Oh! Canada makes a long overdue return to look back at some of our favourite releases from some of Canada’s finest artists, shining a light on emerging talent, and taking the time to showcase records that deserve more attention.
This edition’s artwork takes us to Iqualit, the capital of Nunavut, and was taken at Nunavut Music Week by Matt Maw.
You can stream Oh! Canada 34 on Spotify using the link below, as well as downloading most tracks here for one month only.
5 June marked the 10 year anniversary of the compilation series, and I would like to thank all of the people who have given their time, effort, and music to make it happen.
This is the first edition of Oh! Canada since the sudden passing of our friend and co-conspirator Darryl Weeks. His passion for music and enthusiasm for everything lifted everyone who crossed paths with him. I would like to dedicate this edition to his memory, as thanks for all the love and support he’s given the site over the years. He will be greatly missed.
This months compilation kicks off with a track that has been around for a while now, but one that we keep coming back to time and again. The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers are a traditional inland Tlingit performance group based in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. They are members of the Dakla’weidi, Yan Yedi, Ganaxteidi, Deisheetaan, Ishkihittaan, Kookhittaan, Lukaax.ádi and Wolf Clans and feature 30 plus singers, dancers and drummers, focused on reclaiming their language and traditional values through their storytelling and art, continuing their elders’ vision of self-determination, reclamation, revitalization, decolonization, healing, strength, transformation and rebirth. “We are deconstructing our colonial past and we are reconstructing our Indigenous identity with the foundations of our own teachings and principals holding us up.”
In 2017 the group collaborated with producer DJ DASH on a project called Deconstruct/Reconstruct. While clan songs can be passed down over thousands of years, the collaboration provided opportunity to add new songs, to expand and to create. In an interview with Up Here magazine, group leader Marilyn Jensen explained the project was born out of “The love of techno and rap within members of our group, that real desire to create, to choreograph and tell a story in a different way that encapsulates who we are, our identity, but steps out into the world in a modern way.”
Raven Strut fuses electronic beats, drum groups and raven samples together they create an insistent, driving track that pays tribute to the nephew of Kevin Clevenger, a Tsimshian from Alaska, who used to strut around the household like a raven prior to his passing.
The band will be performing as part of BreakOut West in Whitehorse later this month.
Boogey The Beat is a Juno nominated Anishinaabe DJ/Producer from Winnipeg who fuses traditional Indigenous songs with electronic beats. His most recent track finds him joining forces with Haisla rappers Snotty Nose Rez Kids which is currently riding high in the Top 10 of the Indigenous Music Countdown. Together they take Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic Three’s The Roof Is On Fire and turn it in to a surging, floor-filling, speaker buster - a lesson in “Rezonomics 101” , Indigenous resurgence, inequality and the MINAY movement.
With an EP set to feature Drezus, Mob Bounce, T-RHyme and Eekwol amongst others and yet more collaborations promised it seems likely we will be hearing a lot more from Boogey The Beat as the year goes on. On the strength of this, we can’t wait.
Find out more about Boogey The Beat
For Women By Women (FWBW) is the debut from Eekwol and T-Rhyme, a meeting of voices and minds aimed at celebrating women and their achievements within the Hip-Hop scene and society as a whole. With both artists having operated in the male dominated hip-hop industry for years, the project seeks to reject those traditional forms and to carve out a place for more female voices to be heard, and encourage others to take up the opportunity to take up that space in a way the empowers themselves. Powerful messages about hip-hop, Indigenous experience, strength and community abound.
Eekwol, a member of the Muskoday First Nation explained to Eagle Feather News that as an Indigenous woman, she feels she was born political “We don’t have a choice other than to be about community if we want to come from an authentic place…There’s no time or energy for mindless music when there’s so much work to do.” Likewise, T-Rhyme, of English River First Nation echoed the importance of giving back to the community. “We just want to help create safe spaces for our women. and youth, especially Indigenous women and youth.”
