01 Shawn MativetskyTemporal Waves
Temporal Waves
People Places Records PPR | 051 (peopleplacesrecords.bandcamp.com)

Montréal-based Shawn Mativetsky, one of Canada’s foremost tabla players, is an accomplished performer of Hindustani classical music and a sought-after tabla educator. He’s equally at home in genres as diverse as world music, jazz, pop, composing and performing for dance and theatre productions and working with contemporary Canadian concert composers. Nicole Lizée, Tim Brady and Dinuk Wijeratne have all included his tabla playing in their work.

Featuring production and performance contributions from Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes), the eponymously titled Temporal Waves reveals yet another side of Mativetsky’s musical persona. Here sonic atmospheres are dominated by retro analog synthesizer sounds and aesthetics, by drum machine and electronic effects, all framing his masterful tabla playing.  

Rooted in Mativetsky’s demoscene community involvement in the 1990s, Temporal Waves is a touching nostalgic look back to his youthful days steeped in the DIY electronic music scene that congregated around “tracker” software and the music of early video games. All these features are reflected in the album, with Mativetsky’s un-ironic tabla upfront in the mix, and skillfully integrated musically too. 

Listening to Temporal Waves occasioned numerous surprises. Luminous Objects for example is in a five-beat rhythmic cycle outlined by a delightful diatonic sequenced melody, while the next track is in seven. Importantly, both odd meters give plenty of opportunity for tabla displays.

Mativetsky was a member of the Montreal group Ramasutra 25 years ago, and recently has collaborated with live coder David Ogborn. This attractive new release is yet another step in his Indo-electronic journey, one which has substantial crossover appeal.

02 Itamar Erez Hamin HonorMigrant Voices
Itamar Erez; Hamin Honari
Independent (itamarerez.com/itamar-hamin-duet)

Free improvisation requires trust and understanding, qualities not often found within long-held national political divides, and yet this is very much present in the music made by Israeli-Canadian guitarist Itamar Erez and Iranian percussionist Hamin Honari on Migrant Voices.   

The opening track, Departure, defines the difference and commonality between Erez’s accomplished guitar and Honari’s finesse on the tombak (Persian hand drum). With nods to Spanish and classical western styles, Erez’s guitar leads Honari’s drum in a counterbalanced union. 

The title track, Migrant Voices, the only composed work, displays in Erez’s hands, Middle Eastern elements and sounds I associate with the oud, while adding western classical trills and ornamentation. It takes the migrant on a wandering journey over hills and through valleys requiring attention to the path. Honari’s drumming enriches the landscape, while suggesting its dangers.  

After its slow opening Embrace, one of the strongest tracks on the recording, finds a delicate interplay when Honari’s drumming enhances Erez’s expressive lead. The multiple turns and transitions surprise and delight and occasionally recall the American John Fahey’s always inventive improvisational guitar fingerpicking. 

Another highlight, Forgotten Sands, offers a Spanish style bolero where Honari’s finger drumming leads the dance and Erez’s guitar provides elegant pomp and flourish in their combined movement across the majestic dance floor. 

Throughout the excellently produced recording the musicians bring together two nations under one music-making roof and speak with understanding and coherence.

03 Kiran AhluwaliaComfort Food
Kiran Ahluwalia
Independent KM2024-1 (kiranmusic.com/music)

The idea that multiculturalism can become a bloated kind of tribalism is not a stretch. You only need to experience what happens when the serpent of nationalism strikes at the heel of rainbowed societies that have long since lived harmoniously. Kiran Ahluwalia sings of this phenomenon, born of her painful experience living in India, and Canada as well. As she lifts her voice to a characteristic, existential wail, painting a disturbingly beautiful tapestry woven from the threads of conflict in the universal confrontation between religious faith and political torment. 

She calls her album of songs Comfort Food because she lends her poignant voice to each song, the heart of which beats most affectingly in slow pulsating movements which she shapes in the doleful blend of Sufi arias made up of impassioned lyrics. As on previous albums masterfully created with her husband, the extraordinary guitarist and producer Rez Abbassi plays with meticulous diligence, placing his focussed, wailing sound, velvety fluency and acrobatic vibrancy at the service of his wife’s eloquently sculpted music. 

Ahluwalia treads nary a wrong step, bringing together Abbassi and a full complement of brilliant Canadian journeymen including multi-instrumentalist Louis Simao, accordionist Robbie Grunwald, bassist Rich Brown, tablachi Ravi Naimpally, drummer Davide DeRenzo and percussionists Mark Duggan and Joaquin Nunez. Every light-fingered performer is keenly responsive to Ahluwalia’s outpouring of lyricism, especially on the wonderfully mystical Ban Koulchi Redux co-written with Algerian Souad Massi.

