Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian producers find perfect partnership in Germany

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Graze's Adam Marshall and Christian (XI) Andersen went to the same school in Toronto, but it took both of them to move to Berlin for their friendship and musical partnership to really form.

Although they were on each other's radar while in the Big Smoke -- Marshall is a well-respected house and techno mainstay (and released a single by Andersen on his label, New Kanada), while Andersen was creating his own path in the dubstep and bass community -- their openness to working with each other was a direct result of the respect they had for one another. Both producers had negative experiences in the past collaborating in the studio, so neither was extremely eager to let down his guard.

"I think Christian had been in Berlin for about half a year before we connected and decided to start working together towards a joint project," explains Marshall via email from Berlin.

"The idea of working on stuff had actually come up four or five months before we actually got together," adds Andersen. "We had no plan. Once we both realized we had something cool going on here, pretty early on we starting working towards something."

In today's digital world, a collaboration done mostly over the web isn't that odd. Even after Andersen moved back to Toronto, the duo continued to trade files, exploring loops the other had been working on and giving up some of the creative control they had been used to as solo producers. Clearly, the process was a success: Graze's self-titled full-length was nominated for Electronic Album of the Year at this year's Juno Awards.

"Having someone who comes from a bit of a different background adds some new energy into things, especially for production work," says Marshall. "The partnership is especially noticeable when we perform (as) Graze live and allows us to try performance approaches that certainly wouldn't be possible if we were solo."

This new creative partnership also allowed each artist to let go of some ideas that hadn't been working and revisit old material with a fresh set of eyes and ears.

"We are both learning a ton from each other as time goes on, but we are both set in our ways. As a result of experience, it means that what we bring to the table comes through very strongly," says Andersen. "One of the things we both really benefited from in this project is being able to revisit all the things we have done in the past with a completely renewed perspective."

Sitting comfortably between underground techno and bass-influenced elements, Edges was embraced not only for its sonic tension and its ability to carve out a new space for Marshall and Andersen, but because it seemed to be a bridge between two worlds that hadn't properly been explored.

Though they're currently revelling in their Juno nod, the duo have already almost completed their sophomore album, which will be released later this year, and have just unveiled a new single, MWeapon, on New Kanada.

With Marshall in Berlin, Andersen will be DJing as Graze as part of JunoFest.

They have also been fine-tuning their gritty live show, which they debuted last year at Mutek in Montreal, where they were one of the most talked-about acts at the long-running festival.

"The live performance gives us another opportunity to capture the listener and reposition the music. It has many forms and many appropriate listening avenues" says Andersen. "People who have seen the live show comment that seeing us play live is a totally different experience than listening at home -- it is more energetic and we both have very animated stage presence.

"It gives our fans a chance to be excited about the music again, even though they are the same tracks."

 

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Having spent time on Canada's West Coast, Montreal, Toronto and now Berlin, Noah Pred understands what it means to move to a different place and try to identify with your new surroundings while having to re-establish your life in a strange city.

Those feelings -- the way you react and how they shape you -- can be found within his Juno-nominated album, Third Culture, which was released on his own label, Thoughtless Music.

"I think it was a natural reflection of the process I was going through at the time," says Pred via email from his flat in Germany. "I didn't have a preordained concept before I started making the record. The creative process for me is a recursive one; in this case, as I was making the tunes, they began to inform the story that they ultimately ended up telling. Once I had sifted through all the material and started to put the puzzle of the album together, a clear story emerged that reflected a lot of the experiences of loss and the transitory nature of life that I was dealing with while I was working it."

Four years after his last album, Blind Alignments, the tech-house producer could have easily been influenced by his new surroundings in Berlin and turned out an album intimately informed by his new city. That's an easy creative trap that way too many producers seem to make.

"I didn't want to move to Berlin and just adopt a mantle of, like, the 'Berlin sound,' whatever that is. You know, just move here and do a grey dub techno record or start making cavernous warehouse bangers," explains Pred. "I think I have a bit of a stubborn streak that leads me to go against certain grains; I'm not always sure if it's a good idea, but at least it keeps things interesting for me."

With so many Canadians now living in techno's creative hub, it is easy to see why others make the move. Graze's Andersen moved there at the same time as Pred, but has since moved back to Toronto, while his production partner, Marshall, continues to call Berlin home. While most people back home don't understand it, producers like Pred, Marshall, Andersen -- along with a slew of other Canucks -- are extremely respected within the global electronic-music community and Canada has been a breeding ground for talent for over two decades, even if many of those artists have relocated to be closer to the action in Europe.

And though it might be tough to nail down a common identity or sound, there are elements that tie a lot of these artists together.

"I think there definitely is, but it would be hard to put a finger on it -- sometimes it manifests as a certain wistfulness, other times it's a bit more whimsical, but I can tell you that here in Berlin, the Canadian sound -- whatever the hell it is -- gets plenty of respect," says Pred.

While the Juno for Electronic Album of the Year is relatively new, it's still an important milestone for any musician from Canada who has been working toward something bigger.

"I was really surprised -- it took a while to sink in; it didn't really seem real at first, but it's a huge honour. I feel humbled," says Pred. "There's so much amazing talent in Canada that deserves to be recognized, and I'm really glad an institution like the Junos is officially acknowledging the wealth of electronic talent here in the true north."

anthony.augustine@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2014 C9

History

Updated on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 5:02 PM CDT: Graze's self-titled full-length was nominated for Electronic Album of the Year.

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