Issue 5 – Editor’s Note

Art by Michael Rancic; Peter Rock’s “Brown Leaf” courtesy of Pexels

Welcome to the fifth issue of New Feeling! 

This one is particularly exciting for us because its release marks a new milestone: we are now 100% reader and member funded. 

From the beginning of this project, we didn’t want to make the same mistakes we’d seen and experienced at other outlets with regard to ownership and funding, and how those complex relationships can often take precedence over, and negatively influence, the work. So as a cooperative we’ve been very adamant that however we go about funding our work and paying the writers and artists we work with, it has to be in line with our values

We want to produce quality writing from perspectives you don’t often see or hear from in the Canadian music media landscape, and we want to pay for that work fairly. At some point during our careers, most if not all of us at New Feeling have been asked to write for free. Being able to compensate for that labour is a priority of ours exactly because we know how pervasive it is and how the unpaid labour of so many writers props up a system and model that doesn’t have their interest in mind. 

This latest issue feels like a huge step in that direction, but being funded by our members poses a new challenge, which is evident in the overall size and scope of this issue. We’re only into our third month of fundraising and membership drives, and have yet to hit the funding targets we set for ourselves to be able to afford to produce the kind of work we had been doing previously out-of-pocket. 

This new reality has forced us to think on our feet and be creative with how we use the funds we have. Ultimately, our Editorial working group chose to focus on record reviews as it allowed us to cast a wider net by covering and engaging with a greater number of musicians, and it allowed us to work with a greater number of freelancers. Two new freelancers appear in this issue, Montréal’s Dave MacIntyre and Yara El-Soueidi. 

You’ll also see reviews from familiar names like Tom Beedham, Jesse Locke, Michael Rancic, Laura Stanley, and Daniel G. Wilson. 

The real showpiece of this issue is Kaelen Bell’s scene report from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the latest instalment of our column Yes In My Backyard. We were lucky enough to work with Kaelen for our previous issue, and when it came time to commission another report from a scene that doesn’t get enough love, we knew exactly who to ask. Kaelen’s enthusiasm for Winnipeg is evident in the thoughtful way he introduces each act, and the spectrum of sounds his report covers. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did. 

If you’re a regular reader or this is your first time, welcome! Either way, if you like what you’ve read, please consider subscribing to New Feeling. We rely on the support of our readers and members to continue doing this work and to help build this platform into a sustainable one.

– Michael Rancic

Tush – Fantast

Tush
Fantast
Do Right! Music
Toronto, ON
RIYL: Love Touch Records; Escort; Lisa Shaw

Some 40 years after it was pronounced “dead,” disco endures and is just as relevant today thanks to artists who understand the style’s transformative power. The opulence of the typically rich vocals, basslines, and arrangements can alter any regular checkerboard dance floor into a lavish and unforgettable dream. Toronto’s Tush draw on this power with their modern take on the sound, wielding it with an aspirational and motivational point of view.

With its encouraging bass and drums, “Don’t Be Afraid” anchors the record through both its original version and as a reprise on the second half. “There’s always time,” vocalist Kamilah Apong assures early on, as buzzing electronics offer an unsettling counterpoint, like drifting doubt. But her voice cuts through the uncertainty, and the live instrumentation (led by Tush’s other half, Jamie Kidd) rises in supportive response. Layer after layer the song builds to a decadent crescendo, as a chorus of voices repeat the song’s title, urging Apong to vamp it up and show off her vocal range.

The record is full of moments like these, where irresistible grooves meet thoughtful lyrical affirmation. Those highs are made all the more impactful by recordings Apong made of family members in Black River, Jamaica speaking to the way the songs encourage listeners to confront their challenges head-on. These interludes of personal conversation add a feeling of intimacy, strengthen the thematic backbone of the record, and give the album peaks and valleys that make it an exceptional listen. 

Michael Rancic

Secret Witness – Volume I

Secret Witness
Volume I
Bienvenue Recordings
Montréal, QC
RIYL: DIANA; late night rideshares across town; Everything But the Girl

Four artists at the top of their game—house producers Gabriel Rei and Gene Tellem, pop singer/songwriter Laroie, and percussionist Pascal Deaudelin—join forces for this fruitful collaboration that sees each stretching their abilities creatively under a veil of darkness. 

The bubbly bass of “Endless Nights” pulls focus quickly, letting the introspective keys establish the nocturnal mood of the quartet’s debut EP. The sustained notes give a sense of the enduring shadow that the song title alludes to and which envelops the entire record, while Laroie’s voice is chopped and looped, stuck in time. 

