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10 Records with Nathanaël Larochette (Musk Ox)

Potrebbe essere un'immagine in bianco e nero raffigurante 1 persona, giacche e albero

With some of the most interesting and talented artists and bands coming from there (Rush and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are just a few example), Canada has always been a very inspiring and important land for music.

Musk Ox from Ottawa is no exception, with their unique sensitivity for creating emotional and inspired music by their beautiful blend of chamber music, neofolk, post-rock and romantic melancholia.

A little over a month ago, they have finally released after 7 years the new album Inheritance; a moving and magnificent work that confirms the incredible talent of the trio able to paint beautiful soundscapes with a cinematic thrilling impact and surprising with even more classical music and progressive influences than the previous masterpiece Woodfall.

On this article is a big pleasure for me to have Nathanaël Larochette, classical guitarist of Musk Ox, but also guitar player of The Night Wound and solo artist.

Below follows a list made by him with 10 of the most influential records of his life, as a musician, artist and of course as a music lover.

You can listen and buy the new Musk Ox album via the following link: https://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com/album/inheritance

NATHANAEL LAROCHETTE - Invocation - YouTube
Fugees: The Score Album Review | Pitchfork

Fugees “The Score” (1996)

When I first got this album on cassette as a kid back in 1996 I had no idea it would eventually be regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever, I just liked the songs I saw on TV.

I still remember listening to this non-stop on my Walkman while on a family camping trip, barely able to grasp the layers of meaning and multitude of references but still completely enthralled.

Even after 25 years I’m blown away by the level of lyrical, musical and conceptual depth this album has to offer. Without realizing it, The Score laid the foundation for my deep love of concept records and cinematic musical storytelling.

NOFX: The Decline - Punkadeka - Punk web Magazine

NOFX “The Decline” (1999)

Punk rock will forever have the reputation of de-throning prog rock in the late 70s with its energetic and direct approach to songwriting so far removed from the conceptual epics, celestial imagery and flowing capes that had taken the world by storm earlier in the decade.

While it seemed like punk and prog could never exist together, “The Decline” manages to offer some of the best music either genre has to offer.

Koji Kondo: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Album Review | Pitchfork

Koji Kondo “The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time OST(1998)

When Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 it was an event. Everything about it was epic beyond description and decades later it remains one of the greatest games of all time. Although this selection wasn’t a traditional album I listened to growing up, I probably absorbed this music more than any record I owned thanks to the hours of immersive gameplay I consistently lost myself in.

The grand sense of drama, adventure and hopeful innocence this music evokes has influenced every album I’ve released and will continue to inspire all of my future music.

Raymond Scott – The Music Of Raymond Scott - Reckless Nights And Turkish  Twilights (1998, CD) - Discogs

Raymond Scott “The Music of Raymond Scott – The Reckless and Turkish Twilights” (1998)

Although this album was a recent discovery, when I was first introduced to Raymond Scott’s quintet music I felt like I had been listening to it my whole life. It all made sense when I discovered that his themes had been featured heavily throughout the cartoons I had grown up watching.

Although I would loosely classify this as jazz, it’s more like rhythmically intricate classical music played by jazz musicians with a progressive metal sense of inhuman technicality and tightness. It’s also worth mentioning that the drummer on these recordings is none other than the father of famed film composer John Williams, so the next time you hear the Cantina Theme from Star Wars you’ll know who influenced it.

Rachel's - Music For Egon Schiele - Vinyl LP - 1996 - US - Reissue | HHV

Rachel’s “Music for Egon Schiele” (1996)

This album had such a massive impact on me that it single handedly inspired the foundation for the current Musk Ox trio lineup.

Composed for a theater and dance performance about the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, this instrumental album is both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly emotional. Composed by the group’s pianist Rachel Grimes, I highly recommend exploring her solo work as well as the rest of the Rachel’s discography.

My guitar teacher Dr. John Higney, who I studied with when I moved to Ottawa in 2005 to pursue music, introduced me to this record as well Raymond Scott’s music so I am eternally grateful to him.

