Always is available via:
The album, Always, is available at:
28th July, 2017
IT is nice to be back in Canada and assessing a band…
that is getting a great reception right now. Always is their new album and has been collecting some terrific and positive reviews. I will come to look at that in more depth but, for now, I wanted to address Montreal artists and the music scene there; music that is subdued and lush; what can inspire songwriting and a new creative direction; collaborating with other musicians and international artists coming over here – a quick nod to the band market and how tough it can be to distinguish yourself from the pack. Montreal is a productive and fertile spot for new music. If one looks at the established artists that have come from the city – Arcade Fire and The Dears among them – it seems like a part of the world that encourages experimentation, depth and intelligence in music. One need only listen to Arcade Fire’s back catalogue to experience a group always looking to push music and engage the listener. That is the case with Always and, like Arcade Fire, they inject so much depth and texture into their songs. There are, of course, other acts in Montreal – not all of them go for deep and detailed music. If one wants to experience an array of lush, spellbinding and memorable live performers – Montreal is a city you want to go to. Patrick Watson, one of the most established artists from Québec and someone who can silence audiences with his tender and majestic voice. The Dears have released five live albums: fans and followers adore their performance so much; it is small wonder the band has taken this decision. A-Trak has helped push and pioneer Electronica, Hip-Hop and supports the best artists from the genres. His scratching and fusion techniques enthral crowds – someone guaranteed to lift the crowds and provide an incredible, engaging night. Half Moon Run are a band best enjoyed in the live setting. The complexities and nuances of their songs come to life when they perform to a live crowd. Chromeo is another fantastic band who provide a fun and are a cheeky duo that has amazed and excited audiences for years.
Jazz Cartier is a star who has played in small venues but is on the rise right now. Tracks such as Stick and Move have got people throwing their hands in the air and letting their voices ring loud. He is a performer one should keep their eyes out for in the coming months. Calvin Love and Dilly Dally are terrific but Moon King, an incredible duo, whose electronic-tinged Indie-Rock is one of the best live experiences you’ll see in Montreal – they are pushing their music to new territories and are an incredibly exciting proposition. Camille Poliquin is an arresting performer who sings under the moniker of Kroy and has an arresting voice that has seduced masses. Charlotte Cardin sings in French and English and boasts a smoky, scintillating voice that has, until recently, scored cover songs. She is producing original material: it is their live shows, and the way she engages with the crowd, that has won her legions of fans. Her video, Main Girl, was released a few days ago and has been gathering immense praise. This is just a small gathering of Montreal artists who are defining this generation. The like of Arcade Fire has hit the mainstream: eyes are looking at the underground/new, emerging acts and what they will provide. The likes of Charlotte Cardin and Half Moon Run are going to be immense mainstream acts that will compel people to investigate Montreal more. Raveen is among that list who deserve huge acclaim and support. They differ to the artists I have mentioned – standing alone and providing a unique combination of sounds and textures. I am excited to see the band progress and make their music known to the wider world. They are popular and applauded in Quebec but have the potential to wow the U.K. and Europe. We would love to see them here: few comparative artists exist so it would definitely fill a void.
The past few months have seen me address rawer and urgent acts that do not really take a more measured and explorative approach to their material. Raveen, when listening to Always (the title-track), mix Electronic sounds with R&B/Pop undertones and takes the listener somewhere special. I admire musicians that take the time and craft music that blends sounds and components to deliver something sumptuous and mesmeric. That is what one gets from the Canadian band’s latest single. I am a little late to review it – it has been out for a couple of months – but now their album is released; many people are discovering gems and jewels from Raveen. Whether exploring synth./keys or bringing strings into the mix – one always is left affected and changed. There are a lot of acts around who take little time to engage with the listener and provide real depth in their music. I think, in modern music, there is the need to produce something relatable and instant. People want to bond with a song quickly without having to do too much thinking. That might be unfair to many but I feel there is a tendency, for mainstream artists, to get into the head as quickly as they can. One can find some nuance and academia in a lot of artists but is becoming rarer. Maybe we are training ourselves to adopt the short and concise songs that do what they need to do and exit the memory pretty soon. This might be the definition of commercialism but, if one looks hard enough, you can find musicians to appeal and create for those who want something special and deep. That (deep) is a word I bring in but it is entirely justified in this context. Raveen pair lush and immersive compositions with heartfelt lyrics – it is a wonderful combination that provides something unexpected and pure.
