In the past month, we’ve welcomed a widely-diverse group of users into the fold, four of which made the grade and got the illustrious Staff tag and all that came with it. To mark this occasion, we took some time to get to know our new Staff members, each getting an interview like no other. For volume one, we sat with Clavier to see what got her to this point…
Alright, so first and foremost, congratulations on the well-deserved promotion to staff.
Thank you! It still feels a bit weird to think about that, because I remember going on Sputnik many years back and thinking “yeah, I’m never going to be able to write a review”.
I see a lot of current contributors and staff members had the same mindset, just dropping in quietly, putting a review or two out, never thinking it’d be anything too major. But what do you know? I guess something clicked one day for you?
I actually have to credit verdant’s writing as the initial inspiration for me. I’m not sure why exactly I had the sudden urge to write my first piece, but I recall reading his stuff back in May 2017 and thinking about how lyrical reviews could come across as. It made me realize that the review format was a lot more flexible than I’d initially thought of it as.
So, in terms of writing, reviewing, everything that comes with the new position — what is your main ambition for 2019? What is it that you are looking forward to most? There’s so much potential with what to write about, blog about, all that fancy stuff that comes with the new tag.
First and foremost I enjoy the blog freedoms that come with being staff — no need to bother Jom or Sowing anymore about getting interviews up. I’ve actually got an interview with Post War Glamour Girls that is in the process of being transcribed, which I hope to post soon. Thing about interviews is that in the past I’ve had multiple PR people say yes initially and then just disappear; I wonder if the added heft of the staff tag will keep them around any longer.
For reviewing, I’m currently in a transition period in terms of what I’ve been listening to lately, so it’s really anything goes. But after a couple of months in Montreal, I’ve come to love a lot of the (frequently underappreciated) local bands there, and I hope to champion their cause.
Excellent! I’ve always wanted to see much more coverage of foreign-language artists and groups on the website, so it’s wonderful to have someone to fill in that niche. You and JohnnyoftheWell seem to have this niche covered, which is nice and hopefully will gain more traction on the site. I couldn’t tell you how many magnificent records get ignored or less attention specifically because they aren’t in English. In a way, I think it really hinders our growth as a community by completely glancing over a good deal of content.
On that matter, I think the degree to which language influences the popularity of an album may also be genre-dependent — some genres (e.g. metal) don’t have as much emphasis on being able to immediately comprehend what’s being sung, whereas others (e.g. singer-songwriter) rely much more heavily on getting a message across through the lyrics.
You raise a good point, like I’d imagine there’s a great difficulty in foreign folk or pop records garnering any major popularity on Sputnik (with some very few exceptions). Harmonium is perhaps one of the few exceptions to the case, since I’ve seen a fair bit of conversation about them over the years, which makes some sense considering their status in Quebecois music. But on the other hand, I could say that the lack of accessibility in terms of acquiring the records physically/digitally in some cases make it difficult. An example on my end would be the recent live album by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto and a couple of artists entitled “Glenn Gould Gathering.” I’ve been trying to find it all over and it’s gotten to a point where I’m considering paying a bit extra to get it imported from Japan.
That’s certainly true, and would be the case with any records that are released on non-international, non-English platforms (the first example that came to mind is of K-indie albums that are only found on Korean sites), not to mention region-specific difficulties.
Now in the case of making these records more available, would you say that platforms like Apple Music and Spotify should actively up their game in this regard and even encourage listening to this stuff? (Mind you, I don’t use either of these so I don’t know how their libraries are with foreign stuff, etc.)
I don’t use those either, but that’s a complicated question because there is a whole debate on the role of algorithms in music recommendation. It’s hard to say off the top of my head whether either service has a normative commitment to recommend foreign music, but it probably wouldn’t hurt for them to feature playlists of international artists (relative international to the listener, anyway). There is an argument to be made for being exposed to diverse scenes, but I don’t think it’s my place here to expand into that at length.
Now, on the top of your head, what would be your top 10 albums/songs of all-time?
Women – Public Strain
Isis – Oceanic
Anchoress – Anchoress Is Ruining My Life
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Entheos – Le Zahir
Grammatics – Grammatics
Modest Mouse – Building Nothing Out of Something
Colour – Anthology
Unwound – Leaves Turn Inside You
Post War Glamour Girls – Pink Fur
It’s a list based more on personal importance than judgments of quality (though of course the two overlap pretty heavily).
Mind if I ask, and I will choose one of these ten randomly, what one of these albums mean to you? Could you recall where you first heard it, what you were doing, how you reacted to it, etc?
Go ahead with a pick.
So with Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You — what significance does this album hold for you?
It’s twofold: many years back, in the formative days when I had just recently begun getting into music that wasn’t being played on the local top 40 radio station, this was one of the albums that genuinely surprised me. A bit of teenage angst ensured that its cold, swirling atmospheres were particularly appealing, and my clearest memory related to the album is putting “October All Over” as my favourite song on some English assignment whose details I can no longer remember. The other part of its significance relates to the collaborative review that I and many others worked on for it; it was a very memorable time of teamwork and joint creativity.
