Montreal

VIDEO PREMIERE

Alexia Avina - All That I Can't See

By Abigail Clyne

Like the recording of the Montreal musician’s album, Alexia Avina’s video for the track “All That I Can’t See” takes to the countryside; this time to make art with the body. Shot on film, the video grounds the track, a meditation on the fears and anxieties that envelope us. The acoustic guitar and sparse vocals pair beautifully with dancer Stephanie Jacco’s organic movement in field and pond as she dreamily dances about in a white cotton dress. She yearns to escape her fallible human body, “If I were a lake / my body wouldn’t break / beneath it’s own weight.” Sometimes dancing in nature can be the best balm for the anxieties of life. 

INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW: Corridor

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By Phillipe Roberts

Photography by Julia Leiby

Digging through the sprawl of YouTube thumbnails, I decode a video title using the shriveled remains of my high school French, and see myself in the crowd watching Corridor as they tear through a blistering set closer at Montreal’s L’Escogriffe. Somewhat. Darker skin in a dark room isn’t the best for video resolution, but through the sticky heat, I can make out the exact spot in the crowd where my melted mind took in the rush of the still-unreleased Corridor song rolling over us. Where, at 3:35 in the video, I helped lift a gentleman in his 70s up and over the front row, hurling him back into the waiting arms of the cheering bodies behind me. The green glow of the strobe flickers, and he’s swept away - frolicking in the waves of strong hands as the music spirals overhead. 

“That’s my roommate’s father,” bassist and vocalist Dominic Berthiaume explains. I’m sitting with Corridor in First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, where Corridor are unwinding in the sanctuary green room before the final show of a short tour with rising indie upstarts Crumb. We sit scattered in the pews after their soundcheck, and Dominic gives me a brief lesson in Montréal scene mythology. “He produces our albums and is famous in the scene. He goes to the shows of every band that his son worked with, takes photos, and gets wild. And once he gets wild, everyone in the room goes off.” Guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Robert tucks a curl back under his hat and chimes in. “That was our fifth anniversary show, so he really went for it; he took the mic and started screaming into it, just rocking harder than anyone,” he says, “But we played our first show ever at L’Esco and we’re happy the celebration there was something special.” 

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Alongside L’Escogriffe, which has tripled in size from the small 100 capacity venue that nurtured the band, Corridor has blossomed into a staple of Montreal’s music scene. While the scene may face the same demographic challenges that plague all burgeoning DIY communities - Dominic briefly laments the shift away from house shows due to gentrification and the accompanying noise complaints - Jonathan focuses on the continued inspiration of seeing “waves of young people moving to Montreal to make loud art,” much as they did six years ago.

For these new arrivals, Corridor’s sound is a warm - if not entirely familiar - welcome home, a lesson on generating novel returns from a time-tested formula. The quartet, rounded out by Julian Perreault’s razor sharp lead guitar and Julien Bakvis’s metronomic swagger behind the drum kit, play an unusually bright take on post-punk, leaning heavy on the treble as the two guitarists weave hypnotic arpeggiations over an effortlessly punchy rhythm section. Corridor’s music is flooded with lyrical themes of transcendence, awakening, and escape, tucked away inside songs of almost traditionalist devotion to the all-consuming power of the chiming, nostalgic guitar riff. On 2017’s Supermercado, there’s the ecstatic six-string buildup of mid-album stunner “Data Fontaine,” and the sugary New Wave lead on the effortlessly romantic “L’espoir sans fin.” Or how “Demain déjà” slides seamlessly from the jagged bravado of its slashing opening chords into twinkling notes that gradually wink out into the night, sounding like a twisted collaboration between the Byrds and Joy Division. This is a band that knows and loves the power of the instrumental outro, who can rock out with the best of them without ever lapsing into prog-rock silliness. 

