Under Review

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Emma Citrine

Sad Surprise

author
Sarah Jickling

Emma Citrine is good at being sad. I feel I can say that because many people have said the same thing about me. While it’s not what I’d like to be known for, it’s comforting to know I have a talent for expressing the emotion that takes up much of my time, and I hope Emma finds comfort in this ability as well. There is an experienced melancholy in her voice that brought weight to Allow To Remain, the 2015 EP from Leave, her duo with David Cowling. Emma’s latest release, Sad Surprise, will not disappoint those who love her unbridled sadness. Woven throughout the EP is the bitter sensation of lost love, the kind that settles at the bottom of your stomach and hurts every time you laugh.

But just as Emma promises sadness, she also promises surprise. I’m cynical when it comes to promises, but Sad Surprise delivers. As I listened to the EP’s first single, “A Screaming (comes across the sky),” the unexpected melodies and chord structures startled me. I know this comment is a little on the nose, but I swear it’s the truth. The song starts off as a simple folk ballad, but as it unfolds, it reveals lush harmonies and complex melodies. Amongst swelling ambience, the tune heads one way and then swerves another. At times, Emma reminds me of local dream-pop group The Belle Game and everyone’s favourite main stage festival act, Beach House.

This surprising ability to shift genres runs throughout the whole EP. Citrine keeps us transfixed by effortless hopping from one sound to another. Sad Surprise begins  energetically with “Poor Boy,” a crunchy rockabilly tune with a double-time feel. This vigor continues on the second track, “Make War,” a song which mixes angry rock vocals that border on rap with surprisingly angelic backing harmonies. In contrast, the track “Ledges” is sweet and soft, and shines a spotlight on her strong vocal talent. She ends the album with “Give Them Love,” a reminder that under all of the anger and bitterness, Emma Citrine is still the queen of being sad. A title that is not meant as a premonition of a life of supreme sadness, but instead a trophy for having the courage to feel her feelings deeply, and share them with those of us who need to be reminded that we are not alone.

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Chelsea Grimm

Busshead

author
Mat Wilkins

Breadth of emotion is tough for any musician trying to construct a release, especially when confined to a five track EP. For many musicians, it is easiest to cough up something monotonous, either an album that is wholly sad, dancy, or whatever. But if anyone can workaround this pitfall, it’s Alberta native Branton Olfert AKA Chelsea Grimm with his new instrumental electronic release: Busshead.

With only three prior singles on Soundcloud and a live debut in August 2015, Chelsea Grimm is about as fresh on the Vancouver music scene as anyone can be. Forgiving ears are entirely unnecessary for this polished release, as Olfert already seems a seasoned veteran.

The album begins with “From Above,” an initially steady melody with plucky, Nicolas Jaar-esque synthesizers and an aggressive, 2-step-garage hihat that punctuates the introduction giving the listener the delightful indication of an incoming dancefloor swell. The initial riff, disintegrating into the background, is then overtaken and carried along by a spacious and off-kilter woody percussion reminiscent of Burial’s seminal record Untrue. This moment is underscored by a viscous bassline that will make any sub owner rejoice in their investment.

The next track, “Beillustrious,” seems to mirror the thematic versatility of the album, as it flipflops from delicate ambience and shimmering arpeggiated synths to a gritty yet subdued industrial house beat (that calls to mind James Blake’s “Voyeur”).

The final two songs on the album provide a unique edge to Busshead in that they incorporate and emphasize the use of electric guitar and jazz-sourced drum breaks. Not only do these elements broaden the emotional breadth of the album, but they also serve to add a human component to it. In comparison to the start of the EP, the second half of this release challenges the listener and demands further consideration. And it is this call for consideration that allows Busshead to stand out amongst itspeers. Neither a UK-garage-inspired dance project nor an overly abstract release, this album is something born in the middle. The deliberate ambiguity of this record etches out a new process of feeling for the listener. We are faced with a piece of art that makes us want to move as much as it makes us want to sit still. And in determining how to consume Busshead, we learn that it may just be possible to do both of these things, to feel more than just unvarying elation or monotonous sadness.