ULVER Kveldssanger reviews

Ulver “Kveldssanger” (1996)

Although it feels like each album on this list is part of its own larger list of similar, influential albums, I have to give credit to Kveldssanger for planting and sowing the magical seeds of dark folk in the soil of my musical heart.

The atmosphere and simplicity of this record had a huge impact on me as a beginner guitarist and continues to inspire and challenge me as an experienced one. The early Musk Ox demos were pure Kveldssanger worship, just as all dark folk records are and forever will be.

Agalloch - The Mantle | Pubblicazioni, Recensioni, Riconoscimenti | Discogs

Agalloch “The Mantle” (2002)

When I first fell in love with metal in the early 2000s I was hugely influenced by the albums released by The End Records at the time. Virgin Black’s Elegant…and Dying, Green Carnation’s Light of Day, Day of Darkness and Winds’ The Imaginary Direction of Time could have all appeared on this list but I have to give the top honours to Agalloch’s The Mantle.

I firmly believe that metalheads can be categorized into two groups: those who swear by The Mantle and those whose friends won’t stop recommending them The Mantle. Easily their most expansive record, The Mantle is a grey sky, coastal rain and cold wind put to sound. The atmosphere this album exudes is truly timeless and although their entire discography is flawless, The Mantle is their most unique release.

Opeth - Still Life - Amazon.com Music

Opeth “Still Life” (1999)

When discussing my personal guitar heroes, it’s difficult to place anyone but Mikael Akerfeldt at the top of the list and this album is the reason why.

Akerfeldt’s heavy riffs alone make Still Life a classic but when you add his unique and evocative acoustic fingerstyle playing the results are absolutely singular. Learning Benighted note-for-note was one of my first acoustic achievements and playing it through now remains just as rewarding.

Snow Goose | Amazon.com.br

Camel “The Snow Goose” (1975)

When I first discovered Opeth I had yet to discover prog rock but kept hearing Mikael Akerfeldt mention the band Camel.

I was working at a record shop at the time so I picked up their first four albums and immediately fell in love with them. Camel is one of those bands that doesn’t immediately grab your attention but manage to consistently reappear in your playlist until you realize you’ve been listening to them for 15 years.

Like many prog bands, the early albums are widely regarded as their classics with The Snow Goose being the peak for myself and many a prog fan. The recent concept album An Embarrassment of Riches from my instrumental chamber metal project The Night Watch is directly influenced by The Snow Goose, even if I didn’t realize until afterwards.

Mr. Beast | Mogwai

Mogwai “Mr. Beast” (2006)

In 2006 I was at a friend’s house whose roommate played in an instrumental band. I recognized a Godspeed You! Black Emperor record on his shelf and mentioned that I had never heard their music before. He proceeded to play me their Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP and I was converted to post-rock on the spot. He then mentioned that he had some songs from the upcoming Mogwai album Mr Beast and after playing me Glasgow Mega Snake and I Chose Horses I became a lifelong fan.

While GY!BE and Mogwai were both foundational to my love of post-rock I have to pick Mr. Beast as my most influential record of the genre. Although every Mogwai album is fantastic in its own right, Mr. Beast, to my ears, represents every facet of Mogwai’s sound at its most captivating.

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10 Recommended Covers Songs

Tributing other bands through covers has been always a tradition in rock and pop music since the early years, and there have always been basically two ways to approach to it:

There are copy-cut bands who cover their favourite artist’s track making it sound exactly as it was and there are others who completely changes the song’s formula and make their own one. Personally i usually prefer the second category, which is sometimes also the same case of a band that covers an unexpected song from an artist we didn’t even image they could like.

In this list there are some of my absolute favourite covers ever, usually different versions of songs i already use to enjoy very much.

