Recording at Marsonic Studios

I’ve been involved in a secret recording project, spearheaded by Chad Watt and Dj Luv. They are both old school mainstays of the Montreal underground. The studio is located on the main floor of Marsonic Studios on the corner of Papino and Quarry, right where the train tracks divide the city in half. The album we are recording is a series of albums set in different musical decades and involving a group of 4-Dimensional beings called The Graffiti People.

Chad Watt, apart from being a recording engineer, is also a visual artist, and the walls of his studio are covered in his trademark graffiti depicting building blocks and maps of imaginary cities. The studio is also his bedroom and living space and when he starts smoking it can get stuffy and suffocating.

Last night, before recording, we warmed up with a short jam. Luv and Davada went crazy on the drums, playing funk breakbeats, while Eric played the bass. When my turn came to sit on the throne, I decided to go cling-clang, at a slow tempo, looking for Sun Ra levels of non-rhythm. Eric played a short bass riff repeatedly, and Luv found new sonority in the cowbell. I can’t remember what Davada played, but it was hypnotizing, noisy, and transcendent.

Cycling through different pre-recorded tracks, Chad settled on an electro-ambient hip-hop beat titled “Agro Gardens”. The format would be a rap song with four rappers, each taking turns to define life as they know it in the suburban slum of Agro Gardens.

I wrote a quick verse, referencing the beauty and desperation of the imaginary Agro Gardens. I couldn’t rap it on-beat, but Chad said he would fix it in post-production by shifting it to match the rhythm. Eric did a spoken-word piece, Davada went crazy with a zany verse, squeezing an innumerable amount of words in less than 30 seconds. Luv was the most poised and collected, flawlessly delivering an 80’s gangsta rap verse reminiscent of Ice-T.

I enjoy the loose way things come together at these recording sessions, although I’m pretty certain not everything is particularly “good”. I’m learning to disregard my own subjectivity. Looking only at the circumstances that made the situation of me being in a recording studio possible is enough to make me think I might be on to something…

Ed Atkins at DHC/ART (Montreal, 2017)

The Skinny:
Video installations of Computer-Generated short animated films
Young, white, male characters in a state of desperation
Movie-trailer tropes, action-films camera movements (constant movement), musicals
Satirical look at substance abuse, emotional depletion, existential fear, in the context of consumerism

My take:
Walked into this exhibition after a night of heavy drinking. Could readily identify with the main characters, in various states of destitution, soul crumbling just like the architecture around them. Very funny use of Hollywood tropes to convey emotional despair.

However, showcasing digital-only work, on extremely large screens, is exactly the kind of invasive use of technology the exhibition appears to critique. The Brutalist coldness of the suspended screens, or the large blocks/walls acting as screens in the middle of the gallery space, evoke the very fascism that art is supposed to counter. The experience of watching remains alienating, and individualistic, and the only emotional catharsis is through self-identification, which is the tired Hollywood tactic. Guns, guts, gore, is a refrain we’ve all heard before.

Playing at DHC/ART until September 3
451 & 465, St-Jean Street

Nots – “Animal/Blackout” (2017)

“Animal” is a new recording of a song from their 2013 demo, before they added synth to their sound. It’s completely zany, KBD/Messthetics, and the addition of Alexandra Eastburn’s keys are droney/improv ambient synth. Reminds me of Urinals’ “I’m A Bug”, or Anorexia’s “Pets”, both “cult” releases proof of the unbridled playful creativity of punk’s beginnings.

“Blackout” is a new song. It appeared on the Live At Goner LP, but this here is a studio recording. The story is ominous, like it could be about alcohol, a lack of electricity, or a plain concussion. The emotional relief of screaming the word “Blackout!” follows other Nots anthems such as “Reactor!”, and “Decadence!”.

Limited to 300 copies, German import, purchase on Discogs, through Slowboy Records.

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