Denise Benson’s monthly round-up of Toronto talents making big moves in the weeks ahead. Here’s a look at who’s currently creating buzz, and why.
Who: DL Incognito
What: Juno-nominated rapper releases a soul-infused fifth full-length
Why: Ottawa-bred, Toronto-based hip-hop MC DL Incognito is both talented and tenacious. Following the 2002 release of his debut album, A Sample and a Drum Machine, Incognito recorded and released three more albums, was nominated for three Juno Awards, and crisscrossed the country on several tours. Still, the articulate wordsmith who bounces between boasts, observations and deeply personal lyrics has hovered just below the radar of more widespread success. His fifth full-length, Someday Is Less Than a Second Away, newly out on URBNET, has the beats, rhymes, and hooks that could propel Incognito to a whole new level. While the album stays true to Incognito’s well-established lean towards a ’90s hip-hop influence, there’s been a maturing in sound and style. The tunes come heavily soul-soaked and extra bouncy, largely thanks to the album’s main producer, Techtwelve (Tom Wrecks and DJ Illo are among the additional production contributors). The songs are smart, and many—like “Mysterious Ways,” “Move On (When the Love is Gone)” and “Admiration”—are as hummable as they are contemplative. Exclaim magazine, which recently gave the album an 8/10 review, provides some solid background in the form of this feature interview.
Where & When: Tonight’s (May 2) release party for Someday Is Less Than a Second Away finds DL Incognito joined at The Rivoli (334 Queen W.) by a star-studded cast of friends and collaborators, including MCs D-Sisive and Adam Bomb, and DJs Techtwelve, Elaquent, and Grouch. $10 advance tickets are available here.
Who: 4th Pyramid
What: Toronto rapper reaches for the sky with new EP
Why: Rhyming professionally from the age of 16, hip-hop MC/producer 4th Pyramid has been on a steady climb since the release of his “Aquatic” 12-inch on Def Jux in 2004. He’s since put out a stream of singles, EPs and mixtapes, toured with the likes of Pharcyde, Murs, Raekwon, and GZA, and released debut album, The Pyramid Scheme, on his own Silk Ivory imprint in 2012. This year has seen 4th Pyramid take his self-professed “up-all-night jet-set attitude” to the masses, as his track “It’s So Hot” is featured in new American comedy film 21 & Over, and the similarly party-centric single “Friday Nights” debuted on Vice’s Noisey blog in February. Produced by Grandtheft, “Friday Nights” was accompanied by a video in which the high-rolling Pyramid is joined in hijinks by the likes of Killer Mike, The Beatnuts, and Rich Kidd. The latter also produced new Pyramid track “Stay Up High,” which premiered on Rap Genius in April and has received support from the likes of Okayplayer. The song will be featured on new 4th Pyramid EP, The Sky Belongs to The Stars, out on Silk Ivory come May 6. Word has it that rising local R&B sensation Ben Stevenson is featured on two tracks.
Where & When: The Sky Belongs to the Stars is launched with a party taking place tonight (May 2) at Wrongbar (1279 Queen W). Joining 4th Pyramid are Ben Stevenson, DJ Patrick McGuire, Rich Kidd, and guests. $10.
Who: Natural Animal
What: Hot nu-disco duo remixes Young Empires and leaks debut EP to much hype.
Why: It’s rare that a new musical project surfaces sounding quite as confident and complete as does local nu-disco duo Natural Animal. Friends Matt Hunter and Devon Wright began writing songs together while still business school students at London’s Western university. When they initially appeared in this city, it was under the moniker of Wheel Wells. Since the pair switched to a sharper name, and officially announced Natural Animal’s arrival with a late last year, they’ve played at dozens of prominent parties, spinning alongside artists including Azari & III, Treasure Fingers, Hot Chip, The Twelves, and Penguin Prison. They’re Saturday-night residents at Wrongbar (owner Nav Sangha also signed on as manager) and have developed a fun, stylish sound—both on the decks and in studio. Near April’s end, Natural Animal proved their prowess with an ace remix of Young Empires’ “White Doves,” which has received a whole lot of listens and attention over at The Hype Machine. Earlier last month, Natural Animal gave us the polished, hooky bounce of “Dance Alone,” the first of four tracks to be featured on their debut EP, Who You Are. Each of the other songs will be premiered on the duo’s , with “Plated Gold” due May 14, “The Light” in mid-June, and “Who You Are” mid-July. More original songs are in the works, as are two remixes for artists on the Kitsuné Maison label. Natural Animal will also film their first video this month. Expect big things.
