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This article was published 29/6/2017 (1064 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Joanne Pollock: Stranger (Timesig/Planet Mu)
Not many musicians make the move from Toronto to Winnipeg, but singer and electronic producer/performer Joanne Pollock made the switch last year — because she wanted to be closer to musical collaborator Aaron Funk (a.k.a. Venetian Snares), who lives here.
Stranger, Pollock’s first full-length recording, is largely the product of her first Winnipeg winter and it’s an arresting, intriguing and beautiful piece of work — 10 low-key electronic songs that match her breathy, multi-layered soprano vocals with soundscapes that shimmer, chime, pulse and throb with raw emotion.
"How does a city decide who walks on its streets? I can feel this town rejecting me," Pollock sings on Carnival, the album’s first track, which invokes the feel of winter’s icy grip. Whether she’s singing of Winnipeg or Toronto is unclear but when, almost as an aside, she sings "maybe I’m just getting older…" it’s obvious she’s becoming aware that the carnival of youth must give way to the grey slog of existence.
Stranger is full of similar realizations — recognition that reality does not always match dreams. Expect Me addresses a lover with incredulity —"… if you’re not gonna hear what I say, what’d you ask me for?" The title song’s narrator confesses that she’s " dragged by the fear and the guilt that I’ve failed." And on You Know I Would Do Anything for Family, which is arguably the album’s vocal showcase, Pollock wonders if "abandonment’s genetic or if you don’t care." 4/5
Stream these: Carnival; You Know I Would Do Anything for Family; You’re Gone
— John Kendle
Los Straitjackets: What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets (YepRoc)
When you are an instrumental quintet that wears Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling masks to hide your real identities on stage it must be difficult to come up with a new album concept in 2017.
With over a dozen albums to its’ credit, Nashville’s Los Straitjackets decided to build an album of songs in tribute to Nick Lowe, one of the more lyrically literate singer/songwriters of the last few decades. On its face this makes no sense, as Lowe’s witty and humorous words have provided at least half the joy of listening to him over the years.
Nevertheless the team creates the kind of magic here that will certainly please Lowe fans and bring certain joy to pretty much everyone else.
Opening track Shake and Pop (aka They Called it Rock) burns right out of the gate and includes some twisted surf guitar phrasing that gets your attention. All Men Are Liars, Cruel To Be Kind and I Read A Lot have a sunset on the ocean vibe while the rumbling Buddy Holly-esque Raging Eyes and the knockout closer Heart Of The City are twangy, pure dance floor fillers.
The Tex-Mex style of Half A Boy and Half A Man is a perfect example of this bands’ wide range while the title track re-imagines the Lowe classic as a spaghetti western soundtrack melody. At thirteen tracks it’s a short listen but there is plenty of reverb, echo, tremolo and twang for all tastes. 4/5
Stream these: Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, Rollers Show
— Jeff Monk
David Binney: The Time Verses (Criss Cross)
Binney has played Winnipeg several times, and is hugely prolific as alto player and composer. He has a distinctive sound and deep intensity in his music, and often appears somewhat shy during live performances.
This album extends his compositional ideas, as it is essentially a 65 minute thematic suite outlining thoughts during a day – literally from Dawn to Dusk. His quartet has Jacob Sacks on piano, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Dan Weiss on drums, with several vocals by Jen Shyu and a second alto on one track (Where Worlds Collide).
Over the years I have listened to many albums by Binney and while I have enjoyed each one I found this one his most satisfying. While the mood varies throughout, there is an integrity to the tracks that move through Morning Tide, Noon Tide and Evening Tide with intermediate tracks that explore aspects of a daily life cycle.
There is perhaps a bit more reserve in his playing compared to the blistering flights of which he is capable. Binney uses electronics, albeit sparingly, and there is adventure and challenge in his "day".
Sacks and Binney display a wonderful and persuasive musical relationship, and on the gentle tracks (like Arc), the effect is a great pleasure.
Highly recommended. 4.5/5
Stream these: Arc, Time Takes Its Turn
— Keith Black
Daniel Barenboim: Hommage À Boulez (Deutsche Grammophon)
This recent release by Deutsche Grammophon highlights acclaimed conductor/pianist Darenboim’s 50-plus year association with Pierre Boulez that began in June, 1964. The two-CD set features the 20th century French composer’s iconic works performed live by the West Eastern Divan Orchestra during London’s BBC Proms Beethoven-Boulez concerts in 2012, as well as his 85th birthday concert held in Berlin in 2010. Boulez died in January 2016 at age 90.
The most intriguing selection is hearing the composer lead his own classic chamber work Le Marteau sans maître. He keeps a firm hand on the multi-sectioned piece’s prismatic textural shifts and fleeting passagework, penned in 1955 that heralded mid-century experimentalism. Given his music’s sheer complexity, the single-movement Memoriale, that includes buzzing multi-phonics and flutter-tonguing effects for its solo flute may well be the most accessible for those unfamiliar with his aesthetic.
Messagesquisse also offers four movements of taut tension, while Anthemes 2 becomes a study of stylistic contrasts.
But for Boulez die-hards, Dérive 2, dedicated to Elliott Carter on his 80th birthday, offers nearly 49 minutes of furtive energy, tackled fearlessly by the intrepid, 11-member ensemble. 3.5/5
— Holly Harris
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