Was this for Sputnik, by chance?
It was, yes.
Would collaborative writing be something you’d want to further emphasize in the future, or has that time passed for you? Better yet, were there any benefits to doing collaborative writing with others?
I’m always open to the possibility, though it’s admittedly rather difficult to organize, what with differing time zones and schedules. Others have also made good use of it (say, one of the reviews for Gang of Youths) and the format is capable of accommodating crazy experimentation. As for benefits, well, just see the collaborative review for Angelic 2 the Core.
I’ll be completely honest, I missed the boat on Angelic 2 the Core. It’s honestly like a bizarre fever dream now, like “Did this really exist?”
I came away from that review with no better comprehension of the album but I did develop an increased appreciation for it. This might be a clichéd comparison but it’s certainly a worthy equivalent of The Room for music, and may indeed transcend it in terms of its merits.
Were there any points where you felt the record was being ironic, like you were meant to be in on the joke, or was there enough sincerity in it that it came around to being a fully-fledged ‘serious’ effort. I wasn’t sure if Feldman was being serious or not with that album. And if this is truly The Room of music, what would be the [whatever you think is the greatest movie of all-time or smth, maybe Metropolis idk] of music?
I’m not in any position to know, but I want to say he was being sincere. And if I’ll be honest, I know even less about film, and then even less about knowing how to pick one particular outstanding piece of music — it’s always been a challenge for me to name a single favourite, and I’m kind of uncomfortable with the notion of even doing so in the first place.
I get that, so much comes out and there’s always something that people tend to herald as the next big thing.
Yeah, the combination of sheer quantity and the very subjectivity of music just make it an impossible task for me to name what I think would be the best music (as opposed to, say, the most influential — but even that would be unclear at first glance).
Are there any genres or styles you’re attempting to delve into this year?
Definitely more stuff under the umbrella of electronic; I recently got hooked on Yves Tumor, for instance.
Ooh, always great to have more people going that route. This should appropriately lead us to the next phase of the interview…
I’m going to post a few videos (don’t need to watch the entire thing if you don’t want): Your job is to give a short description of them, nothing too fancy. You can be funny with it, you can be blunt, whatever works best.
“Angels dancing on the head of a ping.”
“Stretched into the echoing horizon.”
[extremely Mickey Mouse voice] “Gosh, he really went there, pal!”
Moving on, would you say you’re looking forward to this year? Anything on the horizon that you’re itching to review or listen to?
I’ve pretty much lost track of releases coming out this year, alas. But I suspect that Entheos (the superior Montréal one) are cooking something up as we speak, and to hear their next record would the greatest musical treat I could ask for.
On the other end of the spectrum, has anything come out this year that you’d say you dislike or have been disappointed by?
Well, on a whim I checked out the new Varg album because people had been calling it an album of the year contender, and I was disappointed to find that its numerous collaborations didn’t lead to much beyond a fairly meandering, formless, occasionally grating (that text-to-speech!) record.
Yeah, that’s the worst feeling really. I haven’t really learned to stop getting my hopes up with new music because the disappointment is far more greater when it’s something I’m seriously excited for.
It wasn’t exactly the best record to try out when it came to developing a taste for its genre, yeah.
I kinda had that moment back when The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual came out. It was this defining moment for me where I started to venture outside of the rock genre and even then, I knew absolutely little of electronic music, it’s a wonder how I could even enjoy such an album at that time. Of course, my love for that record in general has increased substantially in the past year in comparison to how I felt about it in 2013.
Over the years it’s become easier for me to adjust to genres outside of my comfort zone, but the biggest jumps were definitely from indie rock to metal, and then from relatively mild progressive metal to the heavy stuff (think Plini to Gorguts).
Next stop: glitch?
That, or possibly trap.
Imagine: glitch trap.
I don’t yet have the capacity to imagine it but once I get there I figure I’ll have seen all the corners of the music world (except country).
I’ll have to introduce you to TheBoneyKing, our resident country (read: indie/alt-country) guy. He’ll show you the ropes.
Hopefully he can give me credit for having listened to Wovenhand.
Onto the last question, who would you say inspires you? Is it anyone in particular? Do they often inspire you to do your best?
I might as well go with one of the people whose writing I find very inspiring, and that would be Winesburgohio — I absolutely love his more experimental, informal structuring, and he offers a lot of insight and wit into what we’d strictly consider as the music itself, as well as its broader context and themes. It’s something I’m working towards myself.
It’s fitting that the both of you were brought on up this cycle, no?
I think the quality of his writing means he’s deserved it for a while now, but yeah, definitely happy to be in the ranks with him!
Well, I think this ought to do it, wouldn’t you think? Very glad to have had this little chat with you and once again, congratulations on the promotion. Let’s see where 2019 takes us.
Thank you, and I look forward to whatever developments 2019 will bring.