Where & When: Natural Animal opens for French-touch pioneer Alan Braxe at Wrongbar (1279 Queen W.) on May 11 and for Fred Falke and Lifelike on May 18 at the same venue. Tickets for both events are $15, available at Soundscapes, Rotate This, and online.
Who: Carlo Lio
What: Local tech-house ambassador releases new single and returns home for rare date/
Why: Since the mid 2000s, Toronto-based DJ/producer Carlo Lio has gradually grown to become one of the most in-demand tech-house talents on the global touring circuit. His many releases and remixes for labels including SCI+TEC, Intec, Soma, and Rawthentic—the imprint Lio co-founded with frequent studio partner Nathan Barato—have seen Lio develop a wide-ranging sound that is heavily textured, hypnotic, and pulsing. He can easily move from minimal to pounding, a programming trait that has taken him from intimate clubs to arena-sized parties at top venues in Europe, South and North America, and beyond. Lio now plays outside this city far more often than at home, and has amassed almost 36,000 Facebook fans along the way. That said, Lio is loyal to Footwork, the Toronto club where he developed an especially loving audience. As Footwork celebrates eight years this month—not to mention their recent ranking of number 36 in DJ Mag’s Top 100 clubs of 2013—Lio returns from recent dates in the U.S., Colombia, Panama, and Chile to add to the festivities. He rides in on a wave of interest in his brand new SCI+TEC release, A Dusty Heart, and then heads off to play in Mexico and the U.S. later this month before spending the summer touring through Europe. Fans can also keep an ear out for Lio’s “My Thang,” expected on Paco Osuna’s Mindshake label in early summer.
Where & When: Carlo Lio headlines at Luv This City, May 17 at Footwork (425 Adelaide W.), where he’ll be joined by Anthony D’amico and the duo Casualties of Sound. Cover is $25, or $15 reduced by RSVPing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Lio also spins alongside Nathan Barato, Blond:Ish, The Junkies, and others on the first Beats Ahoy! Afternoon boat cruise of the season, May 19 aboard the Captain Matthew Flinders, Pier 6, 207 Queens Quay W.; $60 advance tickets are available online.
What: Adam Marshall and Christian Andersen collaborate as a techno twosome.
Why: In a pairing that makes absolute sense, but is no less exciting for that fact, Toronto-bred electronic music talents Adam Marshall and Christian Andersen (a.k.a. XI) have come together as Graze. Marshall is a pioneering Canadian techno DJ/producer who has released innovative music for the better part of two decades. The New Kanada label boss has long been based in Berlin, where Anderson also re-located for a bit before returning home early this year. As XI, and in various other guises, Anderson has grown ever more adventuresome in his exploration of electronic textures and tempos. The connection between the two became obvious last year, when was released on New Kanada, complete with a remix by Marshall. The fact that both men often pack a wallop with their bass (while also instilling sophisticated sonic ideas) still didn’t prepare me for the absolute beauty and depth of Graze’s six-song debut EP, released April 29 on New Kanada. Together, Marshall and Andersen amplify each other’s best qualities as producers, offering intensity, emotion, strong arrangements and, above all, high-quality tunes that will be a joy on headphones and dancefloors alike. Already, attention and praise has come in from the likes of XLR8R, SonicRouter, and Pitchfork, which, like many reviewers, points to standout track “TheSust.” Each and every one of the tracks is worth delving into, and Graze has added to the allure with a series of compelling black and white videos. The duo is soon set to follow with a black label 12-inch, and tell me they’re already close to completing a second EP.
Where & When: Graze makes their worldwide debut with a fully live performance at this year’s MUTEK Festival in Montreal, performing June 1 at SAT alongside Emika, Tokimonsta, Nosaj Thing, and Letherette. (Other Toronto artists performing at MUTEK 2013, taking place May 29-June 2, include Michael Trommer and SlowPitch.) Following the festival, Graze will perform in Calgary and Vancouver. A Toronto date is yet to be booked.