Big Shouts to Andre at OPAK for getting us on the road this summer. here’s whats happening so far:
THIS friday – may 31st – we are playing with the amazing Brahja Waldman Quartet at the Resonance Cafe in our neighbourhood in Montreal. 5175A av du parc. remember the late 60s? it wasnt uncommon for jazz and rock musicians to do shows together. ah, idealism……
6th – in New York City @ The Mercury Lounge - 9pm showtime
14 – in Toronto for NXNE @ The Silver Dollar 8pm . nice n early Because also….
14-23 in Toronto every night @ The Berkeley Street Theatre as part of the Luminato Festivsal. we’ll be playing from In The Pines, inviting special guests, and hosting some late night weirdness.
12 – in Quebec City @ The Imperial Theatre with Ra Ra Riot and Solange
26 – in Prince Edward County @ the Cherry Valley United Church a very special show with Jen Castle. 8pm.
27 – in Guelph @ the eternal Hillside Festival. giving hippy a good name for 30 years
1 – in Montreal @ the PHI Centre with french brooder Arthur H on solo piano.
3&4 – in Sackville, NB @ Sappyfest. alex lukashevsky is also playing!
9 – in Kingston @ the General Wolfe Hotel as part of the Wolfe Island Music Festival
12 – in Laval, QC @André-Mathieu Hall with Arthur H.
13 – in Quebec City @ Théâtre Petit-Champlain with Arthur H
18 – in Baie-Saint-Paul, QC @ le Massif
more dates to come soon…
original review here by Nelanthi Hewa
It’s a common aphorism that poetry is music, but finding music that is poetry is becoming increasingly difficult in this age when catchy beats and flashy music videos are more important than lyrical content. But a young Montreal band called AroarA is here to bring the magic of words back into music with their debut EP, In the Pines.
What exactly makes this EP so special? Firstly, the premise. It’s based on the work of avant-garde American poet Alice Notley- specifically, her book of poetry, In the Pines, published in 2007. Notleyhas been called one of the greatest American living poets, and her book explores the spiritual and visionary experiences of a woman undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C. Her poetry combines music with powerful imagery and music in a way that inspired the members of AroarA to create a fourteen song album to accompany the fourteen poems of In the Pines. For now, however, we have the five song EP, with the full-length album being set for a summer release.
The EP beginning immediately captures the listener’s attention, with lone tribal-esque drums pounding out a rapid rhythm. “#11″, the first track, has an almost jarring rhythm to it, but Ariel Engle‘s reverberated vocals are smooth and clear. “#11″ is a song that’s hard to predict- the rhythm changes frequently and the medley of instruments are often contrasting, but it’s an effective first track in that it grabs and keeps your attention.
What follows “#11″ is a dreamy, hypnotic musical journey with lyrics that are as interesting and obscure as one would expect from an album based on poetry. “#6″, the second song on In the Pines, is magnetic, and showcases AroarA‘s ability to use silence just as effectively as noise. Slow drumbeats and otherworldly vocals combined with an inherently modern guitar solo create a unique blend of genres.
In the Pines‘ minimalism helps shape a visceral, deceptively simple album that allows the powerful words of their music take the front-stage, and the result is that you listen that much harder to not only the lyrics but the web of sounds that they have chosen as the background to their poetry.
But the fourth track of the EP, “#2″, is proof that AroarA creates not only artistic music, but enjoyable music as well. The fast-paced rhythm and guitar chords make “#2″ a song that above all is catchy and fun to listen to. The vocals are good, but the instrumentation is exquisite, and the musical solos will get you closing your eyes and just letting the music wash over you.
And does the EP end on a high note? Yes. Yes it does. We featured “#13″ on this week’s Bipolar Tuesday, but I will repeat my praise for this fantastic track. It’s visceral, airy, and a complete joy to listen to. If any song can transport you into the pines, this song is sure to.