Chris Brokaw – Canaris (2008, CD) - Discogs

Chris Brokaw “Drink the Poetry of the Celtic Disciple (Vlad Tepes cover)” (2008 – original 1994)

Deconstucting and tributing an already existing musical piece may be a hard challenge sometimes and, above all, a non certain success, but this is for sure an impressive case.

Chris Brokaw is well known as the founder of cult band Codeine, a band that during 90’s contributed to create the foundamental elements that compose slowcore and early post-rock; as a solo artist he released different types of music from slowcore/indie rock to acoustic and experimental music. This cover is taken from his album Canaris and it is an acoustic guitar instrumental version of a long epic song by raw black metal band Vlad Tepes, an act part of Les Legiones Noires collective, which was a cricle of very underground  french dark ambient and raw black metal projects that released only limited demo tapes.

The original version is of course one of the most lo-fi things you could ever hear (and it’s the same for the rest of the demo where it comes from), but in the same time it shows a very impressive songwriting and use of melody taking inspiration from classic heavy metal and the most interesting black metal around at the time. The demo is also a very rare cult release for people into underground black metal, and it is a very good surprise to see someone apparently with a completely different musical background making a such interesting version.

The cover is basically the opposite of the original: minimal, soft, elegant, but even if it’s totally revolutioned, it preserve its mysterious and magic vibes showing a very impressive and beautiful take on a track that was already inspiring.

Green Day “Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover)” (2007 – original 1970)

Back in 2007 a John Lennon tribute album entitled Instant Karma: The Amnesty Internation Campaign to Save Darfur was released, with the goal of supporting the cause of the aforementioned Sudan’s region devasted by conflicts, poverty and lack of resources. A lot of very famous acts partecipated (U2, R.E.M., Christing Aguilera and Duran Duran are just a few names), providing several good tributes to Lennon; this version of Working Class Hero in particular has been considerably boosted by the band showing a very strong interest for the cause.

Beside their punk roots Green Day have never hided their passion for classic rock, by showing some strong influences in some albums such as American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown and by playing various covers during their shows.

Working Class Hero is a difficult song to cover in a memorable way, on first because the original is played with just vocals and guitar and moreover because tons of famous artists have already covered it (Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson are just a few example), but beside that Green Day provided a massive and well crafted full band version of this classic, giving it even more passion and anger while showing also a strong respect and inspiration for the original version. There are some evident american folk vibes that are absolutely lovely and also the addition of some stunning lead guitar parts and solos that fits perfectly with the song. An excellent take on a classic.

√ Marc Ribot - SONGS OF RESISTANCE 1942-2018 - la recensione di Rockol.it

Marc Ribot & Tom Waits “Bella Ciao (Italian folk song cover)” (2018)

As an italian i can’t be more happy to listen to this cover of a folk song from my country played by two magnificent artists like Marc Ribot and Tom Waits together.

This is also a very particular and delicate chant since it has been created during the struggle between partisans and nazi-fascist oppressors in Italy; it is a song about freedom, love and it stands against the brutality and tyranny of fascism.

This fantastic duo re-interpreted this song adding some english verses and making a beautiful music video that shows images from american manifestations against Donald Trump’s recently ended government and his nationalist propaganda.

This version of the song is absolutely fantastic, with a strong emotional component and a very intimate vibe; the perfect soundtrack for a personal reflection about a certain type of modern politics, that even if have certainly left behind the atrocities of the past, sometimes still endangers the personal freedom of several communities through the weapon of ignorance.

This track is part of Marc Ribot’s album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018, which as the titles says, is a record composed by covers of protest songs.

The White Stripes - Hello Operator b/w Jolene (7")

The White Stripes “Jolene (Dolly Parton cover)” (2000 – original 1974)

Guitar player, singer and multi instrumentalist Jack White is certainly one of the greatest musicians active nowadays with its unique blend of blues rock inspirations and psychedelic explosions perfectly transposed in a modern rock context.

The White Stripes is probably the most famous of his bands and this cover, released by now more than 20 years ago, is still remembered as one of the highest live moments of the band’s shows.

