SCENE REPORT Montréal’s Wonderfully Icy Electronic Underground By Ted Davis · March 13, 2024

Montréal is located just a few hours north of Boston and east of Toronto—the largest city in Canada’s Québec province which, with the exception of Québec City, is mostly forested and remote. Montréal’s distinctly French culture is one of the things that causes it to stand apart from its peers—a walk through its streets calls to mind Paris and New England in equal measure. A bilingual population, a geodesic dome, and an eclectic spin on the bagel—Montréal feels like it exists to challenge North America’s predilection for homogeneity.

It seems fitting, then, that Montréal has long been a hotbed of groundbreaking music. Countless influential artists—from Tim Hecker to Godspeed You! Black Emperor to Blue Hawaii—have cut their teeth within its limits. The city’s status as a music mecca has only grown stronger in recent years. Local legends CFCF, Akufen, and members of the collective were among the first to pioneer the groundbreaking strains of ambient and club music that have flourished in recent years. Like Miami—which is also experiencing a surge of club producers championing a singular sound—Montréal’s low cost of living, diverse heritage, and flippant attitude toward capitalism encourages artists to look to each other for inspiration.

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“Coming from East Vancouver to Montréal, I’ve noticed that the city has a different feel than the WASP culture of English-speaking Canada,” Thom Speakman says. Speakman recently put together the compilation Re:Conceive 2, which features contributions from some of the most exciting electronic artists in the city. “For whatever reason, it feels like people prioritize experiences and qualities in life—like experimentation, excess, intellect, curiosity—instead of wealth accumulation and, like, Goop-pilled ideas of wellness. A condo and a yoga membership is to Vancouver as working three days a week as a dishwasher and searching for dancefloor euphoria in a smoked-filled industrial basement is to Montréal. It feels like life plays out in the streets here.”

Montréal’s extreme winters and comparably mild summers allow artists time during the cold months to hole up and hone their craft. When the weather starts warming up, it’s party time. “The city explodes and it’s fucking on,” Speakman says. Bars, tunnels, and fields are converted into makeshift venues. The club Le Système, its online radio counterpart N10.AS, and the festival MUTEK have all garnered international attention. Speakman points to parties like Raw Feelings, Salle de Sport, and Oxygene as additional event series that have given a lot back to the city. He says that clubs including Nouvel Établissement, Sans Soleil, and Sala Rossa are resources that have allowed the Montréal DJ scene to thrive, too.

As is the case anywhere in North America, things in Montréal aren’t all underground raves and cheap housing. “The city has become quite a bit more expensive in recent years,” David Mitchell says, “whereas when I was a kid, the rents were very cheap and it seemed to have been a lot easier to be a working artist here.” Mitchell is a talent buyer for local promoter Blue Skies Turn Black and plays in the avant-electronic duo Bas Relief and math rock act Gulfer. “There have also been a few venue closures in recent years. But in the grand scheme of things, I think there are still a ton of artist-friendly places to play and spaces to make music in. One thing that does seem like it has improved is how much more friendly and welcoming the scene has become.”

The life of a left-field artist is rarely straightforward or easy. But many operating out of Montréal are discovering ways to blossom. From staticky IDM to bona fide bangers, here are just a few of the most exciting sounds to emerge from the Montréal electronic scene in recent years.

Out of Sides

With a sound that lands somewhere in between the gnarled IDM of early Warp Records and the peaceful ambient of Dntel, Evan Magoni (aka gonima) is a lowkey hero of contemporary glitch music. In addition to producing, he has also played drums in the math rock band Boy Friends. The music he makes as gonima leans into twinkly melodies and odd time signatures. For every chirpy bell or wiry lead on Out of Sides, there’s a moment of deep, serrated noisiness. On subsequent releases, gonima’s music has become more bubbly. But the six tracks on Out of Sides capture a frosty, fried-screen vibe.

Bas Relief
Bas Relief

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The music that David Mitchell and childhood friend William Osiecki make as Bas Relief has unjustly flown under the radar. Like gonima, the band emerged from the emo scene, and these roots in DIY rock shine through on their self-titled debut. Across 10 windswept tracks, understated guitar lines and warbled vocals weave in and out between heavily-processed drum machine grooves. It’s all painted in a frigid, digitized glow that calls to mind Kid A-era Radiohead, as well as early Loraine James—for whom Bas Relief recently opened. Bas Relief is withdrawn and airy—one of the best records put out by the elusive ambient label Quiet Time Tapes to date.


