriant keys and steadfast vocals echoing above an unobtrusive rhythm section. A highlight of their set was the rather upbeat song “Misplaced”, which caught the attention of the seated audience and caused heads to nod.
Listening to The Acorn in the vast, wood-adorned St. Alban’s Church paralleled being in a log cabin, in the dead of winter, with a lover/with a broken heart. Meanwhile, in the dead of this winter, music-lovers in Ottawa rejoiced for the kick-off of Megaphono, and this astral Tuesday evening’s performances were well worth rejoicing for.
Alas, the year has come to an end. It’s hard to believe another 365 days have passed and that we’re now closer to 2020 than 2010. 2015 was as impressive – if not more so – than other years passed. We saw Ottawa music veterans release brand new, fresh sounding tunes that demonstrate their lasting power and presence in the community. We also saw exciting new bands come out of nowhere and surprise us with great albums, showing that the city is cultivating talented artists who are overflowing with creativity.
Once again we kept our ear to the ground about all the music being released in Ottawa, and we have come up with what we think is a pretty good representation of the best music being made in our little corner of Canada (in no particular order). We’ve also included essential tracks for your listening pleasure. Without further ado, we encourage you to sit back, relax, and dive into the best of the best in Ottawa.
Kalle Mattson – Avalanche
Avalanche is the fifth release and follow-up to Mattson‘s 2014 Polaris-nominated album Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold, and serves as a step in brand new direction for the Ottawa-via-Sault Ste. Marie artist. Mattson approached the six-track EP with a pop sensibility, infusing the album with more upbeat and aesthetic that stray from traditional folk that we heard on Someday. However, Avalanche still delivers us Kalle Mattson at the core – raw, intimate, and heart bursting at the seams. Mattson is already a seasoned artist, but is clearly still evolving and developing his talents as a musician. With each album, he draws listeners in closer and shows us just what he’s made of.
Essential Track: ‘A Long Time Ago’
By Matías Muñoz
The Acorn – Vieux Loup
It’s been five years since Rolf Klausener released his acclaimed album No Ghost, and almost a decade since his seminal Glory Hope Mountain. Although he’s been busy curating Arboretum Festival in Ottawa and releasing music with his other project Silkken Laumann since then, Vieux Loup has been in the works for several years – even if only in Klausener’s mind. His ability to convey imagery and emotion in his music has not diminished. Delicate guitar melodies are intertwined with groove-laden synth beats, signifying Klausener’s movement forward as a musician while staying true to his past.
Although Ottawa’s music scene is small, there are plenty of musicians from the nation’s capital that are creating some really incredible music. Take Veldbrand by Bosveld. The album is the brainchild of Théan Slabbert of Ottawa-via-South Africa, one of many talents to emerge out of a brilliant and dynamic class of musicians in the city. He has teamed up with some of the best in Ottawa to make this highly-anticipated debut full-length LP. Slabbert’s vocals are reminiscent of a deeper, more brooding style similar to Jonsi, which melds flawlessly with the intricate and flowing guitar melodies. Veldbrand is woven with dramatic and moving soundscapes, and could very well represent the future sound of folk music.
HILOTRONS released their sixth album To Trip With Terpsichore (pron: tûrp-sĭk′ə-rē or terp-sick-ree) in February 2015 in digital format, and on vinyl two months later. Since Mike Dubue is now working with the new band, he wanted to keep things as fresh as possible.
“We recorded it live off the floor in about a day and mixed it in about a week. It’s pretty short and that’s how we wanted it. It’s sort of like Black Market Clash where the A-side is like an EP and the B-side has three remixes. It’s raw, dirty, off the floor, and nothing polished. (Mike Dubue)”.
Foreign Life opens like a newspaper, words and images materialize before the eyes and vanish instantly, leaving you with a trace of their meaning. Distant voices fade in, thoughts like wisps of smoke curl off of a buoyant electronic pulse, compelling you to let the paper fall and dream deep in your armchair. But Pony Girl (So Sorry Recs) know about your attention span, and they will make sure you listen. The motorik beat that occurs around the halfway mark of album opener “Foreign Life I”feels like a logical extension of the dreamy waves that precede it. Right away one is introduced to the painterly aesthetic of Pony Girl and the palette they will use on this album.
Foreign Life, the sophomore album from the Ottawa band, is a collage of emotion and style, well lit and finely mounted. Each song a small canvas with a dramatic point of focus, be it rolling acoustic guitar, electronic beat or voice. Sugary pop tunes leap out of synthscapes and run naked through your ears. Pony Girl appear to have passed through the recent New Folk movement carrying a pastel distillation of its crucial elements. The elegant arrangement of acoustic and electronic, the sighing winds and the seething synths, it harks familiar yet is presented in a uniquely stream-lined form.