I will move on to other considerations but, before then, wanted to remain where I am. I was talking to someone the other day who said he listens to genres like Classical because there is nothing enriching or memorable in the current mainstream. His exposure to music comes from radio and his argument was few acts articulate any sophistication and intellectualism. Not that Raveen are Classical composers: they are contemporary and accessible but deal with tender, shimmering strings and illuminating colours – paired with moodier and introspective tones and quotable lyrics. If one considers all those elements and, excluding lyrics, it has the same dynamic and appeal as Classical music, I guess – a modern form that acts as a gateway and Segway into the mainstream. That is why I feel Raveen are a special and profitable act. The guys differ from what is out there and can offer the listener something genuinely engrossing and nourishing. I am making their music into cuisine and something intangible. In actuality; the vocals and lyrics are as treasurable and impressive as their soundscapes. I will come to look at that in a minute but feel Raveen perfectly sit in a Montreal music scene that is among the most eclectic and sensational in the world. I have mentioned Patrick Watson who, in addition to being one of Canada’s finest artists, brings strings and yearning compositional elements against stunningly pure and beautiful vocals. The city is not beholden to a single type of music and has only one rule: only the best and brightest will make it to the top. Living in London; one can see a lot of artists not worth much time – there are amazing musicians but not all of them are deserving of real affection. I get a better sense of quality control in Montreal. Maybe it is the way artists approach their sounds and connect with the listener. What amazes me about bands like Raveen is their music is new and unique but, in a lot of ways, instantly connects. You do not have to listen too long before the music seeps into the soul and remains in the mind.
As I said; it is not only the music that hits the bases and lingers long in the imagination. The band’s lyrics are special and go far beyond the traditional and clichéd words one might experience in today’s music. That sound like I am old and begrudging of all new music: I feel few bands take the time to craft genuinely interesting and introspective lyrics. On Always, the immense title-track from the band’s new album, it is the three members working strongly – joined by other players to lead to a cohesive and collaborative wonder. The song itself was inspired by singer/producer Eric - when he went on a trip to Europe. I am not sure whether it was a particular country that compelled the song – perhaps the whole experience provoked the song. Europe is one of those continents with so many different languages, cultures and countries. It is a varied and fascinating part of the world so it is not surprising a Canadian artist would find the experience fascinating. I have never been to Canada but can imagine there is stark difference and polemics between the two areas. That sort of diversity and foreign soil would get the brain racing and lead to something self-examining and inspiring. I am curious why musicians travel to areas like Europe and come back with songs in the head. I would urge any musician to go to Europe: it is a fantastic place to gain inspiration and bring a fresh perspective to the music. That brings me to the subject of travel and how important it is. I feel one of the reasons a lot of modern music is unimaginative and predictable is because few artists travel beyond their homes. So many songs about love and what is around them – few take their lyrics further and bodies beyond the boundaries of the familiar. Raveen did not need to rekindle a spark or gain new perspective. Their music has always been fantastic but the fact Europe lead to the title-track, in many ways, was vital in the album’s recording. The record looks at love and grief; the early stages of adulthood and perceived loss.
There is so much going on there so I am fascinated to know what it was about Europe that sparked such intense and personal themes. This is a new direction for Raveen who, before their new material, sported a slightly different sound. The evolution into a lush and heartfelt direction has been inspired by a number of things. Maybe European travel, and the need to discover new lands, has heralded the desire to create music with more depth and meaning than anything they have done before. A few seconds into Always and one is settled, hooked and amazed. Listening back to the band’s older material and you can see the development and evolution. I am fascinated finding out how instrumental that jaunt to Europe was – and what it was about the time there that led to Always. If one listens to the album, they will find a lot about the boys’ personal lives and transitions; the changing nature of love and life – the loss they have encountered and the positive times they have ahead. It is an album that brings together so many different emotions and experiences into an intoxicating album. I feel few artists are daring and thoughtful enough to provide the listener with anything that subsumes predictability and the cliché – they have penned an immense album that sounds unlike anything else. I will finish off this section but know how important and pivotal travel can be in terms of creativity. Depending on where you go; it can unlock something in the mind and lead to some stunning and unexpected music. This is what Raveen have done and, one argues, as they tour different nations and cities – that will enforce their music direction and lead to some wonderful new moments. Their latest single has inspired me to be broader with my horizons and take time out to travel more. Not that I am going to turn it into music: it will be useful in terms of personal growth and revelation.
On Raveen’s latest album/track; there is more of the collaborative spirit than ever before. It is clear the guys have changed their music and felt the need to add something different to the mix. They have not hugely departed from previous work but have changed it enough to bring in new fans and show an impressive sense of growth. It is a more mature and complex sound than anything they have tackled in the past. Not only are their lyrics more heartfelt and personal: the music, and its arrangement, parabond different shades and colours. The band, on Always’ title-track, brought in more than ten vocalists and four/five string players. The song builds gradually but, when it truly hits, it is a fantastic experience that takes the breath somewhat. Raveen wanted something more collaborative and uncharted on their latest track. It is wonderful hearing other musicians and singers come together to bring the listener a symphonic, kaleidoscopic and hypnotic track that is hard to get out of the mind. One of my biggest hatreds in music is when artists needlessly collaborate with other singers. You get a lot of Hip-Hop/Rap artists bringing out songs that have loads of other artists on it. One wonders whether it is a pitch for commercial success and streaming figures. Does a song need four or five other artists on there?! It makes the song crowded and cluttered – the other artists hardly add anything and obfuscate the meaning and singularity of the song. It is galling hearing so many artists thrown names together haphazardly – little regard for concision, quality and focus. I appreciate an artist that wants to conspire with others but it is the sheer gaudiness of things that put me off (some artists). It is not only reserved to genres like Rap – Pop artists are getting into the habit and, the biggest stars at least, bring so many other bodies in. What I love about Raveen is the fact they took the decision to introduce other players. They have not thoughtlessly brought random singers and players together in a cynical attempt at generating hype and spotlight.