That energy and drive flows through the record, and fittingly comes across the most on the tracks where the pair work together.
It would be fair to say seven member collective Alaclair Ensemble have a complicated geography. It isn’t so much the fact that the members live in different cities, and more the fact that they dwell in a modern Bas- Canada, a state where all seven members have ministerial positions, and based on the what-if proposition of what if Robert Nelson and the Patriots had succeeded in their rebellion. With their own flag and years of mythology to back them up the collective have grown in stature over the years, with the “Humble French Canadiens” taking home Hip- Hop album of the year at the ADISQ awards in 2017 for Les Frères Cueilleurs. Newest album Le Sens Des Paroles dropped September last year, complete with a heavily tattooed insta-image of the Queen as the cover.
"De Partout" starts the record with a kind of buzzing, group francophone mumble-trap. The familiar flows are still in full effect and elsewhere tracks like “La Famille” and “FLX” hit hard, while “Refined Moment” surfs past on sweet soul gospel stabs and minimal piano. Alaclair Ensemble are a band with ideas to spare- little wonder that since Le Sens De Paroles was released the collective have released another single, an EP and full solo albums from leader Robert Nelson and KNLO.
It’s been some time since the Crayons EP announced the arrival of Samurai Champs on the scene back in 2016. In the intervening period Saskatchewan duo Merv XX Gotti and Jeah have been honing their craft on stages across North America and Europe. With the unique dynamic between Jeah’s hard raps and Gotti’s wounded, soulful R&B croon locked in, debut album Cabernet Sauvignon is a finely tuned statement of a record: smooth jams, crisp beats and deep bass fuse with the pair’s divergent styles to make good on the potential displayed in their early singles.
As leaders of the Trifecta Artist Collective they’ve been active in promoting and growing a vibrant and inclusive musical and artistic community. This record is the collective boldest statement yet - in the Land of the Living Skies, the sky’s the limit.
Riit is one of the voices of the Nunavut youth movement: a group of young artists rising out of the North to draw attention to their art and Culture. While her folky debut EP, released on Nunavut label Aakuluk Music saw her nominated for Indigenous Artist of The Year and Best Radio Single, her new release takes a completely different direction.
Joining forces with Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck), Riit has created a sound that is at once her own and equally of the place in which it was created. Fusing field recordings of knife sharpening and raven calls with throat-singing and Riit’s crystal clear Inuktitut lyrics cut through buzzing synth stabs and electro-bleeps. 'Qaumajuapik’s literal translation is “you are shining”, and Riit manages to do just that on this preview of the full length album to be released later this year.
Cyber is Montreal’s Loedie Domond, who, having spent time across the Montreal scene, stepped out with ‘Down Low’ a collaboration with Kaytranada. Her debut album, Equilibrium, was released through Montreal’s Ghost Club Records early last year. As the name suggests the record is a delicate balance: vulnerability and strength, darkness and light, love and loneliness. The record itself works with a variety of producers and beat makers, but is produced by Cyber herself, alongside labelmate LUST. The result is a record that runs from the minimally soulful “Weirdos”, the dark pulsing beats of “Dance with You” and the spaced-out RnB of “Midnight Problems”.
Toronto’s Desiire had a busy 2018. The Congo born, Kinshasa raised and Toronto based artists released a mini-album, As I Go Along in February, then followed up with a second, Paradise in the autumn. Both records showcased his eclectic range, from RnB on “The Chase”, old school Electro Pop on Paradise and the soulful “Mind Body Soul”. At the end of the year, he teamed up with TiKA and Casey MQ for the hazy, reminiscent “Goodbyes”.
“Goodbyes was a such beautiful collaborative effort between TiKA, Casey MQ and I. We've all been friends and musical colleagues for a bit and getting together for this song feels like amazing. We really wanted to make a track that felt genre less. It's got a bit of Soul, a bit of alternative as well as some pop elements to it and it was important for us to showcase all of our musical tastes through our voices.”