[Hedera] itself is minimalistic, meditative, yet so full of brilliant moments that they are difficult to keep track of. There is a comfort/discomfort contrast that arises and disappears at various points throughout the album. The dissonant and distorted secondary vocals in “Garden I (You Own To Fight)”, for example, contrasts with beautiful and tranquil vocal and instrumental melodies.
[…] After spending the last two years focused on the music of others, the self-taught musician experienced a surge of writing and creativity his first time outside of the country. His initial 72 hours in San Juan he said nothing and wrote most of what would become Hedera. […] Vallentin utilizes a variety of instruments, from a heavenly-sounding hollow body guitar to electronic elements. Ultimately, the record is a smattering of beautifully crafted notes, melodies, and sounds.
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.
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.
One name in Ottawa’s hip hop community that stands out as one of the most hard-working is Yusso. Some of you may have heard of him just through collabs he’s done around town with some of the city’s best MC’s and producers, including the electrifying project CrooKid Bass with KING (now known by the name DRAE). Yusso’s new 6-track mixtape, dubbed Don’t Know Yusso, is a quick onslaught of tracks that clocks in at just over 15 minutes. Don’t Know Yusso is everything one could want out of a mixtape. It has a dash of funky tracks with irresistible rhythm like “Late Nights” and “To Whom It May Concern” that throw us back to Golden Era hip hop, impressive flow the whole way through, and lyrics that aren’t only intelligent, but also tell a story.
On top of being a very strong singer and songwriter, Sturton has become well-known for her proficiency playing the harmonica. She derives her style straight from the Mississippi of old, cutting her chops at local blues establishments and learning from harmonica masters such as Larry “The Bird” Mootham and Carlos del Junco.
Bumble Bee explores the full spectrum of emotion, as Sturton delivers songs that hit hard and leave the listener feeling like they just experienced a performance in a run-down whiskey bar in the heart of the Delta. She opens the album with the truly badass songs “Mongoose Moan” and “Heavy Weather,” setting the tone for the entire record.
[…] There are moments where she breaks from the blues, such as “Tea for Two” and “Wheel of Fortune,” which offer a nice change of pace at those particular junctures. One of the other turning points is her harrowing cover of “Black is the Colour,” a traditional Appalachian folk song. Like a lot of the songs on the album, don’t be surprised if you experience goosebumps. What better way to finish off the album than by giving a little shout out to Ian Manhire and The White Wires in “Wheel of Fortune”?
It actually feels like it’s been years since their Steammates EPcame out. However, it was only last September. Steamers‘ debut LP, Years, is a tight album, with a few flourishes that prudes would call “mistakes”. The combined efforts of the six teammates overlap like a sonic sandwich, particularly the mandolin of Francis-Julien Thibaudeau contrasting beautifully well with Greg Fitzpatrick’s banjo. The eight songs are great and call for foot stomping and as many sing along they could fit in. Whether you listen to the CD, hear them on stage or see them busking, be careful. Once you hear it you will play it again and again.
These long-time friends from Eastern Ontario have a few releases under their belt now and are really showing that they have found their sound, particularly on We’ll Always HaveMilhouse. The album is a bit of a departure from 2014’s Fish – they’ve slowed things down a bit without losing any of the actual energy which makes their music so enthralling. Songs like “Friends”, “Yard Sale(s)”, and “Break” begin with a reverb-laden clean guitar intro, which eventually break out into the chaos we know and love. Lead singer Sheehan Jordan’s gravelly vocals fit just right, and are a little more intelligible to the listener than on Fish. This is a all-out fun record with moments of restraint balanced with just a little bit of chaos.
Ottawa’s Elementals released a doozie of a first album with I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real.
The new album has heavy grunge influences throughout the album that can teleport you back to 90s plaid-filled dimly lit clubs. Songs like “Debase” and “Messiah Complex” feature that great softer/louder/softer formula and it works very well. From soft signing to guttural yelling fading back into soft almost talking style lyrics. Something special went on during the 90s and these guys want everyone to relive a slice of it and never forget.
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.
[…] 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.
How many artists can you name that have dropped 50 records? Probably not too many, especially ones with the same quality and flavour as the highly anticipated Soul Spins, by talented local producer and two-time Ottawa Beat League champ Jeepz. Within the last 3 years, Jeepz has created a rich discography with Soul Spins adding a well-deserved celebratory vibe to this true milestone in his career. Sharing the album’s stage with 25 artists from Canada and beyond, there’s plenty of familiar and fresh voices to hear on the soulful tracks found on Soul Spins, with plenty of love for the frozen tundra’s hip-hop scene.
