Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth

The Ghanaian-Australian artist shines on his ambitious and musically kaleidoscopic debut.

Genesis Owusu is a musical tour-de-force, and he’s only just arrived. With his debut, Smiling with No Teeth, the Ghanaian-Australian artist has delivered an experimental opus with an insanely impressive and absolutely electrifying avant-garde nature.

It’s very rare for an artist this early in their career to have such a refined musical palette and dynamic vision, but Owusu has just that.

He’s got clear influences from all over the musical spectrum, from hip hop to new wave, jazz and funk to R&B and post-punk – even including some industrial elements. Smiling with No Teeth somehow brings all of these pre-existing contrasting influences together and creates a completely unique soundscape – a blend of all of these familiar elements, culminating in a remarkable collage of influences that somehow co-exist in perfect harmony.

He can easily go from channelling Prince on one track to channelling the visceral shouting of Death Grips’ MC Ride on the next. His music and vocal delivery are as fluid as can be, and his mastery of every style and genre in his repertoire is incredibly impressive and equally entrancing.

It helps that lyrically and thematically, this project is airtight throughout as well, exploring both the demons that plague Owusu as an individual and those that plague society as a whole. He manages to fit seemingly cathartic moments of commentary on mental health, racism and substance abuse, among other things, within often up-tempo tracks, like on the LP’s second track “The Other Black Dog.”

This juxtaposition of often upbeat instrumentation against the darkness that Owusu’s lyricism tends to highlight isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it is an incredibly nuanced way to exemplify the album’s core concept.

Smiling with No Teeth may seem as random a title as any, but when you get to the root of the music, the title is an allegory for the thematic and stylistic nature of the music. A closed smile is often forced and used to hide feelings other than genuine happiness, which, in a way, is exactly what the lively nature of a good amount of this album’s soundscape represents: a veil of fun, with the lyrics’ true darkness hiding behind it.

This is an LP that not only checks every box but goes outside of these boxes and finds ways to achieve even more. It would be a magnificent body of work for any artist, but for a debut album, this is beyond spectacular.

To liken Genesis Owusu to a chameleon in that regard would be a disservice to exactly what he has accomplished here. It’s not he who adapts to the genres incorporated in his music, but it is him that forces the elements he takes from these genres to bend to his will and fit his sound. He’s not just impressive, his virtuosity at this stage in his career is practically unheard of, and if this album is any indication, he has the potential to become a generational talent.


Trial Track: “The Other Black Dog”



Anemone brings the sun

The Montreal pop band was conceived in the west, born in the east

“I’ve been playing music all of my life, and I had friends who were doing music as a living,” said Chloé Soldevila, the creator and songwriter of Anemone. “I always had this weird conception in my mind that I couldn’t do it.”

The Montreal band came to La Sala Rossa on Friday, Feb. 15 to launch their debut album, Beat My Distance. Their sound is serene pop at its centre, with Soldevilla’s bright vocals enveloped in psychedelic instrumentation from her band. The group started with six members on stage, including an extra percussionist, and became more and more numerous throughout the night.

Soldevila was raised around classical music and formally educated in jazz, but held herself back from stepping into the scene herself. She had been travelling in California in the summer of 2015, tagging along to music festivals with friends who were in bands. Her conception of the music scene turned on a dime. “I remember being at a festival, in the artist space with all these people who are in big bands,” said Soldevila. “And in my young mind it was like ‘ah they are so special,’ and then I talked to them, and I hung out with them, and I realized, well, you know, we’re just all the same,” she said. Soldevila wanted to bring the sound and the sun back to her home in Montreal. “There’s not just sea and sunshine and positiv[ity] on the west coast,” she said. “It’s all over the world. It’s a genre of music that exists everywhere.”

Anemone was born after that summer, when Soldevila met Zach Irving at a show at Poisson Noir, a DIY venue in Mile Ex where Irving was playing organ. “It’s really been natural,” said Irving. They began working on an album as they recruited Miles Dupire-Gagnon, Gabriel Lambert and Samuel Gemme. “I was looking for people who had that do-whatever-you-want vibe,” said Soldevila. They were based in Montreal, making music tinged with the west-coast psychedelia that had inspired her during her Californian summer. “It’s a benefit that we live in minus twenty, cause all of the music that we made, we made it in the winter. Honestly, you’re so depressed, you need something to kind of pull you out of the water, so you really appreciate that music,” she said.