Yves Jarvis (aka Jean-Sebastian Audet, fka Un Blonde) returned early this year with The Same But By Different Means, his debut album for Anti. The album title seems to perfectly fit with the record, and the evolution of his music. The record picks up where the sublime Good Will Come To You left off, yet weaves all the experience gained since it’s release into the music. The album weaves together 22 songs and ideas, with few making it past the 3 minute mark. Yet there is never a frustration of an idea half formed or that needs to be taken further. Rather the record itself demands to be listened to in it’s entirety, with all its changes of pace and direction resolving. That isn’t to say there aren’t stand out tracks however: If you have ever wondered what a crossover between D’Angelo and Dylan and The Band would sound like, “Sugar Coated” might just give you a hazy, heavily reverbed answer, while “That Don’t Make It So” pitches Theres a Riot Goin On-era Sly with proto hip hop beats.
Winnipeg’s Alexa Dirks kicked off Oh! Canada 33, and also featured on our Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada compilation over the festive season. With her debut album Fear set to drop on September 13th, here she is appearing again. While early single "Juniper" and last years "The Light" showcased Dirk’s talent for a pop-soul hook, "Beats" takes things a little further. The best Pop music has the power to move you on an emotional level and Beats manages to do just that: simultaneously uplifting and tear-jerking it’s a brilliant, vulnerable Pop song writ large, and one that deserves to be remembered when the year end lists come around.
Dirks explains that the track “is all of my self-doubt and self-confidence living together in a poppy little package. It's all the voices in my head speaking at once. I get so worked up sometimes it can be hard to see things for what they really are. I think this song is basically saying that you can be deeply vulnerable and completely strong at the same time. It can seem confusing but sometimes you just have to feel all your feelings and then step back, take a deep breath and keep on going.”
Lydia Persaud has been a fixture of Toronto’s music scene for some time now, both as a collaborator, and also as a member of impeccably named cover band Dwayne Gretzky. With a childhood musical history that took her from singing in church to singalong with VH1 Divas live, she went on to study on the Jazz Program at Humber College (the same program that produced BadBadNotGood), where she was awarded the prestigious Oscar Peterson Jazz Award.
Having been a member of folk trio The O’Pears for 7 years, debut album Let Me Show You, released through Toronto’s Next Door Records is her solo debut, and represents an opportunity to fuse all of the styles she’s been working in over the years into something completely her own. As a woman of colour from a Canadian-Guyanese-Ukranian background, Persaud found that people had certain expectations of her, and wanted to place her in a convenient ‘folk’ box. “Swaying far from those expectations by writing soul based songs on the ukulele felt like I was carving out my own space. I always had a love for early country music and storytelling through song, which always kept me close to artists like Shania Twain and Stevie Wonder…The songs shift from being based in love and heartbreak to my personal encounters with race and gender issues. The album conveys a full spectrum.”
A Piqsiq (pronounced pilk-silk) is a storm that happens when the wind blows in a particular way, making it look as if the snow is falling upwards. Sisters Kayley Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik (also of Juno award winners Quantum Tangle) chose this name as a result of feelings of confusion about their cultural identities and the journey needed to navigate the cultural waters, having grown up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories but with roots in the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq regions of Nunavut. In singing they found a form of expression and connection to their Inuit culture, as well as a radical act of cultural revitalisation.
In a live setting the duo perform improvisational looping live, combining ancient throat songs with samples, beat boxing, haunting melodies and soundscapes. The idea for the record started with an impromptu jam with producer and beat creator Ruby Singh who started to beatbox as the sisters sang. Just months later the trio went into the studio and Altering The Timeline is the result.
