The Fall 2021 Music Room
New music from The Halluci Nation, Tush, LEATHERS and Jason Sharp.
One More Saturday Night
The Halluci Nation (formerly known as A Tribe Called Red) makes anthems for the dance floor and the demonstration. One More Saturday Night (Independent) is their first album under a new name and without founding member Ian Campeau. The title is a reference to the Electric Pow Wow parties that helped the group establish themselves as DJs in Ottawa. Here, they use their trademark blend of EDM and First Nations music to throw a sonic party, ushering in a new era for the group by closing out the old one with a bang. The album features a lengthy roster of collaborators, and The Halluci Nation meets each of them in their element. “Tanokumbia,” featuring El Dusty and Black Bear, adopts a thumping reggaeton beat, while “Ba Na Na” is a catchy ode to Caribana from Haviah Mighty, Odario and Chippewa Travellers. Tanya Tagaq and Lillian Allen lend their powerful poetry to the album’s more political tracks: “We’re taking it back,” asserts Tagaq in a whisper on “Collaboration ≠ Appropriation,” “our water, our land, our blood, our women.” Saturday Night is just as reflective as it is cathartic. Four separate tracks titled “Remember” structure the record and feature a recurring melancholic vocal line, pointing to the importance of honouring history as it continues to unfold. Partying, after all, isn’t just about letting loose. It’s also about connection and renewal—sparking worlds that open up in the quiet of the morning after.
Pop stars like Dua Lipa may be making disco-inspired hits, but Tush is a disco act headier and stranger than anything you’ll hear on the radio. On their debut album Fantast (Do Right!), the Toronto duo of Kamilah Apong and Jamie Kidd blend thick bass licks and hypnotic vocals with contemporary electronic elements, making a record as interesting as it is visceral. The tracks build around the beats: bass and drums lock into a tight rhythm, and from there, anything can happen. The production is eclectic, evoking rainforests and video games. Vocalist Apong serves as bandleader, steering the compositions toward a break or a drop, while arpeggiated synths and sweeping pads gather around her. She sings about desire and faith, and repeats phrases like mantras, often with a choir backing her up. “Save me / lately I’m not myself,” Apong and the choir sing in call-and-response on “Jessica F***,” atop a house bassline and funk guitars. Tush performs as a seven-piece, but Fantast is a tribute to Apong and Kidd’s creative partnership. The record has a clarity and fluidity that can only come from people who share a vibe. In a brief interlude, Apong asks Kidd: “watcha doin’?” “Listening to you,” he responds, quietly—before the beat re-emerges, carrying them both somewhere new.
From the initial sound of a pulsing synth bass, Reckless (Artoffact) lets you know immediately where, or when, you are. LEATHERS’ debut EP conjures a dream of the eighties, complete with washed-out guitars, gated snares and breezy pop vocals. The solo project of Shannon Hemmett from Vancouver’s ACTORS, LEATHERS bills itself as darkwave, though it goes down easy. The title track is sweet and upbeat, a peaceful ode to a love that’s passed: “I don’t regret it / it’s not so tragic,” Hemmett sings. Prom ballad “Day For Night” sounds straight out of a coming-of-age film, or maybe the Drive soundtrack. Deft production touches prevent the EP from feeling too familiar—on “Reckless,” for example, the sound of clanging bottles hovers underneath Hemmett’s vocals—though it does lack memorable hooks. That is, until closer “Missing Scene,” where a gloriously sludgy bass muddies up the pristine fantasy. A full-length album is due out next year, and if Reckless is anything to go by, Hemmett has plenty more reveries—and a few nightmares—in store.
The Turning Centre Of A Still World
If you listen closely enough to the beat in “Unwinding Surrender,” the second track on Jason Sharp’s The Turning Centre Of A Still World (Constellation), you can hear it slip gently out of time. This shift in tempo is not a mistake. The Montreal saxophonist made his new album by connecting a heart monitor to his modular synth setup: the rhythms on Turning Centre are as in and out of time as Sharp’s heart itself. In this way, Sharp becomes the “turning centre,” a body through which his saxophone and electronics are mediated and (ir)regulated. This approach generates a sonic world that feels far from still. Turning Centre is an impressively alive work: a collection of eight compositions that pulse with vitality and grief. Sharp’s saxophone is the screeching star, but the electronics are just as vivid. On “Velocity of Being” a piercing synth glitches across the mix; on “Humility of Pain,” delayed percussion signals impending doom. Turning Centre emphasizes the physicality of sound—the way a breath quivers coming out of a horn, or a wave spreads across the aural spectrum. Even if you aren’t aware of Sharp’s technique, the record feels deeply lived in. Sound here is everywhere and nowhere: immersive and total and always already gone.