Irving going in on keys. Photo by Simon New

After four years of work, and their debut Beat My Distance just released, the band admits the tape doesn’t quite capture what it’s like to see them live. “The album has a bit of a red-light vibe where it’s like ‘recording!’ and then you get a little constrained in a way, because you kind of freak out,” said Irving. “You’re sticking to the formula. Live, we don’t have a formula.”

Lambert with equal parts shred and smolder. Photo by Simon New

When Anemone took the stage, it felt like a free-for-all in a musically triumphant way. There was camaraderie, shredding and champagne. Soldevila led the pack, but every single band member took the group in their own direction at one point. As if they had discovered something and wanted to share it on stage with their friends, the band’s sincere interconnectedness allowed them to trust each each other to explore uncharted territory. Soldevilla would be dancing or riffing on vocals and have the jam coalesce around her. You could see a deep smile come across her face when she discovered, as the audience did, a new and interesting groove. The crowd loved it, and the band minced no words about how essential they were.

Soldevila catching a vibe from stage right. Photo by Simon New

“Most people don’t realize that they’re part of the magic that’s happening around them,” said Irving. “Exactly, and that for me is so important to share, and I don’t know how to tell them,” said Soldevilla. “I’m terrible at talking on the microphone. So the only thing we can do is show them, and it’s tricky, so I hope they get it.” Indeed, she let her actions speak, save for a few moments in the act. “Thank you!” said Soldevila to the fixated crowd. “It’s all for you.”


French experimental band: La Femme

La Femme combines French yé-yé with a 60s California vibe of psychedelic rock

I will always remember the first time I heard La Femme—it made me see music from another perspective. At the time, I was on exchange in Westfield, N.J., when a local student named Andrew said, “Do you know ‘La Femme’? They are really good. Give them a listen.” The disturbing yet fascinating melody of “Antitaxi,” which incorporates taxi honks and bus brakes with psychedelic pop sounds, played in the background as we rode to his house. Less than an hour later, Psycho Tropical Berlin, La Femme’s debut album, was already part of my playlist.

From the numerous genres they experiment with, to the lyrical topics they dive into, or from the cold-yet-sincere and eye-opening atmosphere they create musically, to their clothing style—ranging from three-piece tuxedos, to Sex Pistols torn jeans and leather jackets—La Femme is one of a kind. The group describes their music as limitless and without a specific style or distinct voice. Aside from their full-time lead female singer, the band features the singing voices of different women on many songs—according to their online biography. It’s a singularity that rapidly got me hooked.

La Femme is a sextet initially created by high school friends Marlon Magnée and Sacha Got in France’s Basque region—Europe’s surf capital. Magnée, who is on vocals and plays the synthesizer, moved to Paris, followed by Got. Back in 2010, La Femme began their journey in Paris, where they met the other bandmates: Noé Delmas, the drummer; Sam Lefèvre, the bassist; Lucas Nuñez Ritter, who plays the synth; and Clémence Quélennec, a vocalist.

La Femme’s genre may be undefinable, but elements of different styles are recurrent between La Femme’s Psycho Tropical Berlin and Mystère, their second and newest album. The group’s influences stem from California’s surf music and the 60s French yé-yé style, which reinterprets English songs in French. From one album to the next, the band has deepened their psychedelic and post-punk tones, evolving and adding to their style.

Over the past 15 years, French radio stations have been marked by a great amount of foreign music, mostly from the U.S. There were few French pop-rock bands that rose and stood out between the dominant French variety—which consists of songs with French-driven lyrics and poetic structure, or French rap. Yet, La Femme, with their distinct sounds, have stepped up in France, overseas and even have a  presence in the U.S.

Their popularity has also risen due to the topics they write about, such as suicide, gender neutrality, psychedelic drugs, women, depression and the sometimes ugly realities of life. Their songs, written as short narratives, carry listeners through the life of a protagonist, usually a woman, making the listeners feel their despair or joy in raising awareness about social causes.

Album cover for Mystère, La Femme’s second album.

Here is a list of some of my personal favourite songs:

“Tueurs de fleurs” from Mystère

In “Tueurs de fleurs,” which translates to flower killers, La Femme touches on the sensitive subject of conjugal violence directed towards women, using the metaphor of women as flowers being poorly looked after or mistreated by their “owners.” In the end, the flowers grow strong in the dark and become carnivorous plants taking their revenge on their abusers.