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Wedged between Camp Howard’s 90s slacker pop wanderings and Crumb’s chilled-out psychedelia, Corridor’s live intensity would feel out of place if the unsuspecting crowd wasn’t fully enthralled by the second song, a particularly rowdy take on Supermercado single “Coup d’épée.” Cheers from the room egg on Dominic, who asks if there are any French speakers on the audience. A few excited folks howl in approval, contrasted with a few half-hearted “Oui”s and some nervous laughter as burgeoning fans snap into awareness that, no, the PA wasn’t acting up. The band laughs, tunes, and carries on. 

This is a regular occurrence for Corridor, who are used to smashing through the language barrier night after night. But this particular tour has been full of new milestones and highlights for the band, not the least of which is managing to sleep on beds for every night of the tour. “That was a first,” Jonathan laughs, “We still have to share beds, but we’ve gotten way better at planning it out.” All credit to Dominic’s vastly expanded AirBnb game, which also netted them a pair of new fans along the way. “We were staying in Richmond and booked two nights in one spot. We told the guy we were staying with that we were in a band and he was really excited,” he explains. “His daughter had a pair of tickets to our show, and ended up taking him with her when her friend cancelled. He didn’t realize it was us playing until we talked about playing a second show, and he ran up to the merch table raving to buy a shirt right after.” Corridor is for the family. 

Mixing on the band’s third album is slated to begin as soon as they return to Montreal, and you can feel a renewed energy coursing through them as they discuss the still-untitled record. “It was kind of a rushed recording,” Dominic says, the pew squeaking beneath him as he adjusts his posture. “We were in the studio for 30 days, with one day off per week.” I ask them to describe the new sound in a word or two. The band puzzles over the question. Chins are stroked. Glasses are cleaned. Jonathan gives it a shot. “Wacky?” A chuckle of agreement from Julian and Julien. Jonathan elaborates, “We had a few days to work on arrangements and we ended up putting in lots of samples.” Dominic cuts in, “Car crashes. F1 racing. Bottles breaking on the ground. Sampling from Felix the Cat.” He’s giddy at how much this clearly leaves unsaid, a wild look in his eye at how ridiculous this sounds given their tightly focused rock sound. I admit that I’m surprised, and, as a fan, even a bit nervous. “Don’t worry,” says Jonathan, with the quickest of smirks, “You'll recognize us.” 

Second-hand anxiety be damned; the strongest crowd reactions of the night come from a pair of new tunes with no samples to be found. The first takes their fixation on mantra-like incantations to new heights, bending a repetitive phrase around two clashing chords to the effect of a grittier Panda Bear tune. The second hones their signature twin-guitar attack to its sharpest point, an explosive melody that calls to mind Deerhunter’s spaced out jams, taken at a breakneck pace. Both are absolutely thrilling, and left the crowd in awed disarray. Throw down on all the Felix the Cat samples you want, Corridor. We might be shoveling sweat out of our eyes from dancing, but we’ll recognize you. 

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VIDEO PREMIERE

Best Fern - When I Die

Gerard Marcus

I first encountered Best Fern last September when ThrdCoast went up to the 2017 POP Montreal festival and filmed a live session with them (if you dig their vibes, check out the video here). The dream-pop duo, consisting of Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield, immediately intrigued me with their ethereal sound and use of ambiance. Their music had a real since of place, albeit a place comfortably nestled between the realms of reality and fantasy. 

The new video for their latest single, ‘When I Die,’ is a fitting visual counterpart to Best Fern’s sound. Filmed and edited by Luke Orlando, the collection of super8 footage flickers like the last images of someone fading away into a peaceful eternity. It's a contemplative setting perfect for pondering the track's themes of longing and existence. The video also enhances a certain element of timelessness that’s present in the song. At two minutes and 32 seconds it's certainly not the longest song in the world, but watching the video I feel almost suspended in time, like I suddenly found myself walking from a gaseous environment into a liquid. This might be my favorite part about both the track and the video–they offer a brief respite from the world around me.

REVIEW: Pompey - More is Less

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Raquel Dalarossa

Pompey is a singer-songwriter, otherwise known only as "Alex KS," who has been releasing music under the moniker since early 2016. With six EPs under his belt, one would think he might be overdue to release a full-length by now, but, as the title of his latest release appropriately indicates, sometimes it's best to keep things simple.

