Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Record label: Arbutus Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Blue Hawaii are an interesting case for the creeping influence of electronic music. The Montreal duo's last few releases of wispy folk-pop featured synthesizers, but they still felt like window dressing to music that was rooted in other traditions. Not anymore—Agor and Raph have discovered dance music and crafted a bewitching album of sparse pop that incorporates its textures and timbres rather than trying to imitate the music itself.The two apparently wrote much of the album separately, which explains why Untogether often feels like Agor is attacking Raph's delicate songs with electronics, or as if she's asserting her presence over his undergrowth of artificial sounds.
Blue HawaiiUntogether[Arbutus Records; 2013]By Will Ryan; March 22, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetUntogether is the name of the record and it's a theme the Montreal duo of Alex "Agor" Cowan and Raphaelle "Raph" Standell-Preston, aka Blue Hawaii, have a startling commitment to on their debut LP for Arbutus Records. Untogether is an album about the vast distances between two human beings even in the most intimate of settings. It's an album that is interested in parsing out and deconstructing metaphysical and emotional geography and where it all fits relative to its tangible counterparts.
While tastemaking music blogs and websites were tripping over themselves to interview Grimes last year, Montreal's Blue Hawaii were quietly building a name for themselves following the 2010 release of a tropical-tinged EP. The duo consists of Braids lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Agor, aka Alexander Cowan. Written over the course of almost two years living apart from each other, the debut full-length examines the influence of technology and art on modern relationships.
While there was no lack of ethereal electronic projects hailing from Canada in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Blue Hawaii still made their own niche within this musical territory. As the title of their first full-length album suggests, Alexander Cowan and Raphaelle Standell-Preston made Untogether largely apart from each other. This separation makes itself felt in these songs' somber sleekness, which is a far cry from the tropical warmth of their debut EP, Blooming Summer.
In 2010, Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alexander Cowan spent a couple of months wandering around Central America, and when they came back they made an EP that sounded like an uncommonly lyrical "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay: eight songs of humid, sun-kissed, heart-on-its-cut-off-sleeve electro-pop. Of course, Blue Hawaii was not the only band on the beach in 2010, but Blooming Summer managed to sound like something unique. Standell-Preston's voice moved through these songs like a jellyfish, tumbling with such grace that its sudden sting came as a surprise.
This Canadian duo (Braids’ Raph Standell-Preston and friend Alexander Cowan) named their debut album ‘Untogether’ because they recorded it apart: one touring, the other discovering the best electronic music in Europe. And as luck would have it, it’s the kind of album that sounds best listened to solo. The icy tones of ‘Follow’, looped folk of ‘Try To Be’ and bubbling ‘Yours To Keep’ are perfect for a day under the duvet (maybe waiting for that message from someone you met the night before), while the heavier, Mount Kimbie-like tracks (‘In Two’, the choppy, R&B-styled ‘Nightskies’) are just right for getting up to go out again.Siân Rowe .
Much of Montreal duo Blue Hawaii's second full-length, Untogether, was recorded in separate rooms and cities, but there is an innate intimacy that unfolds with each song. Real-life couple Raph (also the lead vocalist of Braids) and Agor cut, dissect and rearrange almost everything here, creating a collage of sounds echoing with melancholy. Take "Try to Be," for example.
Montreal has become the collision point for North America’s exemplar cuts in electronica, noise and indie-rock, and the only people who think 2013’s musical torch belongs anywhere but Montreal are the city’s musicians. Ask and they’ll tell you: sometime between Purity Ring’s early blog-burblings and the total viral domination of Grimes’ Visions, the scene went stale. The ‘about-to-break’s broke.
Untogether is a study of detachment. As its rather beautiful sleeve art indicates, it’s an album where two things seem to come together but fail to do so—sometimes separated by inches, other times by miles. The two members that form the Montreal-based Blue Hawaii, Alex Cowan and Raphaelle Standelle-Preston, could in another life be the most romantic duo in the world; Standelle-Preston, especially, has a voice that’s a real thing of beauty.
Montreal duo Blue Hawaii took roughly three years to turn in their long-awaited debut album, Untogether — long-awaited, that is, to anyone who’s already had the good fortune of having heard Blooming Summer, an inspired, addictive, and rather generously long (eight tracks) EP that appeared to effortlessly put any and all other electro-pop acts around to shame. Given both the amount of time and the fact that members Ag and Ra (of the equally excellent, but distinct Braids) haven’t released any material together since, it wouldn’t have been shocking if anything new would sound unrecognizable, but Untogether is undeniably the sound of Blue Hawaii — though having weathered the passage of time, for better or worse. From the first moments of opener “Follow,” there is an immediately noticeable improvement in production quality, but along with it, there’s also a decidedly distinct reservation that would seem to (hopefully) hint at a more musically introspective approach rather than a claim to maturity.
It's hard to determine what the end result of Canadians BRAIDS' 2011 charm offensive on the UK was, given that they've not really returned to finish the job yet. Whether they were supporting The Antlers or Wild Beasts on tour, playing industry-packed urban crawls or outdoors in the great British wet – not to mention other engagements in Europe and their native North America – they appeared to be everywhere for a time. But they left as quickly as the buzz began to hum, leaving behind only Native Speaker, a mini-album whose quirks were soft-tipped, searching for exit points that they've - as yet - not come back to discover.
Few will grow tired of these intimate songs living in their headphones. Jen Long 2013 For an album recorded in separation and distantly pieced together over a Canadian winter, there’s a surprising warmth and assurance to be found in the 11 tracks that make up Untogether. The debut album from Montreal duo Blue Hawaii, it follows their Blooming Summer EP, released by the scene-setting Arbutus Records in 2010.
In 2010 Blue Hawaii graced us with the bubbly and buoyant EP Blooming Summer. The band’s first proper full-length album, Untogether, takes a sharp turn away from the happy-go-lucky debut. Untogether shows a different side of the Canadian duo. Brooding and drawn-out, Untogether finds the band taking a fraught voyage through the chilly experimental pop for which Montreal has become known.
One thing should be made explicitly clear to anyone embarking on a trek through the somber terrain that is Untogether: happiness will not be found here. Rather, Blue Hawaii’s sophomore effort takes a sharp turn away from the direction of their sun-dappled debut, exploring the dark side of the dichotomy that is electronic music. Untogether is not an album saturated with Balearic club bangers or infectious hooks.
If there’s two things you get a sense of with Blue Hawaii’s ‘Untogether’, it’s the feelings of space and distance. This release, the debut long player from the duo known separately as Agor and Raph (Braids’ singer), is an introspective rumination on the struggle for connectedness in the detached relationships we are becoming more accustomed to thanks to modern technology. Written by the duo in separation and recorded across Canada over the course of almost two years, ‘Untogether’’s magic is as slow to take hold, just as it was to put together.