The 10-track album is a huge step in a very different direction then what we have grown accustomed to with Page’s work with his bands. Volume Vs. Voice is a slowed-down, finger-picking-laden, emotionally-charged acoustic album — not exactly what many would expect from the punk rocker. The album is beautiful, a reflection of the scenery in which it was recorded.
“For a long time now,” said Page, “I’ve toyed with that cliched artist dream of isolating myself in a secluded cabin surrounded by bottles, pens, guitars, paper, Christmas lights doing summer duty. I could feel the river beach sand in my old Vans. I could hear the welcoming cricket chorus. There would be no Internet, TV or phone, though there would be a radio to keep some loose tabs on the outside world. There would be a recording device hooked up to a microphone or two.”
All of This and Everything Else is the much-anticipated release from Loon Choir, whose fans had been patiently waiting since the 2012 release of “Fire Poems”. The song “Always Golden” starts out with a monologue that may seem all too familiar to many: “To whom it may concern: please consider this my formal letter of resignation, for I have served day in and day out 40+ hours a week. The 9-to-5 just ain’t cuttin’ it any more. My life is more than a career, more than a wage…”. This is just one of the many examples of growth and maturity that is shining through in All of This and Everything Else.
Remember the days when you’d go to HMV and stroll through the aisles looking at CDs? Or to the record store shuffling through some LPs? Sometimes you’d come across an album cover that was so beautiful, so arresting, that you had to stop and check it out. Album covers are to the listening experience as concert posters are to the live experience. Experiencing music is also partly visual, and album art can help us conceptualize the music in a more physical, concrete sense. Think of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of The Moon, The Clash’s London Calling, or Radiohead’s OK Computer. What is the first thing that comes to mind? The album cover.
Before checking out our gallery of Ottawa’s best album covers of 2015, have a look at Kalle Mattson‘s video for “Avalanche” where he recreates some of the most iconic album covers of all time. Enjoy!
One of Ottawa’s best known indie music acts, The Acorn, have released a brand new video for the single “Dominion” off the their latest LP Vieux Loup. The Acorn first released Pink Ghosts in 2004, and with an ever-expanding catalogue of albums, Rolf Klausener and his band are showing no signs of slowing down.
The video is directed by the omnipresent and multitalented Lesley Marshall, who seems to do a million things and does them really well. She’s also in the band Bonnie Doon, and her unique aesthetic is evident in the music video.
“I shot part on SAW videos New black magic 4k camera and the footage with Caylie on a point and shoot I found in the garbage,” Lesley explains. “I love mixing media and am more moved for collage than anything right now.”
“I built a room of mirrors around Caylie. I wanted to create a dystopic feeling where the sky is made of beautiful water And a permanent sunset where there is love but we are all poisoned. I also love messing with people’s perception of video – of the music video and cinema. That’s why the video should make you feel uneasy.”
The song is reminiscent of The Acorn’s older work, with hollowed, reverb-laden sounds and delicate vocals. One special thing about this track is the appearance of Boyhood’s Caylie Runciman. Her vocals come in intermittently in response to Klausener’s, adding something special to the track and to the album.
Watch the psychedelic new video a listen to a crazy good remix by the one and only CABAAL below.
The Acorn released their latest album, Vieux Loup, at House of Common with help from Isaac Vallentin and Pipahauntaus.
Pipahauntaus kicking things off at House of Common in Ottawa, ON.
With us gathering in a renovated Hintonburg area garage, now the multifunction space known as House of Common, the show was ready to begin. The crowd huddled together and with all the lights turned off except for a blue light shining right at her, Pipahauntas got started. Many know her as Sam Pippa of local bands Organ Eyes and Blue Angel. Her solo project, Pipahauntas, is quite different and distinct from the other bands she’s involved in. No guitar or bass here – she is armed with a laptop, four pedals and a microphone, delivering trip hop and lo-fi rumblings. Pipahauntaus’ music is great for late night cruise with your windows down with the wind slowly gracing your cheeks and flowing in your hair. It was great to finally hear her perform live, I strongly recommend catching her when you can and giving her a listen here in the meantime.
Isaac Vallentin wowing the crowd at House of Common in Ottawa, ON.
Up next was Isaac Vallentin, riding high off the release of his incredible debut album Hedera. Lead singer of The Acorn, Rolf Klausener, described during their set as, “one of the best albums to come out this year.” Opening with the soft and gentle first track fromthe album, “Cloud of Smoke” exposes Vallentin’s fragility and begins to highlight the excellent musicianship he and his band exude. This night was also a celebration of the release of Hedera and marked the first time the band performed together live. Vallentin said, “I have an album for sale over there, I don’t care how much you have if you want it I’ll make sure you leave with a copy.” The rest of the set saw the band play songs of Hedera including “Hindsight”, in which Vallentin switched from guitar to keys, as well as “Stewardess” which may be my favourite song of his. To close out the show they performed “Garden II (Yellow Ire)”, and as the song approached its climax, Vallentin removed his glasses to power through the final stretch of rocking out.