More is Less is a new five-track collection that adds to a growing catalog of thoughtful and thoughtfully crafted bedroom pop. Recorded with the help of Thanya Iyer and Daniel Gelinas, at the latter's own studio, it's a far cry from Pompey's first release (which was recorded on an iPhone), but feels just as intimate. The vocals sound, consistently, very close to the ear, and the instrumentation is minimal—a grungy electric guitar is paired with playful synths and supporting percussion.

The approach results in a faithful emphasis on the singer's softly spoken, vulnerable vocals and unassuming lyrics. Opening song "Fractions" is, as we said in our premiere a few months back, "refreshingly straightforward and relatable." As it turns out, much of the EP hews to that description. In "Cincihappy," we get a glimpse into one of those rare moments where faith in one’s self and faith in the universe collide, as he sings "I'm pretty happy / Everything seems fine / I'm not in a rush / To figure it out." Right after that, though, we hear a much more reticent and run-down version of the singer as he confides, "Sometimes all I want to do is lay in bed and watch Friends on Netflix."

The centerpiece, though, is the nearly seven minute-long "Give In." Showcasing how mindsets and moods can turn in a moment, the song starts out with an anxious, droning intro that feels a bit like being stuck in a loop of self-conscious thoughts; then, it slows down dramatically, like a self-imposed intervention in which we take a deep breath and "take it one step at a time." Finally, the track picks up some confidence and pace midway through, but Pompey struggles to commit to that confidence, wavering between the mantras “I’m not giving up” and “I’m not good enough.”

Pompey's greatest talent is turning the prosaic into poetry. The simplicity of his writing is precisely what allows it to feel so recognizable and stirring. When all is said and done, he's right—more really would be less. 

REVIEW: Thanya Iyer - Do You Dream? Mixtape

Raquel Dalarossa

Montreal's Thanya Iyer calls her music "future folk." It's an apt categorization, not least because the future is, by definition, full of endless possibilities. Iyer—a vocalist, composer, producer, and bandleader—crafts music that is fanciful and roaming, incorporating bits of soul, jazz, electronica, and pop to build her own version of the future.

Formally, her band includes friends Daniel Gélinas and Alex Kasirer-Smibert, but the trio recruit plenty of contributors to complete their ambitiously lush sound. The experimental group will put anything at their disposal in an effort to enhance the textures in their music; on Iyer's debut album, Do You Dream?, released two years ago, Gélinas is credited for playing "dried clementine peels," but the percussionist can also be seen in a live video using two bowls of water for instruments.

Now, in a cassette mixtape put together for Topshelf Records, the band has revisited their album with fresh minds and fresh appetites for ever more exploration. The result includes three thoughtfully reimagined tracks and two new ones that dial back Iyer's orchestral tendencies in favor of something more intimate in character. Aided by the "Mawmz" choir (Brigitte Naggar, Shelby Cohen, Sarah Rossy), the tracks here have an especially dreamlike, ethereal quality when compared to their original album versions, but Iyer’s vocals remain the anchor to the constantly expanding and evolving landscape of sounds. 

"Daydreaming" gains a full minute of gauzy, sleepy rumination, while "Bridges" becomes an after-hours jam, the hushed vocals, atmospheric hums, and heartbeat-like drumming blending together like muted, watercolor tones on a creamy canvas. “Not Warm / Not Cold” jumps between choral a cappella sections and noisy maximalist ones before nestling into a warm nook, where Iyer’s honeyed, soulful vocals sit atop a bed of gently played keys and hi-hats. Finally, the two new tracks, "Water" and "Solace," round out the collection, the former full of inviting intrigue and mystery, and the latter a space-age lullaby.

With the tracks all bleeding into one another, they feel more like vignettes than fully formed songs per se, which means the mixtape is best enjoyed uninterrupted. But who would want to interrupt this all too short and tender ride through Thanya Iyer's imagination anyway?