04 Nadah El ShazlyNadah El Shazky – Les Damnes Ne Pleurent Pas
Nadah El Shazky; Various Artists
Asadun Alay Records (asadunalayrecords.bandcamp.com)

The British-Moroccan independent film director Fyzal Boulifa released his latest film, Les Damnés ne Pleurent Pas (The Damned Don’t Cry) in 2022. Already the winner of several awards, it is scheduled for release with English sub-titles in the near future. The music for the film was created by the Cairo-based composer, producer and vocalist Nadah El Shazly, and the vast majority of it is performed by a trio consisting of violin, double bass and electronically modified harp played by Nicolas Royer-Artuso, Jonah Fortune and Sarah Pagé respectively; El Shazly provides the vocals on one track, Adi

For a gritty mother-son drama set in Morocco, one might expect the film to feature some plaintive, evocative, Arab-scented music and you will find some lovely, complex examples of that on such tracks as Mausoleum, Haircut and End Credit. Special mention here goes to El Shazly’s deeply satisfying vocals on Adi and to beautifully effective moments where some non-Western tuning turns the harp into a sort of folk instrument. There are other tracks, however, like Claustrophobic Love and Fight with Auntie, that get quite darkly disturbing with Fortune’s expert bass roaring away like a raging bear. I’m a big fan of music that walks the line between strangeness and beauty and I’m sure these tracks work well in the context of the film, but just for listening, they’re pretty challenging. Still, you’ll find much interesting and evocative music on this disc, beautifully played and branching out in so many satisfying directions. I look forward to watching the film.

Editor’s Note: Montreal’s Asadun Alay Records is the brainchild of noted producer-musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and Amélie Malissard of act·art·mgt. The label was launched in late 2022 with Safala by acclaimed Lebanese electronic music producer, DJ and performer Liliane Chlela.

05 Curious BadgerThe Curious Badger
Marc van Vugt
Baixim Records BR F533 (marcvanvugt.com)

Many music fans can listen to a great deal of acoustic guitar without realizing how distinctive these instruments can be. For example, I’ve played several acoustic guitars for friends who are surprised by the differences among a mid-sized Collings OM (“orchestral model”), a larger Martin dreadnought or a 1956 Gibson archtop. Marc van Vugt pushes these acoustic differences to a very happy extreme with The Curious Badger, where he lists the nine guitars used on the album’s 12 tracks. 

The title piece features aggressive and rhythmic strumming on a Guild 12-string, showcasing its bold and open sound. Back to the Market Square is slower and sweeter, featuring a Lowden baritone guitar, which has a gorgeously full resonance. Black Belt has many exciting and jazzy runs and features van Vugt’s overdubbing of two guitars: a nylon string and an archtop. This piece is a virtuoso work with the guitars switching from rhythm to lead and several runs are played together adding to the excitement. Van Vugt is an excellent guitarist and each of the pieces is unique and compelling. It is a bonus that the album credits contain the complete list of guitars and tracks so that we can truly appreciate each instrument’s unique sonic properties.

Listen to 'The Curious Badger' Now in the Listening Room

01 SolidaridadDistancia
Solidaridad Tango
3AM FISH RECORDS 3AMFR02 (solidaridadtango.ca)

Toronto-based Aparna Halpé is a Sri Lankan-Canadian tango violinist, arranger and composer with over a decade of experience in the traditional Argentinian form. In early COVID-time 2021, she founded Solidaridad, an all-female Toronto tango ensemble comprised of Valeria Matzner (vocals), Halpé and Suhashini Arulanandam (violins), Esme Allen-Creighton (viola), Sybil Shanahan (cello), Shannon Wojewoda (bass), Elizabeth Acker (piano) and special guest Eva Wolff (bandoneon).   

Halpé’s English lyrics are not in traditional tango Spanish. Thu opening track’s intense spoken poem Winter’s Coming sets up the tango. The moving recitation And I Have Been Looking is about the deaths of three indigenous women. The closing poem The Dance with unexpected background subtle instrumental held notes, gives thanks to indigenous peoples and land acknowledgements. 

Solidaridad expands tango soundscapes throughout. Argentinian Petalo Selser’s complex Deriva’s opening traditional tangos develop into the low string groove as other instruments play percussive beats, held notes, high pitched strings with slides, melodic conversations, a short slow section and closing rhythmic cadence. Wolff’s arrangement of José Dames’ Fuimos features a comforting calm bandoneon with technically challenging musical tango flavours in varying tempos. In YYZ, Halpé takes on arranging her self-described tango homage to the rock instrumental by Rush’s Geddy Lee and Neil Peart with contrasting Sri Lankan folk music and rhythms in riveting tango/rock sounds with alternating loud and quieter sections, rhythmic banging, faster repeated melody, slow final crash and closing laughter!!

Inspired by COVID grief to exuberant happiness, Solidaridad’s “Toronto tangos” are perfect!

Listen to 'Distancia' Now in the Listening Room

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