Best Toronto music of the week: Jose Contreras, OBUXUM and more

Plus: radical reimaginings of songs by Shakira and Chris Isaak, some sophisticated pop from Ben Gunning and a full new #NOWplaying playlist of new local tunes


José Contreras: At 45

José Contreras has a knack for picking collaborators, tapping Feist and musicians who eventually formed Broken Social Scene, Holy Fuck and Sheezer for early contributions to his long-running indie rock band By Divine Right. In addition to being a go-to record producer and movie scorer, he’s also recently established himself for his solo songwriting. Following an album and an EP that reimagined songs from throughout BDR’s career as solo affairs, he’ll put out a new solo LP, At The Slaughterhouse, on Headless Owl this fall. On At 45, Contreras is in a differently reflective mode, offering an original track questioning everything he knows before a great serene landscape.

If you’re Sappyfest-bound can pick up an At the Slaughterhouse-related preview tape at the festival this weekend.

Ben Gunning: Contour Rivalry

The songs from Ben Gunning’s new album Nature occupy a smoothed free space somewhere between sophistipop and IDM, textures washing over you like soapy rainbows. Contour Rivalry has a palette of reverb-soaked drum machines, smeared synth tones, sleepwalking bass lines and warped melodica, but Gunning’s voice establishes it within a more concrete landscape. When guest vocals from Bernice’s Robin Dann and Felicity William join in, the song just carries you away. 

OBUXUM: Black Girls Flying 

Following a trilogy of EPs that displayed a radical beat-making hand and earned her a spot on our list of musicians to watch in 2018, OBUXUM’s now readying her first full-length, Re-Birth, set to arrive August 23. Our first glance, Black Girls Flying, pulls us in with a brief but hypnotic sequence with detailed percussion work and warm blasts of bass pushing the action to new heights like a thermal elevator. 

OBUXUM plays Dundas Video August 15 with Precious Jewel and Dark Tapes. See listing.

Sun Sun: Are You A Girl

Sun Sun’s first album-length solo outing follows years DJing and providing beats for acts like Above Top Secret and Witch Prophet. Taking stock of the questions she encounters daily as a queer androgynous woman, this final track from Altro Mondo is a constantly evolving house banger. The production poetically compliments vocal samples that voice those interrogations. The grooves intensify until the final hi-hat cuts off mid-attack as if implying a new question – if the old ones will ever go away. 

Brigitte Bardon’t: Wicked Game

Last we heard from Kristel Jax’s Brigitte Bardon’t project, it was her contribution to a compilation from Montreal’s No Exist collective. Since then, she’s issued her first vinyl release through the label – a split seven-inch with Turkish artist Okay Vivian. Jax’s side offers a radio-scrambled take on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and now it’s received a video treatment of its own, complete with a startling cameo from the Mattel Radio Rifle.

Brigitte Bardon’t performs a collaborative set with Xuan Ye as part of Grandma’s Secret Spices 3 on August 28 at Handlebar. See Facebook.

ShaQUEERa: S(he) Wolf

When Shakira released She Wolf in 2009, she dedicated it to “The woman who knows what she wants and is free of prejudice and preconceived notions.” As with many things Shakira, it was embraced by the LBGTQ community. Playing up its liberatory message with bondage gear, body positivity and a furry avatar, Alisson Escobar offers a relatively faithful cover 10 years later as ShaQUEERa, injecting more power through parentheses while subtracting any of Shakira’s problematic baggage.

#NOWplaying

This week’s #NOWplaying playlist features a hell of a team-up, with Toronto hardcore band Fucked Up backing rapper Denzel Curry on a new version of his song Clout Cobain. There’s also new old Drake, from his pseudo-b-sides collection Care Package, plus new music from anders, A Tribe Called Red featuring locals Haviah Mighty and Odario and a lot more. Subscribe to the playlist here to get the updated playlist of new Toronto music refreshed weekly. 

@nowtoronto | @Tom_Beedham

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