“From Tchernobyl with love” from Psycho Tropical Berlin

In the form of a letter sent by a liquidator at the Chernobyl power plant to his family somewhere in past USSR, La Femme puts emphasis on the people directly exposed to the nuclear waste in the aftermath of the explosion. In the letter, the man, who tries to stay positive, describes his daily life as “a mission: destroy everything,” before saying the gamma rays are more important than his own flesh. The band uses a vintage synthesized voice resembling radio voices of the time, perfectly transporting the listener to that era.

“Si un jour” from Psycho Tropical Berlin

This song aims to break gender labels using the story of a woman living in France during the 50s and 60s. The protagonist enumerates simple fantasies, like smoking all day, wearing trousers, spitting or walking and whistling, which shape her gender-neutral identity. Yet, she is faced with people telling her to go back to sewing, to not play with the ball meant for boys and demanding she put her skirt back on. In the end, she trades in her Moulinex—a 60s kitchen utensil with the slogan “freeing the woman”—for a leather jacket and a Harley Davidson. Now she is ready to beat up anybody who criticizes her choices.

Special mentions

A special mention should go to “Mycose,” from Mystère, which explores the delicate subject of vaginal mycosis, commonly referred to as a vaginal yeast infection. In the song it affects a woman who wishes nothing but for it to go away. She departs from Earth to another planet in hope of the mycosis to go away. “Le Blues de Françoise,” from Psycho Tropical Berlin, touches the depression that can occur after a break-up. Finally, “Sphynx,” from Mystère, aims to spread the message that differences should not divide us. It uses the image of taking acid as a means to unify everybody under one universe during an mind-opening experience. La Femme will remain a mystery, and their music will keep on carrying me and other listeners to the rhythm of their uniqueness.

Music Quickspins

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana  (Flightless/ATO, 2017)

Australian psych-rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard brings forth an unusual psychedelic 60s rock inspired album. This record will take you on a hypnotizing trip to a place where world music fuses with psychedelic sounds. If you play this record at a social gathering, people will instantly ask where this music comes from. Their track “Billabong Valley” features the sitar guitar, a traditional musical instrument from India. The song blends psychedelic rock with traditional Indian music rather smoothly. “Open Water” also features the sitar guitar, but it’s complemented by 60s garage guitar riffs. Their track “Anoxia” also combines rock and world music that can put the best of us in a haze. In “Doom City,” you’ll hear a heavy bassline and various electronic and guitar sounds. It’s a confusing ballad that sounds bizarre and yet astonishing. Flying Microtonal Banana is a world of its own for us to discover.

Trial Track: “Billabong Valley”



Beginner’s guide to 60s garage rock

A time machine back to 60s youth culture along with the best albums and hits

In 1972—45 years ago, now—legendary music writer, producer and guitarist for the Patti Smith group, Lenny Kaye, teamed up with Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman to put together a compilation which would forever change the scope of music to come. The compilation in question was Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, a two-disc assemblage of 27 of the best American garage rock cuts released between 1965 and 1968. Not only did this collection prove to a myriad of aspiring musicians that instrumental mastery isn’t all it takes to make great music, catalyzing the punk scene of the 70s. It also installed the long-bygone garage rock genre—one which was often downplayed in its time by music critics as being overly simple and childish—as a legitimate and respected one. Nuggets shines a light on a horde of forgotten acts whose music would influence generations to come, and serves as gold-standard collector’s item for record enthusiasts.

Though garage rock music is instantly recognizable, it’s incredibly difficult to stifle down to a singular definition. This is due to the great creativity of the genre’s bands as a result of the DIY nature of the music. Styles such as blues, R&B, rock and roll and especially the British-Invasion music of the early 60s, led by groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, played a large role in shaping these groups’ sounds. Garage rock instrumentation would usually consist of vocals, guitars, bass and drums. The genre would often feature a small organ and heavy psychedelic effects which fell in line with the drug craze of the late 60s. This collision of older music styles with the careless, drug-fueled sentiment of the time enabled these bands to create truly unique sounds which now act as a crucial snapshot of the era.

In retrospect, it’s clear that mid-60s garage was very much a singles-dominated style. While many groups recorded one or two major hits, their output often capped there. Bands such as L.A.’s the Standells, whose raving ode to Boston, “Dirty Water,” stands not only as one of the best garage rock songs ever recorded, but as one of the best period. The Electric Prunes, whose eerily psychedelic “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” shares similar credentials, and stands as prime a example of this phenomenon.