This cover is actually pretty different from the original, especially beacue of a few choices that makes this version incredibly good, like the slower tempo change and the more melancholic and intimate mood that can be felt here. it’s also alwyas nice to see how Jack White’s style is influenced by american country (and of course the original version of the song was as well), without losing the ability of tranforming a very beautiful folk song into a rock ballad with a Led Zeppelin flavour. So, Mr White never disappoints, also his voice seems to be made for singing this song. Even if this cover has been originally released in 2000 as a b-side of the single Hello Operator, the live version released as a single in 2004 is probably more famous.

A Perfect Circle “Imagine (John Lennon cover)” (2004 – original 1971)

Yes, John Lennon again, and, spoiler, this is not even his last apparition on this list.

Well, i suppose we all know Imagine and it dosen’t need a particular introduction, i mean, maybe there are people living on this world that dosen’t, but it’s almost impossible to find them on a blog like this.

The main point that makes this cover so interesting is the overall atmosphere, which is completely opposite than the original version. I’m not only refering to the major chords transposed into minor chords, but to the fact that this is the perfect 30 years later counterpart of a song released in 1970 with a strong message of hope for humanity’s awareness on the evil made by war, diversity acceptance and the danger of the exploitation of our world. This version’s shows no hope, 30 years have passed and humanity is even worse compared to then, people are still doing the same brutal things and showing no respect for the others and for the world they live in. There’s also a very suggestive music video that shows all human’s cruelty and frivolity with many reflective and shocking images, most of them taken from real reportages.

Agape - Lantlôs - recensione

Lantlôs/Lìam “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Ryuchi Sakamoto cover)” (2012 – original 1983)

Like the Chris Brokaw case this is another cover that completely revolutioned the sound of the original, but since the Brokaw one was a guitar only version of a full band track, this is the opposite case (with piano instead of guitar).

From the homonime Nagisa Oshima movie (also known as Furyo), the original piece by Ryuchi Sakamoto is an incredibly beautiful and famous piano only track, written with the unique style of the multi awarded japanese composer, made of classical music references, japanese traditional music and contemporary composition. This cover have never been officially released, but only posted on Soundcloud back in 2012 (now it is available on YouTube only) and it is performed by members of both Lantlôs and Lìam. It’s incredible to see how certain beautiful melodies can perfectly arrive to the heart in the same emotional way, even if they are playd with a completely different style. Of course Markus Siegenhort and the others have an incredible taste in writing music and the heavy and slow post-rock of this musical piece has for sure an incredibly brethtaking impact. If you guys may ever read this article, please, consider to release this as an official single, it’s something the world definitely needs. Fantastic.

MEEKS - Beatless -Shoegazer Covers Of The Beatles- - Amazon.com Music

Meeks “Norwegian Wood (The Beatles cover)” (2013 – original 1965)

The Beatles’ music and shoegaze are not apparently two very distant universes, of course they are part of different periods, but they both have a certain songwriting sensitivity and come from the UK; even if this band, called Meeks, is actually a side project of members from Broken Little Sister from Yokohama, Japan.

Under this name, the ensemble have only released an album of The Beatles covers in shoegaze variant (entitled Beatless, as tribute to My Bloody Valentine’s Lovess already entirely covered on several compilations), which is par se a very original and interesting idea. The curiosity generated by the album’s idea is definitely worth to satisfy and all the 10 songs choosen by the band are perfectly re-arranged in a dreamy and ethereal way that fits so well to The Beatles’ classics.

Norwegian Wood is in particular one of the best episodes, preserving the psychedelic vibes of the original song, drowning the main melody in an ocean of reverbered guitars walls. It sounds like listening the actual song, but into a dream.

ULVER Childhood's End - Lost & Found From The Age Of Aquarius reviews

Ulver “Magic Hollow (The Beau Brummels cover)” (2012 – original 1967)

The norwegian experimental ensemble is certainly not new to covers; their version of Black Sabbath’s Solitude from their 2007 brillant album Shadow of the Sun is already a classic. But it’s with their 2012 album Childhood’s End entirely composed of covers that they have reached their best.

