Telephone Explosion Records
Bernice, the project of Toronto based vocalist/songwriter Robin Dann, blends “melodies reminiscent of artists like Sade with the playful sounds of artists like Deerhoof and Dirty Projectors” (Pigeons & Planes). Dann is a trained vocalist with a Masters in Music from Goldsmiths, University of London, and her band – Thom Gill (keyboards/samples), Felicity Williams (vocals), Phil Melanson (percussion), and Dan Fortin (bass) – features active members of Bahamas, Owen Pallett, Leif Vollebekk, and DIANA.
Following the release of two singles – “St Lucia” and “Don’t Wanna Be European” – Bernice hit the road supporting Martha Wainwright and released Puff, a 5-song EP in June ‘17 to resounding critical acclaim from Pitchfork, NPR, Zane Lowe, and The Fader. Stereogum and Exclaim Magazine named the release as one of the ‘Best EPs of 2017. Puff was produced by Grammy Award-winner Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Lucius) and Matt Smith (Owen Pallett).
Bernice followed the maximalist EP with minimalist sophomore album Puff: In The Air Without A Shape released in May ’18 on Arts & Crafts. Continuing their enigmatic exploration of pop, jazz, and R&B, Bernice’s new album attempts to mimic the playful intimacy of the band’s live show. The album was called “a monument to ephemerality” by the New York Times and received a long-list nomination for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize.
Nearly three years on from that release (for Bernice a rapid turnaround by comparison to the seven-year gap between their 2011 debut and Puff), the band return with their third full-length, Eau de Bonjourno, out March 5th from Telephone Explosion and figureeight records. It marks their first collaboration with producer Shahzad Ismaily, the acclaimed multi-instrumentalist who has worked with artists as varied as Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, John Zorn, and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. While their genre reconstruction remains distinctly Bernice, Dann’s lyrics bring a newfound focus to storytelling in the present moment, compassionately meeting ourselves where we are, and finding joy in spaces that are familiar but ever changing.
Eau de Bonjourno, according to Dann, “openly plays with the shape of a pop song,” drawing on the band members’ backgrounds in jazz, subverting rhythmic formulas, and resting in grooves that sit just outside of predictable. Instead of letting instruments take extended solos, the tone is set on opener “Groove Elation” with brief blurts of synthesized sax, patient passages of space, or clusters of beats, tenderly held together by Dann and Williams’ intimate vocals. The album’s sound is experimental in its truest definition, chopped up like musique concrète and then delicately placed back together with the loving touch of a scrapbook collagist.