Reviews

The Weakerthans + Constantines: 1 May 2009 - Vancouver, BC

Constantines

After traversing around Canada for the past two months it was clear that Constantines and the Weakerthans were pretty tired

Constantines

Rolling Tundra Revue: The Weakerthans + Constantines

City: Vancouver, British Columbia
Venue: Commodore Ballroom
Date: 2009-05-01

While many consider the vast, untamed Canadian landscape a hefty source of inspiration, for touring bands this very same terrain can be tough going. The Rolling Tundra Revue saw gritty art-rockers Constantines and the literate folk-punkers Weakerthans travelling over 7,000 kilometres in well under two months. And when the buses pulled into Vancouver, one of the tour’s last stops, it was clear that everyone involved was pretty tired.

The pride of Canadian indie rock were reuniting after the original Rolling Tundra Revue, which took place in 2005. That wildly successful tour captured the Weakerthans at the height of their fame and Constantines on their rapid ascent to the very ranks the Weakerthans inhabited. In contrast, this tour found the Weakerthans treading water, calmly carving their niche as cult, indie heroes after releasing 2007’s fairly well received Reunion Tour. Constantines, on the other hand, are still touring behind Kensington Heights, which the Associated Press proclaimed best rock record of 2008, as well as Too Slow for Love, a recently released EP featuring stripped down versions of older tracks. I only mention these recent releases because in the live environment both bands varied little from the sound they have achieved on record.

Constantines took the stage promptly, though the decision to have them open was questionable at best. Gone was the wild, carefree, and spirited approach to their live set in favour of a terse and poignant take on their tunes. “I Will Not Sing a Hateful Song” was caged, yet still a forceful opener, despite lead singer Bry Webb ditching his guitar and adopting a nervous, Michael Stipe-esque stage presence. Constantines showed very early in their set how this Canadian tour had affected them, keeping their heads down and focusing on the task at hand throughout “Hard Feelings”. They turned this swirling track into a stomping punch-up, trading solos and noticeable harmonies for a socialist, all-for-one marching ethos. “We work hard and we want you to know it” was the slogan which the band’s opening slot aimed to broadcast to those in attendance.

They showed their depth when guitarist Steve Lambke took a turn up front; Lambke applied his soft, nasal-heavy voice to “Shower of Stones”, a rising, rhythm-heavy confused take on love. Though the set relied heavily on Kensington there were attempts to highlight their back catalogue, including a swampy “Nightime Anytime” from 2003’s Shine A Light. After witnessing the clouds of smoke that started to appear at the end of Constantines’ set, you could argue that the band was just beginning to warm up as their hour-long set came to an end.

Crafting delicate folk-punk tunes requires a balance of paying homage to one’s surroundings and, in turn, influencing the world around you. Evidence of this can be found in the Weakerthans’ records, which are laden with a permanent state of wonder and an obsession with escaping. But if you were a music fan who enjoys seeing a band attempting to escape their “studio sound” then tonight was not your night.

Over the course of an hour and a half set, the band seemingly exhausted every tune they’ve ever written. It was appeasing, but it also felt like the band was attempting to stuff too many thoughtful lyrics down the collective gullet of the Commodore. “Sun in an Empty Room”, an aptly named, soft-stepping smile-fest, had infinite possibilities to grow onstage after no doubt being played night after night. Instead, lead singer John K. Samson rushed through beautiful couplets such as, “Hands that we nearly hold with pennies for the GST / The shoulders we lean our shoulders into on the subway, mutter an apology.”

Travelling upwards of 10 hours through Canada’s untameable climates would render even the most hardened traveller slightly weaker than when they started. For rock and roll bands north of the 49th parallel, this is a way of life. It’s impossible to find fault in both bands for likely exercising their bravery earlier in the tour and treading on comfortable ground as the dates wore on. Constantines sounded tight and focused yet unwilling to really let their hair down. The Weakerthans sounded as pleasing as they do on their records, but nothing more -- proof, perhaps, that the vast Canadian landscape can be as tiring as it is inspiring.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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