I will skip to the conclusion soon but, before going there – and looking at the song, of course – wanted to talk about international artists arriving here. I am unsure whether Raveen has plans coming to Europe but, considering the impactful way the continent has on the band – it would be great seeing the guys come over here for a spell. The U.K. would love to see them and there are plenty of venues that could host them. I know a lot of North American acts that have come over here – with the intention of staying for a few gigs – only to see them in-demand and remaining here for many weeks. Maybe it is the fact we are not used to seeing North American acts; perhaps it is the potency of the music – there is something that gets into the heart and means we do not want to like them go. Raveen would do well in Britain but I wonder whether they have the finance and crowd-base to attempt that. There is a good support for them here but they are building a reputation at home right now. It is vital ensuring you have your home territory owned and covered. Montreal is a large territory and one with many other acts playing and striving. Before one goes abroad and tries to conquer foreign soil: they must ensure they have a foundation at home and demand where they live. I feel Raveen have been playing for a few years now and have cemented their name in the local minds. They are gathering terrific reviews and have a number of gigs lined up – they have performed some great dates already. Maybe they are looking to 2018 and where their music will take them. It would be great seeing them here and embarking on a mini-tour of Europe.
The band-market, as we know, is a competitive and busy one. Maybe solo artists are taking more spotlight right – I am curious why there has been that shift; maybe it is easier succeeding and growing if you are on your own. Bands cannot be ignored and, not only are they important, but the desire to discover future-legends is intense. Many are looking out at music and wondering where those upcoming stars are. The mainstream has a few great bands but one sees more solo artists succeeding. It is interesting exploring why this is. I guess tastes are shifting or, perhaps, bands are more commercial than solo artists – in a way that means they are predictable and forgettable. The new breed of artists is exciting me because there are some fantastic bands emerging. What I know for sure if there is a lot of competition between the new acts. Gigs are sparse and that opportunity to ascend to the mainstream is limited to a select few. This might sound depressing but it is interesting seeing how the mainstream differs to the underground. Raveen are based in a city where there are so many exceptional musicians – each has the potential to go a long way and make a real impact on music. I am confident the boys of Raveen will succeed and remain because they have a progressive and intelligent approach to their music. Creating something genuinely new and enjoyable is harder than one might think. Bands that succeed and inspire new generations are those that go against easy options and try something harder. The introspective and subdued tones one hears on their album is enough to get them up the ladder and closer to the big leagues. As I said; the reviews are coming in and there is a lot of positivity flowing around. It is hard distinguishing yourself but, if you take time to craft music that is pure to you – but separate from everything else out there – it can be hugely effective. That is the case with Always: the album has resonated with so many people and being spoken about in excitable and impassioned tones.
Always opens with something of the Enya about it. Not that this is a slight: it is a rare thing to see a song that has such grace and etherealness. There are hummed and choired vocals; a majestic sense of flight and the unknown. One imagines themselves flying and floating through the air. A sublime and spine-tingling vocal coda bonds with tender notes and unobtrusive compositional elements – it is a calm and restrained opening but one instilled with so much beauty and possibility. Even without a single word being properly articulated; one is helpless to resist the spectral nudity and luminous passion of the song. That elongated and ecumenical coda continues for a while and does not lose any of its magic and addictiveness. It is impossible not to be drawn to the flickering flame that is provided. Rather than singe one’s wings and perish: there is a warmth and welcoming hum that attracts the curious and keeps them cocooned and encapsulated. When a vocal does come in, in a way, it pairs the sweetness and beauty of Patrick Watson with the deeper sounds of James Blake. Building around electronic flickers and Classical suggestions – it seems appropriate those names come to mind. One gets a sense of experimentation and edginess; paired and balanced against the sublime and pure means the song cover so much ground in the initial stages – it never loses identity or races away too quickly. The hero looks at life and confesses that things are falling apart at the seams. It seems things are not working out how they should. Rather than urgently project the words: each breath is considered and there is murmuration and mutterings among the stillness. The hero, perhaps his travels in Europe have opened his mind, gains a sense of distance and escape. I feel there was a need to detach from something and find some space. Whether he is referring to a heroine or lost love; one gleans a sense of detachment and loss. The romance might have turned and it seems she is never coming back – some words are barely audible or cohesive in the throes of harsh realisation.