In the pines, i began to read it, and it started singing to me. it sounded like bernard hermann’s score to ‘taxi driver’ but not urban at all, instead lonesome, put in a dust bowl and shaken. voices spoke from across a spirit divide, and sudden colours ripped open the shadowy night scenes and country-poor sepia. i can’t tell you what it is ‘about’. “noir investigation” is one way to describe it. it concerns a woman who follows her soul into death’s world. she encounters ancestors, relatives, and figures of male power with whom she must negotiate & navigate.
i noticed that within the 14 poem cycle there were scattered both lyric-forms and actual lyrics from very old american folk songs. i knew these songs from listening to the Harry Smith Folk Anthology, which was originally released in 1952. this collection provokes insights into what’s been called the ‘old, weird america‘….and proved pivotal for a new generation discovering its veiled & bizarre roots. the title of the book itself – In The Pines – points us in that direction, but it is only the very beginning: Alice speaks of ‘scratchy recordings’, of dead men ‘leaking songs’, decks of cards, train hopping, revival meetings, fire, and of ghosts and hospitals and injections. harry smith himself even makes an appearance. lines such as ‘wade in the water’, ‘them that dont like it can leave me alone’, ‘poor girl, dressed in black, po-lice at your back’, ‘hard is the fortune of all womankind’, & ’I know nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell’ (a dylan lyric that reflects his own assimilation of these songs) all point to this specific music as being central to her book.
& so i saw that these poems might be re-turned back into ‘folk’ songs; i wondered if that eerie, veiled sound could be raised up. 14 poems = 14 songs. we used the words in each poem as the basis for lyrics to its counterpart song. reading thru the poems, certain lines scanned perfectly as folk-forms.
I was the closet
I was the witness
I was his
sometimes we used a full phrase, sometimes just two or three words. we used only Alice’s words. one could ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ a kind of core becoming. we began to make backgrounds for these using cigarbox guitars and ancient drum machines. gradually the cycle started to have its own life and its own independence. we decided the record would be constrained to use only analog sounds. we couldnt give titles to the songs bc they have none as poems, only the numbers denoting their sequence in the narrative.
once, while we were reading, A said ” if Alice wuz church, we’d go!”
original review here
AroarA formed last year, the partnership of two musicians I have long admired: Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle. Whiteman’s work I knew best from recordings – for his work as Apostle of Hustle, and as a member of Broken Social Scene. Engle was more elusive – although she has past projects, no recordings ever came close to the heart-stopping/heart-starting effect of her live performances. One of the city’s most admired singers, Engle has performed with everyone from Feist to Socalled, Jerusalem In My Heart to Martha Wainwright. She has that rare, rare singer’s gift – the kind of voice that changes the gravity in a room, drawing everything toward her silhouette. Magnetic, bewitching, undeniable as a hot coal.
Engle and Whiteman are husband and wife. AroarA, therefore, is more than a band: it’s something lovers are doing with their lives, together. From this, the group’s music gains a seriousness, a sensuousness. AroarA’s songs inherit part of their intimacy: these songs are the sum of a thousand touches, a million glances. Hearing AroarA’s mingling voices, cigar-box guitars, I imagine the moments on the periphery: dusk drives, breakfast-table debates, midnights.
Which brings me to this first release, a self-titled EP, five songs from their In The Pines LP. It’s called In The Pines because Alice Notley wrote a book of poetry called In The Pines, and AroarA’s songs use Notley’s poems as lyrics. The songs don’t just borrow scraps of stanzas: I believe these are Notley’s complete poems. Because of this, there’s a certain formality to these songs – a “literariness”, for lack of a better word, that can at first feel like a thin paper screen. There are big words, literary allusions; this is free verse, not pop-song rhyme.
That can be the first impression, but it fades. Especially now that AroarA have completely finished these songs, adding strings and brass to voice and beats and guitars, with mixing by Sandro Perri, these tunes are lush, not formal. They are direct, not mediated. Engle and Whiteman are staring at us, at each other, as they sing. Yes, In The Pines has a concept. But this music is hot and intimate. AroarA’s use of Notley isn’t a cerebral exercise, a scheme for arty recognition, or even a shortcut to a Canada Council grant. Notley’s In The Pines was simply beloved. It was one of Engle and Whiteman’s private secrets, a set of passwords. A pillow book. Part of two lovers’ secret code.
Now, they sing those secrets. “Crying Out For Me” feels at once like a lesson and confession; a revealing of oneself. It feels troubled and changing – seeking, glimpsing. You seek and then you glimpse - there; there. AroarA sink and seek and shout “Goodnight Irene!”. They let clear & muffled sounds roam over a scuzzy beat. They rasp warnings, they console. They make a beautiful sound. Some of the harmonics here are sinister, unresolved. And then there comes a line where the mist parts, and the sun is low, and every angled form seems to shiver with promise.
by Sarah Liss 8/10
Inspired by a collection of contemporary poems written by a woman dazed and dazzled by both the drugs she was taking to combat Hepatitis C and the illness in her body, composed of dreamy fragments of text and noise, and conceptually rooted in avant-garde minimalism, In the Pinescould very well be an exercise in academic experimentalism. Instead, the first release from AroarA—the duo made up of Broken Social Scene guitar visionary Andrew Whiteman and his wife, Ariel Engle—is all heart.
