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The Spring 2023 Music Room

Masahiro TakahashiHumid Sun

Humid Sun (Telephone Explosion) was envisioned as a reprieve from winter. Toronto-based composer Masahiro Takahashi was inspired by the city’s seasonal slush to create a record that reaches for warmer pastures. Humid Sun doesn’t feel like pure escapism, though. While consistently peaceful and calming, the record also evinces a boundless curiosity. Takahashi’s ambient electronic works don’t seem to be running from, but rather floating toward. 

The album’s ten tracks call to mind the kind of music you might hear at a spa, but devoid of the capitalist pressure to relax at a designated time in a sanitized space. In other words, Takahashi’s compositions go where they feel. On “East Chinatown Stroller,” sprightly synth stabs accompany an upward-drifting piano. On “Fantasy in Soy Sauce,” twinkling highs balance out hollow lows. Birds chirp; winds rush. Takahashi’s parts speak to and with each other.

Takahashi is joined by a host of collaborators, most notable of which is perhaps is Joseph Shabason and his soothing saxophone. Throughout, there is a sense of wonder that makes me think of the underwater scenes in the Pokémon video games I played as a kid. In the best possible way, Humid Sun conjures that childhood feeling of encountering something new, approaching it tentatively, and watching your world expand. 

Kat DumaReal Life

On Kat Duma’s Real Life (Independent), something sinister lies around the corner. From the opening chords of a warbling organ, the debut record from the Toronto artist and DJ operates with a dream logic. Duma's whispered lyrics are almost impossible to make out, but what comes through is the feeling of a thick fog and an uncertainty about whether there is anything solid on the other side. 

Real Life seduces you into its mist. Duma’s hypnagogic style is frequently gorgeous. Her delayed vocals and chugging beats borrow from dub, dream pop and ambient music, calling to mind artists like Carla dal Forno, Maria Somerville and early Nite Jewel. Like these other songwriters, Duma blurs the edges of her compositions so that the style becomes substantial. Snatches of phrases emerge: “Looking for it in the earth / wishing till it hurts / wishing till it hurts,” she sings on the stripped down “So Long.” Whether working in a more acoustic mode, or veering towards sci-fi synthetica on tracks like “Ana,” Duma proves herself to be a master of mood. Longing, introspection and reflection are offset by the sense of something unmoored and unnameable, hovering just out of sight.

MayflyHIDEAWAY, Vol. 1

Milk & Bone are the reigning pop duo of Montreal, but Mayfly may soon join their ranks. On their EP HIDEAWAY, Vol.1 (Duprince), Charlie Kunce and Emma Cochrane display an impressive felicity with smooth pop production and intimate vocals. HIDEAWAY drags in parts, but it announces a talent (or two) worth watching. 

The EP stands out for its upbeat tracks like “Take Me Away” and “Passenger Seat,” both of which feel expertly designed for blasting on the highway. The pair's vocal styles perhaps lean a little too hard into Billie Eilish territory, but they make excellent use of vocal production tools, sampling their voices and turning them into rhythmic features. The mix leaves enough space for every sleek synth and crisp clap, while still creating an overall effect that feels dark and brooding. The lyrics are not the focus here; they serve to establish and contribute to a vibe. I mean this as a compliment: these are main-character-syndrome tracks, pop songs that make you want to imagine your life as a movie filled with drama, despair and long drives to nowhere in particular.

Debby FridayGOOD LUCK

It would be hard to find a more confident debut than DEBBY FRIDAY’s GOOD LUCK (Sub Pop). After two EPs, the Nigerian-born artist and producer arrives with a full-length project that is almost astonishing in its fully-formed conception, asserting FRIDAY’s industrial-party sound as one of the most exciting in the current Canadian music scene. GOOD LUCK is a high-intensity rush, made for both the dancefloor and the bedroom. “Don’t you fuck it up,” FRIDAY intones over throttling snares on the album opener, a mission statement for an album that doesn’t disappoint. 

FRIDAY, who has lived in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, was inspired to write this record after her nightlife lifestyle imploded in 2017. The album’s throughline is a back-and-forth between certainty and uncertainty. On the exquisite pop song “So Hard To Tell,” FRIDAY gives advice to a younger version of herself. “Lady Friday, all you do is rebel,” she sings over an extremely catchy vocal loop. Meanwhile, “I Got It,” featuring Chris Vargas of Uñas, is a hard-hitting club track, all bravado and kick drum. 

FRIDAY is sometimes playful, sometimes vulnerable. “Hot Love” turns pain into punk catharsis, as darkwave synths are overwhelmed by a shrieking chorus. “Safe” finds her quieter; “So scared to check if you’re still there,” she sings, her voice pitched down. Album closer “Wake Up” refuses a quiet conclusion: with layered vocalizations and glitching noise, FRIDAY keeps you hanging on until the sound stops, and the sun rises.