As the material progresses, the band gels and moves away from comfort zones. The song that gives the group their name feels less rooted in house music and more in line with ’80s sophistipop, with the hand-percussion and laid back keys feeling lush and dramatic. Laroie delivers her self-reflective lyrics with a cool restraint that verges on a whisper. For a song that’s about being subsumed by feelings of jealousy, the group keeps things remarkably on the level, but in doing so they emphasize the subtle shifts in Laroie’s voice, and the way the song rises in tension as she reaches the chorus. 

For only six songs, what’s exceptional and exciting about this record is hearing how well everyone connects. Whether it’s on the instrumental “Refuge,” which with its glowing keys, insistent drums, and phasing electronics, leans in to the romance of the night, or EP highlight “Influence,” which features an excellent call-and-response vocal part from Laroie and guest Kris Guilty, Volume I is brimming with sharp songwriting talent and is enough to make any listener to never want the night to end. 

– Michael Rancic

Vince the Messenger – Trustfall

Vince the Messenger
Trustfall
Independent
Charlottetown, PEI
RIYL: LXVNDR; Chong Wizard; Da Grassroots

I think I learned about the risks of trust falls before I ever took part in one. By the time it came up in elementary school as a team-building exercise, I was already well aware of the chance that whoever I was paired with might choose comedy or cruelty over actually catching me. 

Whether those lessons actually help to engender trust amongst a group of people remains to be seen, but maybe the deepest truth they offer is that the nagging fear of misplacing your trust in someone never quite goes away. With Trustfall, Charlottetown’s preeminent emcee Vince the Messenger explores what happens when that trust is betrayed. 

The album art depicts Vince plummeting solo through the sky—leaving it open-ended as to whether he’s waiting to be caught—or falling because someone he’s relied upon has already let him down. 

“La Vie En Noir” suggests that regardless, Vince is persevering. Over a murky boom-bap beat, courtesy of local phenom niimo (who has been Vince’s primary collaborator, and who also produced LXVNDR’s killer Warmth EP), he finds renewed clarity and drive, rapping “Still the same Black boy, but now the wind in my sails / Momma told me go get ’em, so I’ma give ’em hell / They might wanna see me fail, but they fake when I prevail.” Elsewhere, a syrupy Smokey Robinson sample is the soundtrack to Vince outlining that the root of his power lies in his outsider status on album highlight “Black Sheep.” 

Though it’s made clear across the album’s 31 minutes that he’s been let down by others, the overlying message isn’t “trust no one” as much as it is “trust yourself”—as having that faith in your own abilities is key to picking yourself back up any time you fall. 

Michael Rancic

Three Headed Elephant – Queer Magic

Three Headed Elephant
Queer Magic
Independent
Montréal, QC
RIYL: Elevium/Doiron/Squire; Isaac Vallentin; Cedric Noel

Three Headed Elephant’s sophomore album is a study in doing a lot with very little. Songwriter Wolfgang Barbosa-Rocha is both a skilled vocalist and guitar player, and both talents are on full display on this collection of minimal songs. 

Barbosa-Rocha sings “I break so easily” on the album’s opening track, “Fantasia,” a fragility that is clearly communicated via the spare guitar and vocal arrangement. This no-frills approach pulls focus to the subtle changes that happen in each song and fosters a kind of intimacy, rather than lulling into a kind of sameness over time. 

Even at its most repetitive, as in the sprawling album highlight “Sunshine,” Barbosa-Rocha achieves a kind of beautiful hypnosis of wandering electric guitar and lyrical mantras that wax, flourish, and never outstay their welcome. The song clocks in at seven minutes but it could easily stretch twice the length and be just as divine. 

The minimal arrangements of the first half make the introduction of percussion on “Wild Thing” hit like a shock, giving an arc and shape to the album’s structure as the second side contains more performances with a full band. These nuances collectively affirm how thoroughly Barbosa-Rocha understands how even the slightest details make the world of difference, and make Queer Magic a truly affecting record. 

– Michael Rancic

Mustafa Rafiq – If I Were A Dance

Mustafa Rafiq
If I Were A Dance
Pseudo Laboratories
Edmonton, AB
RIYL: Lichen; Blume; Brandon Wint

A mainstay of Edmonton’s scene, experimental guitarist Mustafa Rafiq’s latest is a deeply contemplative and personal effort. 

The album takes its title from British-Somali author Diriye Osman’s short story of the same name (Osman’s art also serves as the album cover), which explores an intricate weaving of queer desire, domesticity, intimacy, performance, and intertextuality through layered narratives, making this a thrilling and rewarding project to dig into.

The first side of the album includes Rafiq’s collaboration with spoken word poet Dwennimmen, split across four tracks. Dwennimmen’s diction and delivery is careful and deliberate, letting every word hang in the air to be felt and imagined. Rafiq’s guitar work also looms but wavers in intensity like ichorous blots of marginalia in a text, adding emphasis in sweeping lines, asterisks of percussion, and strokes of inspiration. 