The arrangements are warm and bright, pieced together from odd-couple instrumentation (amps and looped samples sit snugly alongside mellotron, creaky-crackly cigar-box guitars, and handclap percussion) and moulded into deeply evocative sound-poems. In the Pines is reminiscent of old-time field recordings—the album is named for poet Alice Notley’s book, but “In the Pines” is also an alternate title for the bluesy traditional tune, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?,” made famous by Leadbelly and, later, Kurt Cobain—and the modern-day dreamscapes of the artists on the K Records label (see: Mirah, The Microphones), but it’s its own beast. On opener “#11,” Engle chirps curious mantras about memory between galloping-horse beats and an aura of hazy strings; “5” (actually the EP’s third track) floats a murmured waltz-time duet about perception over finger-picked guitar.
Whiteman’s explored similar territory before, in the lush worldbeat-inflected songs he created as Apostle of Hustle, but AroarA’s compositions have added layers of cozy intimacy and sharp focus. For all its wide-ranging influences, this EP feels like something that was lurking in the back of your mind.
Playlist picks: “#11,” “#5,” “#13”
AroarA’s events at SXSW:
14th – Swan Dive at 820 pm
16th – POP Montreal BBQ at 1pm
16th – BUST Magazine party at 240pm
plus we’re doing a Daytrotter session on st patrick’s day. early. too early.
read article here.
4/5 étoiles - par ANDRÉ PÉLOQUIN
Duo indie pop psychédélique – et couple – montréalais formé parAriel Engle et Andrew Whiteman (aussi aperçu au sein de Broken Social Scene), AroarA surprend avec In the Pines, un maxi accaparant les tendances actuelles sans verser dans la récupération crasse, bien au contraire. Œuvre enregistrée dans le salon, à la bonne franquette, ce EP est inspiré des écrits de la poète Alice Notley, ce qui donne lieu à des strophes sortant des sentiers maintes fois battus. Musicalement, les amoureux épatent en flirtant avec la pop électro aux accents aussi kitsch que branchouillards de The Knife et Grimes (la pièce d’ouverture #11), en plus d’évoquer l’ex-collègue de Whitman, Leslie Feist (dans des chansons plus épiques comme #6), voire The Eels et TV on the Radio (dans des morceaux plus sombres à la #5). Bref, un ovni mi-brouillon, mi-hétérogène, mais surtout captivant.
go to original article here. by Brad Wheeler
Those looking for a clue to Sunday evening’s worst-kept musical secret got one when the sound man at Toronto’s Cameron House was told that the Montreal-based duo AroarA would need a third microphone for vocals. And then, when Leslie Feist, acoustic guitar in hand, showed up for the sound check, the mystery was solved. Earlier in the day, the Juno-winning artist had tweeted that her comrades Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle would play a surprise show – a makeup gig for the one snowed out on Friday at the Horseshoe Tavern. She alerted her followers to AroarA’s “ghost science faux-folk,” and that the performance would be a “camel ride through the pines,” a reference to the married twosome’s forthcoming album In the Pines.
The record takes its name from Alice Notley’s book of poems of the same name, a collection that Whiteman described as being set in a ghost land and full of crazy visions, and yet “strangely hopeful” all the same. An EP version is set for a March 2 release, with the full album to come later.
Notley’s poems are numbered, as are the inspired, corresponding songs of AroarA. The project took shape when Whiteman detected old folk lyrics in the poems – 5, for example, includes a mention of Goodnight Irene, a mournful traditional recoded by Lead Belly and others. In the small backroom at the Cameron (with a tiny stage crowded even further by props from a small play performed immediately prior to the concert), AroarA’s song droned to a West African rhythm, set against a sampled, slightly funky beat. Engle, playing a cigar-box guitar, is a commanding, pure-voiced singer, recalling Joni Mitchell on 5, but not usually.
She sang more urgently on 4, a heavy, humming, tightly strummed Mali-stye blues delivered straight to the chests to the 70 or so audience members. Feist had joined the duo, adding harmony vocals and thick chords on her acoustic guitar. The piece named 11 was ambitious and galloping, with an ominous, sampled string part adding to its weight.
Feist was not there simply for support or star power; she’s exhibited a taste for circular riffs and droned grooves in her work, and so her presence was absolutely compatible. That being said, AroarA, poetic, intoxicating and arresting, is more than enough on its own. The pair is plenty for this unique, significant project – nothing by the numbers here.