The crowd had now grown to what felt like well over 100 people, many of which had to stand outside to enjoy The Acorn. Veterans of the scene, Vieux Loup is The Acorn’s fourth studio album and first in five years. New music from The Acorn is quite the treat for this long time fan, who still remembers sitting on the floor of Club SAW for the release of their first album, Pink Ghost. After playing their second song “Rapids,” Rolf thanked everyone for hanging out on a Friday night. “This is not exactly a party album, thanks for enduring us while we play slow songs on a Friday night.” I saw no complaints in this crowd. The set was full of new tracks off of Vieux Loup, as one could expect. Songs like “Cumin” and “Dominion”, really stood out as timeless gems for future shows. I do hope that Rolf calls up Caylie from Boyhood on stage one day to join him for “Dominion” because even though he did a great job with it, the album version with both voices is beautiful. They strayed from Vieux Loup to play a couple songs from The Acorn’s breakthrough album No Ghost, including the title track which ended the show and sent us of into the cool summer night, awestruck and energized.
The Acorn recently released their first album in nearly five years, Vieux Loup.
The triumphant return of Ottawa’s seminal folk band after a long hiatus and side projects was well worth the wait. Vieux Loup, is a wonderful eight-song album that goes back and forth between soft and delicate to electronic-infused folk songs. This is evident from the very beginning. The first song “Rapids” brought me back to The Acorn of old, with elements reminding me of the band I first witnessed at Club SAW a decade ago – the one with gentle finger-picking and simple drum work with beautiful vocals laden over them. The second song, “Palm Springs,” is a little heavier, with more strumming than picking, ambient sounds, and stronger effects on the vocals. The balance continues throughout the album and works to perfection. One can’t help but wonder how much Rolf Klausener’s venture with Silkken Laumann, a much more electronic/dance band, has influenced Vieux Loup. It is always fascinating hearing how an artist evolves over time.
The song I just can’t stop listening to is the title track, “Vieux Loup”. The beautiful song is everything I always loved about The Acorn. Slow finger-picking work with perfectly simple drumming by Pat Johnson, complemented with vocal harmonies that all combine for the perfect rainy day song. Have a listen to the album, released on Paper Bag Records, below.
Vieux Loup playing at The Manx during the Last Call concert series.
What better way to start off the last week of October than with smooth jams on a cold, brisk night in the intimate setting of The Manx?
Vieux Loup, alter ego for The Acorn frontman Rolf Klausener, was joined by The Acorn drummer Pat Johnson & multi-instrumentalist Adam Saikaley. They opened with ”All Tomorrow’s Parties” by The Velvet Underground, a tribute to the iconic singer, guitarist and poet Lou Reed, who passed away on Sunday.
”A blackened shroud, a hand-me-down gown
Of rags and silks, a costume
Fit for one who sits and cries
For all tomorrow’s parties”
The beautiful rendition drove home the harsh reality that Lou is truly gone. Sunday mornings will never be the same. The cover broke my heart in the most perfect way. Very well done, lads.
Getting back to the task at hand, it was great to see so many locals supporting locals. The place was packed and there were several members from local bands there enjoying the event. I have always loved the underground, secret, hidden-gem feeling of The Manx. Their beer selection is incredible and chock full of local craft beers. Let us not forget their whiskeys, oh their delicious whiskeys.
Pat Johnson’s awesome drum set-up on full display. Yes the lights spin around and put on a show.
Shows at The Manx are so intimate – room for maybe 50 people – that the band has to move out of the way every time someone goes to the loo. The foot traffic did not slow Vieux Loup, who swayed out of the way when needed and played a good mix of originals and covers. My favourite of the originals were “This Place,” and the song Rolf introduced as “this song is about ending up in bed with the right person…for once.”
Last Call will be held on the last Monday of each month at The Manx, and will consist of short, late-evening performances showcasing new material from local artists. Mark your calendars!
with Ottawa’s Roberta Bondar(cough…. you can read more about this great band in Issue 2 of Herd Magazine released a couple days ago in stores around Ottawa… cough).
Herd Magazine is presenting the show tonight, and in anticipation have released an exclusive first look at new material from their new album Vieux Loup. The song is called ”Rapids (Mère de les chaudières)” and is filmed by the ever so talented Pat Bolduc for the Herd Mag Sessions. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this wonderful present that The Acorn and Herd Mag have dropped on us. Hope to see you tonight in Wakefield to hear some new tracks and celebrate!
Rolf Klausener with vocals and guitar, Adam Saikaley on keys, Pat Johnson on drums, and Jordan Howard on guitar.