Free-form and improvisational, the record is entirely lyricless, relying exclusively on rhythms and melodies to convey its message. In an interview with Jason Schneider for FYI Music News Mackay explained that the the darkness and beauty of the North was a key influence: “I have always been drawn to the darkness and its seductive appeal. So much happens in our world during the sunless hours, and a Northern winter is intensely dark. There is a beauty in that darkness that I have always felt quite comfortable exploring. This aesthetic has stayed with me since childhood and continues to inspire me in many ways.” These textures, and the fusion of the ancient and modern is particularly evident on the twinkling electronics of "Kuugarjuk: Creek", where fluttering electronic textures merge with throat-singing and ethereal vocals to powerful effect.
La Force is the solo project of newest Broken Social Scenester Ariel Engle. The project formed out of the culmination of ArorA, her musical project with husband and fellow BSS member Andrew Whiteman. While her self titled album clocks in at a little over half an hour, theres more than enough to get excited about here. The record explores ‘The never ending tightrope walk of life and death; and the re-discovery of self”.
The pulsing, driving electronics of The Tide are underscored by a low electronic drone, which ebbs and flows underneath Engle’s soaring vocal. It’s a hypnotic and near trance-like opening that evolves in a euphoric explosion before evolving back to that ever present looping drone.
It’s 5 years now since Toronto’s Absolutely Free released their first self-titled debut album, a record packed full of prog-pop nuggets that garnered them a Polaris Prize nomination and took the band across the world with the likes of Alvvays and Preoccupations amongst others. The shimmering "Still Life" is the first release of their re-emergence, and has been followed by the churning post-punk funk of "Currency", their collaboration with U.S. Girls.
"Still Life" builds around a melodic, bouncing bass line with steady drums and wandering synth, that through repetition worm their way into your consciousness, like any great pop-music. As the track evolves however, the sound evolves, gradually breaking free from the repetitive patterns and predictability, shifting into new territory, and growing ever more psychedelic and dark before finally decaying to nothing. It’s a powerful and hypnotic work that bodes well for their full return later this year.
Charlotte Cornfield is a pretty good person to know. For the last four years she’s been booking and managing one of Toronto’s best small venues, Burdock Music Hall, as well as being in demand as a drummer and side-musician, collaborating with the likes of Ought’s Tim Darcy, Molly Burch and Adrian Underhill amongst others. Earlier this year she released her third solo record The Shape Of Your Name. Recorded over 5 different sessions over a three year period the gap between sessions allowed a more free flowing approach. Cornfield herself describes the process as emerging from “dismantling patterns and embracing the process…there was no rush. it was freeing, and it gave the songs a lot of breathing room to develop”.
While the process of recording may have been different, the result is her most fully realised work to date. Cornfield’s songwriting catalogs the mundanity of everyday life but in a few short words, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, she is able to cut through in a truly effecting way. The beautifully subdued and spacious piano driven ‘Balladeer’ features left over Pad Thai stuck on the chin and specks of toothpaste on the bathroom mirror, and heartbreak. It’s a record of subtlety, and at points touches on the sublime. A quick glance at those who join Cornfield on the record indicates the kind of regard she is held by her contemporaries, with the likes of Shawn Everett (War On Drugs/ Alabama Shakes), Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, BSS/Do Make Say Think’s Charles Spearin and Leif Vollebekk all involved at at various points. In taking her time, Cornfield has crafted a record that deserves to be played for a long time to come.
Digawolf are an acclaimed band from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Over 6 albums, frontman Diga has explored his experiences growing up in the capital of the Tłı̨chǫ Nation, Behchokǫ̀,, the largest First Nations Community in the Northwest Territories. Singing in both Tłı̨chǫ and English, the band fuse Culture, history and the future, bridging the gap between modernity and tradition. Travelling the circumpolar region, he’s sought out sounds, collaborators and experiences, all of which feed into his remarkable new record Yellowstone.