Todd Rundgren’s group, Nazz, is perhaps the most interesting example of this happening. Formed in Philadelphia in 1967, the group caught their big break opening for the Doors later that year. Despite releasing three commercially-shunned LPs, the band now stands as one of the most influential garage groups of all time. Their acclaim stems from their 1968 single “Open My Eyes,” a track which blended swirling psychedelia with raving pop melodies into a mind-boggling perfection, and helped pioneer styles such as power pop, while acting as the blueprint for Rundgren’s fruitful solo career. In fact, “Hello It’s Me,” the single’s B-side, was later redone by Rundgren in 1973, and became arguably his biggest commercial success.

To call garage rock a singles-led style is not to discount the importance of the LPs that came out of the era. Indeed, a plethora of groups found success past the single and went on to record cohesive records which proved equally vital in marking the era. Texas-based band The 13th Floor Elevators stand as arguably the most important example. Often credited with inventing psychedelic rock as we know it, 1966’s trippy proto-punk opus, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, proved massively influential to generations of musicians to come and is now considered a seminal piece of modern music.

Fellow psychedelic purveyors, the Music Machine, led by the legendary Sean Bonniwell, is another group whose success surpassed 45s, as the group shined a light on pop’s dar

ker side in its iconic, mellotron-driven 1966 release (Turn On) The Music Machine. On the other end of the spectrum lie LA’s the Seeds, who earned plaudits with their 1966 self-titled effort. The record utilised sun-soaked, acid-fried melodies to convey tales of youthful frustration. Other notable groups to reach this level of withstanding album success are Boston’s the Remains (The Remains, 1966), whose knack for pop songwriting matched their keen musical abilities, and Seattle’s the Sonics (Here Are The Sonics, 1965), who were much heavier than any other group of the era. These aforementioned groups, as well as countless others, played a key role in establishing the garage rock style as more than snotty kids recording poorly-performed covers in their parents’ basements.

The fact that garage rock has stayed relevant for so long and is still played in abundance around the world today speaks volumes about its cultural significance. The boom in popularity of this musical style can be largely attributed to Lenny Kaye and his Nuggets compilation, which was the first to shine a positive light on this music following its fading-away in the late-60s. Not only did garage rock music provide an interesting snapshot of late 1960s youth culture, but it offered an innumerable amount of kids a musical voice they never knew they had.

Recommended Albums:

  1. The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (International Artists, 1967)
  2. The Music Machine – (Turn On) The Music Machine (Original Sound, 1966)
  3. The Remains – The Remains (Epic, 1966)
  4. The Seeds – The Seeds (GNP Crescendo, 1966)
  5. The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics (Etiquette, 1965)
  6. The Monks – Black Monk Time (Polydor, 1966)
  7. ? & the Mysterians – 96 Tears (Cameo-Parkway, 1966)
  8. The Count Five – Psychotic Reaction (Double Shot, 1966)
  9. The Shadows of Knight – Gloria (Dunwich, 1966)
  10. The Chocolate Watchband – No Way Out (Tower, 1967)

Recommended Singles (From non-album groups):

  1. “Dirty Water”: The Standells (Tower, 1965)
  2. “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)”: The Electric Prunes (Reprise, 1966)
  3. “Respect”: The Vagrants (Atco, 1967)
  4. “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”: The Blues Magoos (Mercury, 1966)
  5. “Open My Eyes”: Nazz (SGC, 1968)
  6. “She’s About A Mover”: Sir Douglas Quintet (Tribe, 1965)
  7. “A Public Execution”: Mouse and the Traps (Fraternity, 1965)
  8. “The Trip”: Kim Fowley (Corby, 1965)
  9. “Liar, Liar”: The Castaways (Soma, 1965)
  10. “Action Woman”: The Litter (Scotty, 1967)

The visionary realm of Ky∆zMa

Electronic-folk duo from Montreal launches new album, The Magician’s Mirror

Enter the visionary realm of  Ky∆zMa, an electronic-folk duo from Montreal that will bring magical ballads to your eardrums. William Moon is the guitarist, electro beat producer and vocalist, and Christina Enigma does vocals and piano. They released their debut album, The Magician’s Mirror, on Oct. 27 at Casa Del Popolo. The duo wanted their release party to combine multiple artists and art forms. “We thought of all our friends who do performance art of any sort and who have worked with us before on shows that we organize,” said Enigma. There were many musicians as well as people in theatre, puppetry and circus. “The show was very open and did not have much structure. We wanted it to have a more natural and dynamic appeal,” said Moon. “The 27th of October is the birthday of both our mothers, so it also was a gift to them” said Enigma.

