By Kerry Doole
Bernice - It's Me, Robin (Telephone Explosion): Last month, it was announced that Toronto experimental pop quintet Bernice had signed to noted local indie imprint Telephone Explosion, with a new album, Eau de Bonjourno, set for a March 5 release. The band has been together a full decade, but this is just its third full-length. In that time, its work has drawn kudos from The New York Times, Pitchfork, The Globe and Mail and more, and made a Polaris Prize longlist.
Advance single It's Me, Robin is something of an autobiographical tune penned by group leader, songwriter and vocalist Robin Dann. As a label press release notes, "Simply put, It’s Me, Robin is Robin talking to herself. How to be? How to live?' says Dann. 'A small metal bowl floats away into the lake and sinks – but below the waves she sits on her cool bottom, her shape shifting self not full of water but of the water, edges dissolving as her identity reforms, grows, reforms, grows, reforms, like the fascia of a body reinventing itself with each twist and bend. A sign, a cross, a road, a potato – who are you?”
The tune is both adventurous and melodic, with staccato rhythms, flourishes of keyboards and horns and harmony vocals weaving in and out of the mix in intriguing fashion.
Accompanying Dann in Bernice are four comrades who have all made a mark outside the band: Thom Gill (keyboards, guitar), Philippe Melanson (e-percussion and drums), Daniel Fortin (bass) and Felicity Williams (voice). Together and apart, they have performed with Martha Wainwright, Andy Shauf, Lido Pimienta, Bahamas, Myriad3, and Beverly Glenn Copeland among many others.
Eau de Bonjourno features a collaboration with producer Shahzad Ismaily, the acclaimed multi-instrumentalist who has worked with artists as varied as Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, and John Zorn.
The album was written at an artist centre on the Toronto Islands, over the course of a month in a repurposed school portable, then recorded in Brooklyn with Ismaily, Describing the creative process, Dann explains that “We have an impulse to open doors that you might not expect, and that translates from groove to melody to lyric. Phil and Thom have this strong aversion to building a beat that sits there in front of you and does exactly what you expect it to do. We come out of so many musical traditions and are trying to make something that’s not a direct descendent of any of them. We’re trying to make the music that feels like us right now.”
The resulting sound fuses jazz, new music, and pop in refreshing ways. The release of the album is keenly awaited.
Publicity: Ken Beattie, Killbeat