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Monday, 19 May 2014

OHARA EP Launch

OHARA EP Launch + Jordan-Robson Cramer + Daniel Isaiah |  Cagibi

AT THE TURNING POINT  |  KAIVA BRAMMANIS

May 4, 2014 - Cagibi’s a funny place. It’s not hard to see why it’s viewed by many as the epitome of hipsterdom: mismatched vintage chairs and tables are scattered throughout, zines are crammed into empty nooks on the shelves, and girls in oversized sweaters and fellas with mustaches drape themselves artfully over seats in the window. But if you’d rather be listening to tunes than writing poems in your coffee-stained notebook, grab a pint and a dollar taco and head through the door at the back of the café. On the right night, you can stumble upon some great local music. 


Tonight is such a night. OHARA’s launching the EP Hallways. The solo project of Ohara Hale, it is something that’s been in the works for a few years. OHARA released “Thorns” this past December and has “albums upon albums unreleased,” but this is the first real launch. 

Hale is quick to say, though, that she doesn’t always consider it strictly a solo project, and that “it’s always taking on a different format live.” Tonight she’s playing with Luke Loseth on drums (who also produced the album), Patrick Latreille on bass (who seems to be the bass guy for Mile End – if you’ve ever seen a band play anywhere between St-Joseph and the tracks, you’ve probably seen him, or at least his mustache), and Patrick Cruvellier on violin (strings always add an element of elegance). Hale is fond of this particular assembly of musicians; she feels the band “really paints the body around the skeleton of the tunes.”

There is also a skeletal sort of sound to the music – in a good way. Hale’s voice is delicate, but never too dainty or innocent; it slices through the notes with a soft clarity. The songs are meditative, but also dramatic. If they were on a soundtrack, they’d be playing at the turning point, right after a crucial realization or before an emerging revelation. It’s a nice daydreamy sound, with Hale’s voice swirling and bouncing between a cloud of violin, drumbeats, and bass. 

“Playing live is really fascinating – the interaction with the crowd AND the interaction with the musicians!” says Hale of playing a show. “Every song and every show is different, so what happens that show and in that moment happens ONLY ONCE – it’s unique.” Hale says this isn’t much different from recording, where you have to be just as “pure and present.” She doesn’t have a favourite of the two: “I love the vulnerability of live performance and I love the flexibility of recording.”

Throughout the set, almost all of OHARA’s songs are punctuated with handfuls of breathy “ohhs” and “ahhs.” “Sometimes when I'm singing live I don't sing real words...I just sing how I feel and let that moment be that moment. Sometimes in my recordings I do that too...” says Hale of her music. For her, music doesn’t always necessarily have to have thoroughly polished lyrics; it’s a way for Hale to express “some deeper feeling [she has] no words for.” 

Her songs also usually originate as a tune before the words materialize: “ I can usually feel the music welling up inside of me, and I'll sometimes start to sing a melody or feel something stirring, and then I'll grab an instrument and try to let it be a sort of bed for my vocals,” explains Hale of her songwriting process.

As she plays, it’s clear: Hale really loves what she does. 

OHARA’s openers are also an intriguing mix. Jenny Berkel opens the night with songs about the countryside and old buildings in Winnipeg. She has a beautiful, resonant voice and instantly draws the room’s attention. Her songs would be the perfect complement to wandering through overgrown fields or spending a quiet evening making a big pot of soup.

Jordan-Robson Cramer is next, and takes the stage, ducking behind a large suitcase laden with a blanket. What follows is one continuous, grinding, grating collage of sounds. It’s a rabbit hole of noise. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s like falling down a rabbit hole of noise and bumping into every discordant sound possible on the way down. Not stuff to meditate to.

After OHARA’s set, Daniel Isaiah closes the night. I am tickled to hear him and his band play for the first time. It’s the first weekend of May and summer finally seems to actually be a real, genuine thing in the future. And Isaiah’s songs are perfect warm weather music: relaxed and reminiscent and just the right amount of ragged around the edges. I try to avoid comparing bands, but it reminds me just a bit of The War on Drugs… in a fantastic way. The music makes me nostalgic for a cool summer night that hasn’t happened yet.

Check out OHARA’s EP Hallways at ohara.bandcamp.com (PWYC). In this day and age, where most music is just passed through Dropboxes and shared through YouTube videos, Hale wants to add a lil’ something extra. You can download the three-track EP digitally, but you can also buy a postcard if you’re craving a more physical accompaniment to the tunes. The artwork is a live Skype portrait by Connor Willumsen and Hale will “mail it to you with a thank you note or a kiss or anything you want.” As Hale says, “Keeps it real! Makes it fun! And MAIL IS GREAT!”

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