Music. It's weird isn't it how we get alerted to new music. Media Blitz. Old media, new media. Stream teams. Like. If you haven't gotten your record reviewed by week 1, or even gotten something gaga going on about a pre-release white file transfer fake leak or something. It's all over. Why is that? And then be back there, be the first to know about a reissue a decade or more later too. A decade after something was first forgotten about. I was thinking about this and watching Jason's video review of the Eno box set. I mean, how did Jason even find the time to listen to an entire box set and immerse himself in it and pick its nuances apart and how often will he. I could debate that, he is right here, but I won't. Not til we're deep into our cups, mine being a slimline tonic since Dr. Hoff took control of my liver function. Worry. While it's true my life coach once told me that since I had become a mean drunk, the antithesis of the Sonny Liston drunk, that I would forever be a mean drunk, so now, no longer so drunk can I trust myself to still find something mean to say about an Eno box?
For me, that thing that Spotify does despite the awesome power of its playlist compilers, it democratizes music a bit, and blows away release dates for me and all that. I remember when radio playlisters played just a few songs in rotation each month. Streaming services are like catch up TV. Since everything is on demand I don't need to listen to it this week, I'll get to it in the end. Most likely when I hear about it. But oh man, expanded aural vistas. I do now though have to hear a lot more music. This is a good thing. But a box set would be out of the question and history is getting longer - how do I fit in any old Velvets stuff too? Jorja Smith says she wants to put out whole albums without skippable tracks. Wow! I love that. Lets hope that album has half a dozen tracks each two minutes long.
Spotify though a decade or so young already somehow seems a bit ancient and calcified. Maybe it's the influence of the major record labels as stakeholders. They don't even let indie artists submit a bio without approval. They're losin' it. And I think that's why Bandcamp is reigning supreme in our house right now.
As ever with our finger on the pulse of just everything that is new, this week, the office stereo, reinvigorated with our recently acquired Spendor speakers, probably the kind Jorja Smith would like, has kindled a love affair alive with nuanced sound of Quebec's Dominique Fils-Amié and her second gorgeously understated release, Nameless. (February 2018). Sure, she's not a stranger to fans of Canada's The Voice... where she was a big hit in 2015. Nameless is a love supreme something else record. Oh wow! It's Dominique's joyous revelatory return to the story of her Haitian/Candian roots. It's a pretty astonishing record. Bookended with a cappella versions of Nina Simone's Feeling Good and opening with Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, treating one of the most bitter and painful songs of all time with the sweetest complex harmonies. It's a simple incredible revelation, revealingly, laying Abel Meeropol's poem bare for a new generation to worry about.
Throughout, spare instrumentalists, a big ol' double bass here, a dash of synth there, the snap of the stick someplace else. This is an eminently pure and minimal frame for shooing Dominique's voice aloft.
Born in Montreal in 1984, originally from Haiti, Dominique Fils-Aimé grew up in a music loving household, her sister, is a classically trained pianist, and her parents filled the house with Soul and jazz. She dabbled in electronica sorta and that brought her to the attention of the Voice producers. By then, she'd eased away from her career in psychology, in corporate HR, not the place to make the type of positive impact she so obviously can do with music.
Dominique says her journey into these recordings began with Maya Angelou's Still I Rise. "I am the dream and the hope of the slave." Keenly aware of her good fortune of being born now not earlier, Domnique luxuriates in the freedom to celebrate her life and music and optimistically opines that we are closer now to freedom than we are to slavery. Her music is one of her contributions to the struggle, in some ways more informed by Canada's complex relationship with its history with slavery beyond being the last stop on the underground railroad, than the gargantuan gulag the land beyond their southern border was for black people in America.
"We are closer to the end of the night. I understand all the talk about suffering and I agree with the fact that it is expressed, but that is not where I put myself personally. If we make a circle with history, we are closer to a period where we will seek a new freedom than the time when we went to find new slaves." DF-A (Le Devoir Magazine, 2018)
Within the songs, the harmonies and the melodies there is total quiet and sometimes silent strength. It is a record with confident open spaces, for pondering... It's breathtaking like that. A joy to hear. What that means in our new musical democracy I don't know. What did it mean for Laura Mvula, dropped by major corp for being too good too?
Nameless is a powerful minimalist collection of songs. Bedroom music for sure. Late night music for sure. Sunny afternoon music or Lazy Sunday brunch music and all of those free-est of good times music but blistering them with it's question marks. It's a proud unapologetic protest record and it's required right now. Anyway that, and all of that doesn't leave much time in the day to when you can't listen to it. Seek it out and see. I defy you...
Ancient Champion writes for OUTSIDELEFT, relentlessly records instrumental easy listening tracks, and is always completing the short story collection, Six Stories About Motoring Nowhere. More info at AncientChampion.com
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