Montreal's Chiiild Invent Own Sound Aptly Described with Debut, Synthetic Soul
Evan Dale // Mar 6, 2020
For a place as petit and remote as it may be relative to so many other international creative hubs, Montreal is an artistic tour-de-force as innovative and experimental as they come. Though KAYTRANADA was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the majority of his life and subsequently the majority of inspiration for his one-of-a-kind merging lane between hip-hop, soul, and tropical house can be traced to his Northern roots. The timelessness and genre-bending band that is Arcade Fire also draw back to Montreal. And, hand-in-hand with a long list of further artistes Quebecois, creative collective and stylistically indefinable band, Chiiild are perhaps the city and region’s brightest and most intriguing future. Recently releasing their debut project, Synthetic Soul, under label, Avant Garden that also oversees the creative development of Emotional Oranges, THEY., and Slenderbodies, Chiiild are, like their label compatriots, primed not only for a unique lane of success, but also set to redefine what constitutes success in music, and at a macro scale, set to redefine modern music altogether.
In what should really be an impossible hodgepodge of so many stylistically diverse explorations, Chiiild shine as a sonic sundry of smooth, slow, and emotionally explorative experimentation equal parts Marvin Gaye & Pink Floyd; D’Angelo & Tame Impala. If that sounds far too wide-ranging and impossible to predict in novel sound, just listen. Everything becomes clear once you do.
Clarity itself is perhaps a happy mistake, or maybe an outcome strongly striven for by Chiiild whose complex instrumentation and ethereal, ghostly vocalism would be out of balance and musically muggy for just about any other collection of musicians. Yet, somewhere between the striking synths and watery guitar riffs; between the intermittent string explorations, the delicate vocals, and the winding poeticism of Chiiild’s penmanship, an underlying sense of calm, of cool, of clarity is the first thing to swell the mind. They create auditory peace still brimming with emotion, the delineation of which only befalls the most wide-ranging, explorative, and bold bands of our time. Listen to Chiiild and think of the broad strokes that are Tame Impala, Glass Animals, Passion Pit, and The Internet.
Listen to Synthetic Soul and think undoubtedly that the album could be titled nothing else.
Soul itself is an underlining inspiration to Chiiild that makes itself unmissable across each and every track. The classic strokes of Motown era instrumentation, where groovy keyboards, funky bass, and a strong percussive foundation set the tone. The modern take on soul where R&B artists like Snoh Aalegra and Brent Faiyaz fill their own production with similar instrumentation but make it something else altogether utilizing production to drown and warp their sounds at will.
To wit, synthetics are also a foundational pillar to Chiiild, who warp, invent, and adjust at every strum of the guitar and stroke of the keyboard. They are a product of the creative utopia that is Montreal just as they are an outcome of the digital age and its effect on the boundlessness of music. Akin to Tame Impala, to Glass Animals, to Passion Pit, to The Internet, Chiiild are so wide-ranging, experimental, and yet collected and already influential, that their own mark on soul and its synthesis with electro-pop modernity can only be compared to those bands that are truly incomparable in texture to anyone else. They relate in unrelatability. And there is magic in that.
But in it also exists a need to further explore what is that makes them Chiiild. And if Synthetic Soul – like any artistic debut – is meant to do one thing in particular, it’s to introduce the group from a wide scope. That’s something easier said than done with seven tracks and an indefinably wide range to cover. But, Chiiild succeeds.
There are the tracks that feel overwhelmed with emotional exploration, driven by vocals that in their otherworldly, spectral aesthetic, act as medium for messages both spoken and texturally presumptuous. To that family belong some of Synthetic Soul’s grandest early hits: Count Me Out, Pirouette, and Hands Off Me. Across all three tracks, a leading male vocalist floats overtop funk-ridden, electronically-inspired, and altogether bold instrumental and productive groundwork to creative a vibrantly stark yet cohesive and emotion evoking juxtaposition.
Then there are the tracks not necessarily driven by any cohesive musical direction, but not torn apart by a lack of it either. Back To Life featuring Zimbabwean vocalist, Shungudzo is probably the strongest example of an altogether different sound. But, as classic rock psychedelia and bizarrely melancholia as it is, Back To Life is still driven by a sense of instrumental confidence and differentiation that could come from nowhere but Chiiild’s inventive lane. Darling is more vocally straight shot than any other on the album, but still weaves in and out of the ethereal approach and cinematic experimentation of Chiiild’s ever-emerging signature instrumentals. Sunday Morning feels altogether more influenced by the Bedroom Pop direction of solo Soundcloud stars ranging from Omar Apollo and Still Woozy to Billy Lemos, McClenney, and Cautious Clay. Easy On Yourself –Synthetic Soul’s closing track – is a fittingly slow, especially mellow, and gorgeously composed ballad that eases a listener out of the project at large.
As an album, Synthetic Soul in its entirety is cinematic, hallucinatory, and psychedelic, drawn together first by the instrumentally diverse and experimental lane they’ve established, and second by the indefinable and unpredictable effect that their vocals mark it all with. As a debut, Synthetic Soul is as refined, unique, and influential as any in the past couple years, laying a foundation for Chiiild to continue working their way into the ranks of so many great bands and modern mellow pop stars.