Jacques Greene: A Montreal newcomer takes on R&B divas and house with a borrowed 303.
- Words: Cameron Macdonald
The Montreal DJ/producer who calls himself Jacques Greene (yep, it’s an alias) has a knack for making house grooves that toy with emotions, often dancing between euphoria and melancholia in the same breath. "If you’re trying to make music with a feeling, it’s more interesting to show something nuanced, like something in real life, such as a relationship," he says about his yin-yang ethic. On his breakout single, "(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want," which appeared on the Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1 compilation, such a clash breaks out, where sung and looped phrases ping-pong between a baritone male vocal and a chipmunk-speed female one. A shy, acid synth riff trickles into the argument while an upbeat, pulsating house rhythm keeps the drama alive.
These reflections come naturally from the 21-year-old’s imagination, which is heavily informed by Warp’s golden years. "When I first heard Boards of Canada, I realized that I didn’t need to start a band—I could make very emotional and very human electronic music," he recalls. The flash and drama of R&B pop also left its fingerprint on him. "It’s funny because there’s the dichotomy of listening to Aphex Twin, but I can always fall back on a Rihanna single," he says.
"(Baby I Don’t Know) What You Want"
Greene’s musical roots took hold with the mysterious machines that surrounded him at an early age. He witnessed his uncle record music for advertisements in his home studio. "It was all way over my head, but it was a mysterious world that was pulling me in," he remembers. Greene never left that world. His father’s Roland drum machine lessons that began for him at age eight also kept him there. Greene’s studio arsenal later expanded to vintage analog synths and the Les Paul of acid, the Roland TB-303, on loan from a pal. "I just borrow it off of him all the time," Greene says, laughing. But it’s his zest for hacking up R&B diva vocals into bare consonants that seems like his best secret weapon. Consider "The Look," where bare bits of one unnamed diva’s voice shout for attention and boost the funk. "You keep the spirit of the track when you have the melody between the words,"he explains. "It’s really cool to capture that because it’s even more accurate than what the lyrics are saying about the emotion."
Last year, those emotional vibes caught the attention of Glaswegian abstract-beat label LuckyMe, which released his The Look EP. A debut album that disregards BPM counts and genre rules may come soon. "I’d like to take it out of the club entirely," Greene says. Like back home, in the bohemian borough of Plateau Mont-Royal? "Everyone [there] is on their own wavelength, which is better," he argues. "Everybody is very, very different from one another and I think that’s a really healthy thing for a city to have musically."
The Look is out now on LuckyMe.
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