While Montreal's thriving techno scene is earning that city a fair share of the music media's attention, Robert Vaughn Squire (aka Sixtoo) is proving that there's more to Quebec's recording renaissance than art-house minimalism. With its elegantly minced micro-samples, expansive melodic passages, and soot-soaked drum breaks, the producer's recent Chewing on Glass & Other Miracle Cures plays like a distillation of the city's most vibrant musical movements: laptop, postrock, and hip-hop.
"I've always tried to live in places which I thought would benefit my music most directly," says Sixtoo, a Halifax native who once spent a year dwelling in Oakland, California, with the Anticon crew. "Moving to Montreal [last year] is one of the best things I've ever done."
The producer's return to Canada coincided with his escape from the art-rap ghetto, a scene to which he'd been confined since his days in Nova Scotia's vibrant indie community. "By the time I left California," he says, "I was burned out on doing vocal stuff."
Chewing on Glass finds the beatmaker shunning the sound of his own voice, crafting atmospheric soundtracks in which texture and ambiance figure just as prominently as melody and rhythm.
"A big part of what I was trying to do on these pieces was to create a definite sense of acoustic space," explains the Montrealer, who plays Sonar on Friday (September 3). "Whether it meant recording live instruments or running samples through all sorts of pedals and processes, it was important to make these sounds as three-dimensional as possible."
Nowhere is this philosophy more evident than on the album's penultimate track, "Storm Clouds & Silver Linings", a frantic post-punk tribute featuring Can's Damo Suzuki. Submerged in the mix several layers below Suzuki's improvisatory voicing is a fluttery drum loop courtesy of Andy Miller, a Halifax native who recorded his part on a child-size kit. For Sixtoo, discovering such unique sounds has lessened his interest in sampling from vinyl sources.
"It's weird to see that digging for records has become this bourgeois weekend fantasy," he comments. "That's a big part of what's killed hip-hop for me: that whole collector culture."
Eager to renounce his renown as an indie-rap icon, Sixtoo counts drumming among his newest passions; in fact, he's currently making plans to man the kit for a new rock-oriented outfit. By recording sessions with members of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and playing at last year's techno-centric Mutek festival, Squire is fast becoming a man of no fixed generic address.
"I think it's good to soak in what's around you, but not to the point where you lose yourself," he says. "I'm not so much sampling individual sounds right now as I am sampling a bunch of different ways of making music. Because I'm filtering all that knowledge through my own lens, I'm able to make music that's entirely my own."