Moon is originally from Ottawa and Enigma is from Brantford, Ont. They both moved to Montreal to pursue their careers in music. Moon graduated from Concordia University in 2013, with a degree in philosophy. “I worked on music independently since I moved to Montreal from Ottawa and spent more time doing electronic music than studying” said Moon. Enigma graduated from Laurier University, majoring in kinesiology and psychology. The duo met as roommates in 2008 when Enigma first moved to Montreal. Both Enigma and Moon were founding members of an experimental choir. “We would jam and sing together at choirs with other musicians in the Mile End,” said Enigma. It was in 2012 that they decided to organize their first show together.

“We had to come up with a name for the show and we called it Chiasma. A month or two later, we started the band,” said Moon. They used the name of the show as their band name and further on changed the spelling to suit them. At first, they each had apprehensions about joining forces. “It was the electro component that I wasn’t certain about” said Enigma.

Their band’s name, Ky∆zMa, refers to the optic chiasma, which is the X-shaped structure formed at the point below the brain where two optic nerves cross over each other. “ Ky∆zMa refers to different concepts crossing paths together—bringing different ideas and forms of art to create an ultimate experience,” said Moon. Their mixture of electronic and classical music reinforces this theme. “It’s a mix of the future with the past—electro representing the future and classical instruments representing the past,” he said.

Christina Enigma and William Moon enjoying the light after the darkness. Photo by Kinga Michalska

Their first show’s concept combined different features of art—they didn’t want it to be a simple band and audience performance. “We wanted less of ‘on the stage in the spotlight’ and more “Diagon Alley (Harry Potter) meets troll market down the rabbit hole in Wonderland,” said Enigma. There was no official line up other than  Ky∆zMa playing on stage followed by a communal jam. “There were solo anti-performances of harp, accordion, beat boxing and a witchy loop extravaganza,” said Enigma. Ghostly Hounds, a local witch-folk band and the Fruiting Bodies, a local acappella trio which two of their members are Concordia students, also joined in on the communal jam. All this lead up to a bondage performance that happened as Ky∆zMa started playing, as well as guest dancers who jumped up on stage.

Moon did his thesis on collective cognition, which he said has had an influence on the band’s music. The song “Magician Man” is inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. “Sometimes philosophy gets in the lyrics,” Moon said. Other influences come from music festivals, nature, exploring the forest and taking psychedelics, which drop people into deeper levels of consciousness, said Enigma.

In August 2015, the duo wanted to travel and go on tour on the West Coast. They spontaneously hit the road and tried to find gigs as they went along. “It was a difficult tour, but overall a good learning experience. We played shows in San Francisco, Reno and got to play three shows at the Burning Man music festival which is the largest Art Festival in North America and one of the top 10 festivals in the world,” said Enigma.

Their new album, The Magician’s Mirror, reflects on facing fears and realizing there’s always an infinite amount of outlooks and perspectives. “The album is about love and fear—it’s about experiencing the light at the end of darkness,” said Moon. “The beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Enigma said. “You can perceive it the way you want.” The album’s songs were largely written before the duo even started the band. “We did a lot of work through the recording process to work out arrangements, melodies and harmonies, like the piano,” said Moon.

Photo by Kinga Michalska

The Magician’s Mirror ballads take you to another world, one where your body dances in a trance. On their track “The Circle,” the melody is addictive—the acoustic guitar riffs along with the electronic beat sound just right together. Overall, the album aims towards conscious evolution. “The lyrics are profound, experiential and emotive. It’s an experience to listen to them,” said Enigma. “The Circle” was released on Sept. 25 at Divan Orange for Pop Montreal. “We shot ‘The Circle’’s music video in one afternoon,” said Enigma.

Enigma said she enjoys being theatrical and wearing costumes during her performances. “Sometimes, when you put on a mask, you become more of your real self,” she said. Whether it’s by wearing a creepy mask or using gizmos that make creepy sounds, Enigma loves to spread the magic around.  Ky∆zMa believes the more art during their performances, the better. “Live painting, tarot reading, anything that can get our audience to participate is key,” said Enigma. The duo would love to have their music bring them around the world. “I want to travel with our music and we want people to want our records,” said Moon. “We are also trying to learn how to make our performances closer to a DJ experience,” he said.

Ky∆zMa’s words of advice for aspiring musicians: do music for yourself. “Don’t be doing it for others—they are going to want different things. It’s going to be hard to cover all these grounds if you are not true to yourself,” they said.

Stay tuned for their upcoming shows and check out their new music video for  “The Circle.”

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