The entirety of side B contains Rafiq’s collaboration with Nepalese folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Bhuyash Neupane, a live recording taken from Rafiq’s first performance after an injury caused a months-long absence. Stretched over 15 minutes, Rafiq is given the opportunity here to exercise a kind of patient restraint, playing off of Neupane’s tabla and voice with their own guitar and vocal musings. 

When juxtaposed in this collection, these songs from two distinct projects create something wholly new and unique from anything we might have heard before from Rafiq in previous projects like Pyramid//Indigo, and hopefully just the beginning of the kind of thoughtful work we can expect in the future. 

– Michael Rancic

Gene Tellem – Mind Reader

Gene Tellem
Mind Reader
WOLF Music
Montréal, QC
RIYL: D. Tiffany; DJ Dial-On; Gabriel Rei

Seeing Gene Tellem at MUTEK in 2019 was both a highlight of the festival, and without question a highlight of my music writing career. The Montréal-based producer lit up the room over the course of her set opening for Chicago luminary Jlin. My notes from that night recount the experience in point form: “superb,” “fluid rhythms,” and “transcendent.”

Her second release with the U.K.-based label WOLF Music brings much of those same danceable instincts, and the intuition in regard to energy and atmosphere that I found so enthralling that night two years ago. Lead track “Ain’t Got Everything” grooves steadily right out the gate, with shimmering synths creating a counterpoint of treacly stasis to the driving beat, irresistible bassline, and vocal earworm. Connecticut-based veteran producer Jenifa Mayanja homes in on the track’s atmospheric tension for her remix on side B, letting it build before cutting it with some grounded acoustic percussion. 

The EP’s two other tracks also bring the heat, with the chopped vocals and urgent tempo of ‘Mind Readers’ challenging the compelling bassline to keep up, while the victory lap of “2nd Time Around” closes out the minor-key introspection of the three prior tracks with an all-out party. Though it’ll be a while still before we can all hear these songs properly in a club, this cerebral mix of four great tunes gives listeners plenty to get lost in. 

– Michael Rancic 

Bleu Kérosène – L’artifice de l’aube

Bleu Kérosène
L’artifice de l’aube
Independent
Quebec City, QC
RIYL: Patrick Watson; Daniel Bélanger; Half Moon Run

Bleu Kérosène’s origins stem from a gift pianist Jérémie Hagen-Veilleux gave to his sister, Erika Hagen-Veilleux, in the form of piano instrumentals written to support her spoken word poetry. It’s surprising then to hear how much this project has developed into a cohesive band, doing more than just acting as window-dressing for someone else’s songs or ideas.

If anything, Erika’s confidence and range give the band permission to also be as open and exploratory with their own parts which are complementary but never get lost in the mix. “Le fracas” is a bold and jaunty EP opener that feels jazzy with its choice of clean guitar, brushed snare, lively bass, and climbing woodwind parts (c/o guest Antoine Bourque). “Child,” the only song sung in English on the EP, follows, and also feels like the moment where the material really hits its stride—it’s complex but also unremittingly gorgeous. Its juxtaposition with the previous song makes the band’s sound difficult to pin down. The ensuing songs don’t make that challenge any easier as they flirt with styles across a continuum of post-rock, baroque, and jazz pop. 

While there’s nothing here as explosive as the album title, L’artifice de l’aube (the fireworks of dawn), might suggest, what Bleu Kérosène have accomplished is less about the bombast of a pyrotechnics show and more closely resembles the careful choreography of colours, shapes, and contours that are at play.

Michael Rancic

Vagina Witchcraft
Vagina Witchcraft
Self-Released
Winnipeg, MB
RIYL: Vile Creature; WAKE; Fuck The Facts

I challenge anyone to find a more impassioned four minutes and twenty three seconds to be put to record this year than the introduction to Vagina Witchcraft’s debut— and that happens before even a note of music is played. Taken from vocalist Kayla Fernandes’ speech at a Winnipeg Black Lives Matter rally in June, which was in response to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Winnipeg’s own Machuar Madut, the intro unequivocally positions the band and their music as anti-racist and anti-oppressive. It’s a bold but important distinction in the realm of metal where many fans and musicians alike either strive for an “apolitical” stance of ignorance and cowardice or are outright white supremacist scum. 

This context helps set the stage for when Fernandes sings the words “fear me, I am the fucking devil” on the album’s first musical track, “Mercury.” Its anguished bass, drums, and guitar punctuate Fernandes’ bellows and emphasize their fury before the group locks into a double speed doomy torrent that sends the song into a groovy spiral. With each subsequent song Vagina Witchcraft deftly deploy some trademark occult themes and depressive soundscapes of true doom aficionados, that alongside their strong political sensibilities make their music a truly vital expression. 

Michael Rancic