The album begins with the unrelenting duo of ‘By The Water’ and ‘Broken Bone’ both of which find Diga adopting a Waitsian growl as his guitar howls and the rhythm section churns. They repeat the feat on the equally heavy, rampaging beats of Digital Nomad later on the record. If the whole record continued in this vein, it would no doubt have been a heavy marvel. The fact that Digawolf chooses to follow this unforgiving opening salvo with the albums delicate title track pushes the record into different territory altogether - gone is the grater-growl, replaced with a tender, near spoken vulnerability. Set against a gentler shuffling rhythm, it’s a testament to the longevity of love, and of the power of vulnerability.
On the similarly tender "Northern Love Affair", Diga lays out his love for his home, elevated by horns from the late, great Ralph Carney (Tom Waits/ St Vincent/ Galaxie 500). It’s a true thing of beauty, as powerful as any of Springsteen’s paen’s to New Jersey, as loving as John K Samson’s tributes to his hometown. Album closer ‘The Undiscovered World’, finds Diga returning to his almost-spoken world delivery as electronics pulse, feedback crackles and howls and synths wail. Like the record It’s an invitation to discover and explore Canada’s often misunderstood North with Diga as your knowledgeable guide.
Imagine what would happen if you crossed Wesley Willis, Har Mar Superstar and 70s Robin Williams and you are only a small part of the way towards understanding Hamilton, Ontario’s one man wrecking ball BA Johnston. Spite listening to Rush, a Canadian Beer based list song (essentially a drunkard’s take on Johnny Cash’s ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’), long-lasting hangovers and songs about taking mushrooms at a Van Halen show are the order of the day on his latest 21 track opus The Skid Is Hot Tonight. Produced by The Burning Hell’s Mathias Kom, Johnston’s unique brand of story songs seldom clock in much past 2 minutes but the brevity allows him to cover a lot of ground (just as he does at his live show, where he spends less than 10% of his time onstage, the rest being split between the crowd, on the bar, the toilets and more often than you would think, out of the venue entirely). As a result you get 80s hip-hop and wrestling references, bontempi beats, 80s keyboard post-punk tributes to cheezies, folk-punk shuffles, and the occasional tender or intimate moment, as heard on ‘Date Night’.
While the references contained are pretty heavily Canadian, there is a universality to the experience of working dead end jobs, wondering what could have been, and why things are as they are. It’s easy to see why he’s long been a cult figure in Canada, and is developing a similarly devout following in the UK.
‘Pick Of the Pugs’ tells the tale of a painter who, after a break up, takes it upon himself to mix up, and paint his ex’s house while she vacations in Peru. It’s part of a larger concept record, Dear Bongo, by Fredricton, NB wierdo rockers Motherhood. Over the course of the record the painters increasing mania leads him to paint rooms, other peoples paintings, road lines before eventually taking on the colours of nature itself. Along the way the three piece trade riffs, heavy passages, shrieks, swirling organs, Minutemen-esque bass punishment, guitar twangs and the occasional beach-boys surf-rock pastiche for good measure. It’s a whirlwind of a record with no idea, musical or conceptually hanging round for a moment longer than it needs to.
What happens when you combine 2 members of the Pacific North-West’s finest jangle-punks and half of one of the premier buzz-pop bands of the last twenty years? The answer could well be the harmony driven soundtrack to the late summer: Sunrise Social’s Saint Helena.
The project is helmed by Robbie Nall, of Apollo Ghosts, while fellow ‘Ghost Adrian Teacher handles bass and guitar and Japandroids’ David Prowse takes Drum and Keys duties. Recorded with Jordan Koop (Wolf Parade/ The Courtneys) on Gabriola Island, BC, the trio fuse jangle and twang with Prowse’s propulsive drumming. The result is a record full of gentle indie-pop infused with a light psychedelia which at times calls to mind a Vancouver answer to Creation-era Super Furry Animals. "Time Theft" is the perfect example of this: it’s early jangle riding the wave of Prowse’s expansive drumming before evolving and turning darker and heavier, complete with soaring solos and twin guitar attacks.