Although the subject matter is tarnishing and sour – beauty and tenderness seem to wrap every word tightly. The performances are sublime and, following the rush and tingling of those vocals; we arrive at a stage where there is a lot more seriousness and focus. Witnessing the switch between layered vocals – female sounds coming to the fore and shining – the winding and contorting words of the hero are quite affecting and emotional. Before long; one gets another whiff of the vocal breeze and opening majesty. The song takes us to a warm and remote part where those heavenly voices close the eyes and get the mind working overtime. They pair with the hero who takes over the mantle and is trying to make sense of things. For his part, there are few words and lines to project – most of the song is built on that swell of vocals and the composition. You get crackles of electronic instruments and machine; suggestions of percussion and piano. That mix of genres and elements, in lesser hand, could have been a misjudged and regretful decision, As it stands; Always is a song that perfectly balances emotions, sounds and suggestions into something cohesive, stunning and endlessly nuanced. You will come back to the song down the line to experience new things and discover fresh insight. It is a song that hits you when you first listen but is too big and exciting to take it all in. Strings rise and seduce; the vocals are supreme and intense – there is something about the song that is unlike anything you will hear this year. With that in mind; I took it out for another spin to see what I missed first time out. What comes to mind are the layers and hidden side-alleys that escape you initially. It is a fantastic song and one that warrants more airplay and international acclaim. Artists that tackle something beautiful and entrancing often write a song boring and insubstantial. So much attention and work have gone into Always. It is a moment of music that has been crafted but retains naturalness and a sense of ease. That is a hard trick to pull off but one the Canadian band has done with a sense of ease. I hope they work with the musicians/singers we hear oh this track again. There is a connection and understanding that elevates the song and ensures it stays in your consciousness for a very long time. In a music industry where so few songs endure and inspire – credit to Raveen and what they have achieved here.
I will end things soon but, a bit late to the wonders of Raveen, it has been wonderful reviewing their album’s title-track. It is a song that is quite short but, in its brevity, manages to achieve so much. Over the past couple of months, the guys have played across Canada and been very busy indeed. Exploring new areas and gaining a lot of love from the road – that must give them confidence and the desire to keep recording. Now that the dust is settling and the record is out there; it is down the listeners to absorb it. If anything; the post-release portion of an album’s life can be quite unsure and nervy. That initial flourish of fascination passes and it is down to an artist to keep interest strong and consistent. The guys are hitting-up magazines and websites to ensure reviews keep coming in. That is an impressive attitude and a work ethic that stands them in good stead. I have listened to the album and can recommend it without any hesitation. All of the tracks fit together but no two sounds alike. What amazes me is how the band has developed since their earliest work. They are more confident and striking than they have ever been; bringing new players into various moments and at a very important stage in their life – where they are maturing and questioning life; tackling young-adulthood and questions. It has been a while since I have heard an artist impress me with their experimentation and originality. I guess, in terms of bigger acts…that would have to be Anna Meredith. I am not saying one can compare Always with an album like Varmints – her 2016-released record that amazed critics with its wide scope and accessibility. That is a dazzling album that mixes huge horns and pomp – Nautilus is a perfect opener – and more refined and calm songs. There is nothing ordinary and run-of-the-mill about it. It is a wonderful début that stunned critics upon its release. That is the same impression I get with Raveen.
Whilst their music is not as bombastic and varied as Meredith’s; there is something about the way they tackle sound and emotions that make their music endure and venture – it swims in the mind and makes its way to every part of the body. I am interesting seeing where the band goes from here and what they have planned. I am sure they want to spend the remainder of the year in Canada – keeping it a bit quiet and ensuring the album reaches as many people as possible. 2018 will be an exciting one for them and, I am certain, their most successful year to date. They have created something rich and impressive in Always – the title-track is a new direction for Raveen but one that pays off. It is wonderful seeing a band try something different and working with other people. That is not the case with every song on the album but works perfectly on its opening number. Let us end things here but, before then, a plea to the boys: I do hope you come to the U.K. soon and experience the music scene here. It is a packed and exciting one and one that could do, more now than ever, international blood. We are lacking a sense of worldliness and foreign appreciation. Canada has always provided the world incredible musicians: this is the case with the bright and incredible Raveen. Their début album is a thoroughly enjoyable and triumphant effort that is receiving a wide array of affectionate and passionate reviews. I can add my name to the list – the title-track is a perfect song for those who want something that goes a lot deeper than most music out there. If you want a song that tackles the heart and engages the mind; gets the blood running and the eyes wide – I think I have a band that…
HAS the answer.