Music can often be directly rooted to one location – murky electronics belong to London nightbus rides; smoke-filled saxophone solos evoke images of dusky New York jazz bars – but there’s a lot to be said about music with a universal appeal, a kind which refuses to be pinned down to one specific time and place.
Paris-based multi-instrumentalist Vincent Fenton is a specialist in the latter. As FKJ, aka French Kiwi Juice, his loose and colourful arrangements could soundtrack anything: a house party in Hong Kong, a road trip through the Australian outback, a post-midnight walk alone across moonlit European streets. It’s all there on his 2017 self-titled debut album, which flits between fidgety electronics, smooth blues and pristine pop, all with the flick of a switch.
FKJ’s universal appeal goes a long way to explaining his current, impressive border-crossing rise. With every song on his debut racking up millions Spotify plays, his shows sell out in Asia, Europe, Australia, NZ and America, and his unique, spontaneity-first live delivery – frog-leaping between guitars, keys, sax, vocals and more – is capable of translating to both intimate and giant venues.
Fenton’s journey began as a teenager, where he started to compose songs in his bedroom, and later in-between working as a cinema sound engineer in France. Self-taught and self-starting, he learnt the ropes on countless instruments, before finding an early home on future-facing French collective / label Roche Musique.
2012 EP Time for a Change set a stall for slick, sophisticated, cinematic pop. But if this release got by on an anything-goes approach, 2017’s French Kiwi Juice goes even further. Throughout, there’s a sense that no idea, however ambitious, is dismissed out of hand by Fenton. And the title of the record’s closing track acts as something of a mantra for his work: ‘Why Are There Boundaries’.
A longtime fixture of the Montreal arts scene, Lou Phelps is one of Canada’s foremost purveyors of club-rap bangers. Lou started making music in 2011 with KAYTRANADA, forming a future-rap group called The Celestics, releasing their debut project, Massively Massive. Using the moniker, Lou Phelps, Lou developed a reputation for creating tasteful and danceable hip-hop music, releasing Supreme Laziness in 2014 and curating Cause I Wanna, an 80-minute DJ mix that featured tracks from innovative electronic artists like DJ Rashad, RP Boo, and Kyle Hall, showcasing his excellent taste and long list of influences. In 2017, Lou released 001: Experiments, his debut project which racked up millions plays on SoundCloud, featured appearances from Bishop Nehru, Innanet James, KALLITECHNICS, and earned a nomination from Canada’s JUNO Awards for Rap Recording of the Year. In September 2018 Lou shared his sophomore album, 002 / LOVE ME, via Last Gang Records. 002 / LOVE ME sees Lou’s older brother, Kevin, aka the Polaris Prize-winning producer, KAYTRANADA, as executive producer, with guest spots from BADBADNOTGOOD, JAHKOY, Planet Giza, Pony and drum master, Karriem Riggins.