Barry Russell photo
John Londoño photo
A lot of rock/pop groups apply electronic influences, like drum ’n’ bass rhythms or techno structures, to their songs.
Two Montreal-based artists — DJ/producer Champion and progressive/indie rockers Malajube — recently took a break from the SXSW festival in Texas to offer their opinions on this approach.
Champion (Maxime Morin) and his band the G-Strings essentially flip this concept around. In his work, Morin hunches behind a computer to lay down beats, and lines up human beings — four guitarists, a bassist and a vocalist — using them like he would a sampler.
“The guitarists know what they’ll play, just not when or how,” he said. “As the conductor, that’s up to me.”
Morin said this setup allows songs to morph between sets. Since song structure is improvised live, he can incorporate audience feedback into its form, playing with elements like a DJ does tracks and samples.
At the structural level, Malajube sticks to a rock/pop arrangement, but the band’s tracks draw on dozens of styles, including hip hop. La Russe, a track on their Polaris Prize-nominated album Trompe L’Oeil uses breakbeats and Francophone rappers, but bassist Mathieu Cournoyer said the reason was more for friendship than any affinity to sample-based music. “I’m not a big fan of electro,” he said. “(But) we thought it would be fun to try something we couldn’t see happening, and what kind of song we could get out of it.”
While recording, the band invited their friends, rappers Loco Locass, into the session. Though the experiment working together was fun, Cournoyer said it’s doubtful the band will repeat it on the next album, for which Malajube is steering away from hip hop. “Next time, we’ll try something else,” he said. “Probably not electronic, since we tried it and it was not fun. Maybe black metal.”