The record contains only songs from the 60’s psychedelic rock period and beside this stunning version of The Beau Brummels’ Magic Hollow, there are also other tributes of amazing bands such as 13th Floor Elevator, Electric Prunes, The Byrds and many more. Every song is played with the band’s own style and the whole album is an absolutely recommended experience.

Sticking to this cover in particular that’s incredible how the folk vibes and the intensity of such beautiful melodies are completely preserved even if reproposed in a modern context. Kristoffer Rygg’s vocals are so intense and the overall mood is absolutely magic and mysterious; after all the original version was already an incredible piece of music and Ulver is an amazing band, it seems to be the perfect formula for an excellent result.

Nadja “No Cure for the Lonely (Swans cover)” (2009 – original 1992)

Like the case of Ulver and Meeks this is another song taken from an album entirely made of covers. This time the band is Nadja, true experimental drone/fuzzy rock masters from Canada and then relocated to Germany, with an interesting album made of very bizzare choices revolutioned in their personal style; My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, Codeine Slayer and Elliot Smith are just some example of the tributes you’ll find on When i See the Sun Always Shines on TV. The Swans song i picked up is one of my favourite songs ever, so it’s been pretty natural to me to think about it when the idea of a cover list came to my mind, but i have to admit that there are several equally interesting others off this record i could pick up. Here Nadja explores their most heavy, fuzzy and sludgy side, that on this song is also fused with some very intense ethereal and dreamy vibes, creating a super massive guitar wall of sounds enriched by reverbered chants, melodic ambient loops and a slow repetitive drum machine pattern.

The original version is a brief beautiful song with just vocals and acoustic guitars, one of the highest points of Michael Gira’s poetry, and indeed i’ll never understand why it’s been used as a bonus track only present on some versions of Love of Life. This is a pretty good example of a song revolutioned with a completely different approach that mantains its emotional mood. it’s also actually surprising to see Nadja choosing this song in particular from Swans’ discography, since there’s plenty of songs that are already pretty close to their noisy style, but they probably wanted to be more creative and definitely did the right choice. There is also a live version of this cover from the previously released live album Trembled (2006), which is even more ethereal and intense.

Bosse De Nage / Deafheaven - Split - Vinyl LP - 2012 - US - Original | HHV

Deafheaven “Punk Rock/Cody (Mogwai cover)” (2012 – original 1999)

I have to admit i usually dislike a lot metal versions of non metal songs. Using abrasive distorted guitars and harsh vocals on classic or soft songs makes really no sense to me, and i’ll never understand why it is so common among metal bands, but this is one of the cases where i really enjoyed the operation.

Of course this is a sort of anomalous case, since Deafheaven is already a very borderline band with a style made of many different genres where metal is just one of them and their music is also probably closer to Mogwai than any traditional metal band around.

Indeed the use of guitars is definitely heavy but in a very shoegaze-y way, with a super intense loud tone and powerful noisy distortions, there are also piano, post-rock liquid arpeggios and effected loops, making screams the probably only metal element of the song.

This is actually a cover of two songs, respectively the intro and the first full track from Mogwai’s 1997 masterpiece Come on Die Young. On Punk Rock Deafheaven replaced the spoken word from Iggy Pop’s interview with William Faulkner’s nobel price aceptance while on Cody, that was a very calm song with tender vocals, they added distortions, powerful drumming and screams, but maintained perfecly the melancholic aura of the musical piece. After a short interlude with piano, clean guitar and shrieks in the background, the song explodes into an extremely emotional ending, with violent blast beats and post-rock tremolo euphoria. Even if covering any song from a masterpiece like Come on Die Young is a hard operation, Deafheaven definitely did it in the best way possible, creating an incredibly beautiful tribute, full of desperate sadness, deeply emotions and outstanding atmospheres. Impressive.