At its heart this is the sound of three talented friends having fun and making music they love- and what can be better than that?
2019 marks the ten year anniversary of You’ve Changed records, the project started by Daniel Romano and Steven Lambke. Over the years both have released records through the label, as well as works by the likes of Apollo Ghosts, Partner, The Weather Station, Shotgun Jimmie amongst others. In that time they have quietly become one of Canada’s finest labels and they deserve to be celebrated.
Dark Blue, Lambke’s second album under his own name (following his time in Constantines and as Baby Eagle) seems as good a way to celebrate as any. Fittingly it finds Lambke teaming up with Romano, who handles drums and production duties as well. As with the label, the collaboration sparks something special in both, and together here they have produced some of their best work. Lambke’s hushed, heartfelt, almost speak-singing delivery perfectly presents the poetry of his lyrics - at once intimate, immediate and relatable, and on occasion anthemic, as on the stomping, whirling psychedelia of album opener ‘Fireworks’. Guitar’s chime, circle and turn in on themselves, exploding with energy then fading back to nothing.
New York based cellist and composer has been on our radar since we first caught her captivating live performance at Primavera sound back in 2011, supporting her album Green and Grey. The record saw her playing at the intersection of the human and natural world- the place where the organic and technology meet. With looped cello, electronics and field recordings all melding into one, the sound is intricate, moving and at times totally immersive. Later this year, Leaf will be giving the record a long overdue re-issue, making it Kent’s second release of the year, following on from January’s Temporal.
Temporal gathered together works that had originally been written to accompany theatre and dance productions. Kent explains that while the tracks have very separate origins “they all seemed to be coming from the same emotional world and it made sense to weave them together into a record.” 'Imbalance' juxtaposes a low drone, mournful cello and skittering electronic pulses, slowly growing and evolving and unfolding as the track progresses, growing in intensity before resolving to nothing. A thing of dark and serene beauty.
Hailing from Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, Tchutchu has had a busy year. March saw the release of his debut album Atribeofmyown, 19 tracks of densely layered electronic music running the gamut of chilled EDM, minimal field recordings, scattered beats, soothing strings and cut up samples. At times he seems to be channeling the likes of DJ Shadow, at others Richard D James. Yet the end result is one that is unique to the artist himself. This fall will see the release of 4 further EP’s, Nicimos pt2, P a s k o w i n pt2, 3the4 and GHSTGHSTGHST, each pushing his sonic explorations further.
While discussing the development and process of the record, Tchutchu outlined the aim to expand and branch out from the EP’s that had garnered him the attention of the Indigenous Music Awards. “The whole mission on this album was to show my versatility with what I can do with sound…I’ve made songs for all and only my late friends …atribeofmyown was built on frustration from being eye rolled a lot of times with my views on what I make and the toxicity of artists and people saying anything to bring my spirits. It is all for the kids to gain will with their dreams in music…to the people reading please don’t ever hesitate to talk to me! If you need someone to talk to I’m here! It’s time to take friendship seriously!”
The album’s title tracks fuses rain samples, cut up vocals and soothing strings while “the movement in the track is actually based on how pow wow dancers rhythm through a drum…it really is a tribe of my own.”
Montreal based composer and pianist Alexandra Stréliski released her second album, INSCAPE through Secret City in October last year. Taking its name from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s concept of the unique inner-nature of a person, it is an intimate and intensely personal record. The album travels through a series of moments from the preceding years that took Stréliski from the release of her debut to the recording of the second one some eight years later, although the tracks on the record themselves were developed mostly out of improvisations that revealed themselves just before heading in to the studio.
Recorded on her childhood piano, there is a delicate, profoundly human warmth to the recordings that make up INSCAPE. Each creak, scrape and rattle adds to the atmosphere. We’ve chosen the delicate and vulnerable “Changing Winds” here, but be sure to check out her Best Fit Session from June for album opener "Plus Tôt"