Corey Gulkin - Half Moon
On Half Moon (Anything Bagel), Corey Gulkin is comfortable in uncertainty. The follow-up to 2018’s All the Things I’ll Forget finds the Montreal-based singer-songwriter self-assured in their wandering and steering clear of predetermined paths. “I’m not hurtling towards anything / for the first time,” Gulkin sings on the album’s second-to-last track, “Thirty-One.”
Gulkin’s songs grapple with questions of harm and healing, looking for ways of becoming better—or, perhaps, just different. Musically, the tracks have a restless sensibility. On “Aquarium,” Gulkin tries to get a handle on themselves as the chorus skips into double-time. The heavy guitars and dramatic drum fills of “Raya” underscore a story of a queer love that burns out just as it gets started. “Faceless Woman” has an almost frenzied feel, the busy instrumentation matching the lyrics’ dramatic narrative of a careerist who literally can’t see herself in the mirror. Despite this, the song also manages to be uplifting, a catchy rebuke of corporate liars and girlboss feminism. On album closer “Breaking the Distance,” Gulkin reiterates that growth is a process: “I am waiting til I am ready.” Half Moon, arriving six years after their last LP, is proof that it’s worth taking all the time you need.
Ciel - Homesick
Cindy Li, a mainstay in Toronto’s dance music scene, has called herself a “DJ first, producer second.” Homesick (Parallel Lines), her debut album as Ciel, is deeply influenced by dance music—drawing on techno, house and drum and bass—but also feels like the kind of work that can only come out of time spent away from the dance floor, digging through archives of sounds and sculpting them into something uncanny and new.
Li conceived the record as a response to the anti-Chinese sentiment that emerged during Covid-19, using her frustration as an opportunity to explore the history and multiplicity of Chinese music. Chinese instruments are traditionally grouped into eight categories based on the materials they are historically made of—such as bamboo, clay and stone—and Li follows this classification system as a theme on each track, even teaching herself to play hand drums for the project. Homesick is a seamless merging of live performance and electronics, as Li distorts and transforms the organic world to create her own idiosyncratic reality. Li plays with the juxtaposition of soft and harsh sounds: “Metal” begins with a low distorted rumble before bringing in glitching, menacing metallics, which are then offset by clear, echoing bells. On “Wood,” serene vocal samples, rippling percussion and rustling breaths create an immersive atmosphere. Homesick is a spacious record: sounds drip, develop and reverberate throughout each track. If you close your eyes while listening, you could almost be in an underground warehouse somewhere, with a party unfolding all around you.
G.R. Gritt - Prisms
Two-Spirit artist G.R. Gritt describes Prisms (Minotan Music) as “an album of queer love songs.” Their definition of a love song is expansive and multifaceted, as Prisms encompasses themes like kinship, resilience and celebration. Gritt takes a collaborative approach to love, working with a different featured artist for each composition. On the sultry “Turtle Island Thighs,” singer-songwriter Lacey Hill sings about a woman who fell from the sky, an interpretation of the Sky Woman creation myth, with her and Gritt building on each other’s contributions as they trade off on verses. On the catchy “Turnin’ It Up,” Sudbury musician and producer Tessa Balaz sings alongside Gritt about sensuality and intimacy, accompanied by a bouncy synth riff. The standout track is “Prism,” a joint effort with Rosina Kazi of electronic duo LAL that departs from the album’s otherwise poppy production for a moodier, dub-inspired sound. A vocal sample stutters in the background while Kazi sings, “I am like a prism / shine your light through me.” This spirit runs through the whole project: with Prisms, Gritt provides a space for their collaborators—and, in turn, for themselves—to shine.
Markus Floats - Fourth Album
With Fourth Album (Constellation), electronic musician Markus Lake, who works under the name Markus Floats, has stepped outside of the box, moving away from his previously solo electronic releases to involve live recordings and other performers. Lake initially composed the material alone and then brought it to Ari Swan, Lucas Huang and James Goddard of experimental group Egyptian Cotton Arkestra, who improvised to Lake’s drafts and added density to his soundscapes. The result is a bustling record, brimming with ideas and full of life.
On “Introduction,” Lake begins the album with lively synths before a mass of sinister sonics descends. “Death” and “Death (Pt. 2)” provide two differing yet compatible approaches to the subject of mortality. The former features upbeat electronics and cymbal flourishes, while on the second part, a low drone is joined by Goddard’s elegiac saxophone. Album closer “C” further departs from Lake’s previous recordings, featuring the sampled voice of poet and scholar Fred Moten alongside sombre strings. “What we’ve been trying to figure out how to get to is how we are when we get together to try to figure it out,” Moten says as the strings pull back, revealing the clarity of his voice. In this sense, Fourth Album perhaps stages a process of figuring—where what matters is the vitality and momentum of the process itself.