Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Splendour
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
Montreal is currently experiencing another artistic renaissance that has nothing to do with Arcade Fire. Thanks in large part to Arbutus Records (Grimes, Doldrums, TOPS), a new wave of artists both musical and visual have built a movement that has attracted a great deal of outside attention. Production duo Solar Year (Ben Borden and David Ertel) are one of those acts; they specialize in meditative sound collages constructed from pop, new age, Gregorian chants, ambient and electro influences.
Waverly is the first album from Montreal-based electronic producers Ben Borden and David Ertel, who go under the name Solar Year. The vague paganism suggested by that moniker is fully appropriate, as there is an almost New Age tenor to the duo's productions: the tones and drones they engage in on songs such as "Global Girlfriend" or "Currents" have a ceremonial quality to them, especially when they go for vocal harmonies à la Animal Collective (minus Noah Lennox's distinctive warble, mind you). When they add proper rhythms to their material, like on the vaguely tribal "Night & Day," "Pivot" and "Soleil-Moon," you can hear them quoting the same studio tricks popularized a couple of years ago by The Subliminal Kid and Van Rivers, and it only adds to Waverly's oblique mystical vibe.
Last summer, the Montreal duo Solar Year self-released Waverly and not many people heard it. This summer they give the same (albeit revamped) album a proper vinyl release, which, after a stellar collaboration with fellow Canadian, Grimes, should have a lot more people listening. This is a good thing. Producer Ben Borden, and singer David Ertel's music manages to brood without being suffocating, and treads a similarly thin line between shimmering synth pop and icy ambience.
Yet another ’90s micro-genre gets the hipster revival treatment on Montreal duo Solar Year’s snazzy debut. New Age-y electronica is reworked as a thing of synthetic sterility in a deliberate affront to the genre’s earthily ethno-wanky inventors (stinky ’90s techno-hippies) and Ben Borden and David Ertel ditch any inspiring mantras in favour of less comforting sounds. It’s packed full of marauding bass synths and pitch-shifted vocals.
When Solar Year first released Waverly last June, they played hosts to a special pool party where underwater speakers released waves of their fluid, ambient 80s/electro sound collages to those brave enough to swim in a potentially dirty, communal tub. The immersive aquatic experience quickly informed us that the Montreal duo of Ben Borden and David Ertel seem to have a knack for creating atmospheric music that liberates the unconscious and celebrates terrestrial non-sequiturs. For the album’s re-release, Borden and Ertel have revamped and re-mastered their original output with some new tracks, including Arbutus Records label mate Grimes lending her vocals on ‘Brotherhood’.