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If you stranded a gaggle of trip-hop musicians in an enchanted forest and told them they couldn’t leave until they finished an album, the end result might play a bit like RAMZi’s hyphea. At once earthy and electronic, Phoebé Guillemot’s fifth LP flows between broken-beat grooves and jazzy ambience. The dense record first came to life as the score for a Frederic Lavoie documentary about fungi, and was recorded while grappling with pandemic restrictions. The album teems with psychedelic vigor—taking in hyphea in its entirety is like watching morning turn to dusk in the blink of an eye.


Ouri’s output tends to blend chic pop melodies with inventive club rhythms. Her 2017 full-length debut, Superficial, was released by the Bonsound subsidiary Make It Rain Records. Across eight tracks, effects-smudged singing hovers in a haze of lush synths. From front to back the record weaves a futuristic tapestry of intriguing beats and gorgeous textures. This formula clearly set ouri up for success: She’s gone on to work with the likes of SUCHI, Seb Wildwood, and TOKiMONSTA.


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Francis Latreille (aka Priori) hovers around the oblique side of the dance scene. In addition to running the stellar label NAFF, alongside Adam Feingold (aka Ex-Terrestrial), Latreille has released fogged-out club records with artists like Dust-e-1 and Ludwig A.F. in Healion and Chestnut People, respectively. Latrielle’s recent EP as Priori, Pareidolia, is driven by crisp drum machines and menacing bass wubs—the type of arachnid techno that one might Shazam after it pops up in a HÖR livestream. The four tracks here toe the line between early dubstep and trance, presenting an intense, inky exercise in boundary-averse club music. For DJs looking to one-up the local competition with some off-kilter bangers, Pareidolia is an essential addition to the USB.

The Ancient Truth

Effortlessly shifting between downtempo, jungle, ambient, and techno, Maara-Louisa Dunbar (aka Maara’s) catalog contains a range of sounds perfectly suited to the highs and lows of a night out. Whether she’s deploying intricate breakbeats, airy soundscapes, or prog-house bangers, her work is united by taut sequencing and sensual use of the human voice.

Dunbar got her start releasing music on NAFF, which quickly led to global tour dates and Boiler Room sessions. Her first full-length, The Ancient Truth, arrived this year via Berlin-based label Step Ball Chain. It highlights her knack for cohesiveness in the face of variation. Across its 12 tracks, waterfalling melodies roll in and out of dubby echoes and vast splashes of synth. Some tracks (“Yearning,” “Surrender,” “Awaken, Plum Plum”) are heartbreakingly pretty. On others—like “Just Give Me Time” and “Oh I Remember…”—the composition style is more restless, even hectic. The Ancient Truth plays like the score to a rave thrown in the heart of a black hole.

Martyn Bootyspoon
Silk Eternity

Martyn Bootyspoon is, by a mile, the most “hype” artist on this list, but his knack for propulsive, turnt-up songwriting can’t detract from the creativity at the heart of his music. On 2018’s Silk Eternity, Bootyspoon puts a salacious spin on electro. These five tracks are driven by dense, crunchy grooves, laser-like synths, and simple, mischievous lyrics (i.e. “let’s go through your browser history” or “spread that kat”). It might be too sleazy to take seriously if Bootyspoon’s execution weren’t so suave.

Jacques Greene

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It wouldn’t be a roundup of Montréal electronic artists without Philippe Aubin-Dionne—aka Jacques Greene. Since the early ‘10s, the producer and DJ has honed a distinctly wistful sound that could make even the most gung-ho partier tear up. Dionne’s 2021 release, ANTH01, is a collection of tracks from his first 10 years as Jacques Greene, and includes his timeless breakout track “Another Girl.” Over the course of 70 minutes, bleary vocal samples and sunburned synths rest atop gigantic drum machines. The ethereal breakdowns here are as captivating as the banging drops, highlighting Dionne’s command over fluctuating dynamics and bittersweet melodies. Collaborations with Koreless and How to Dress Well only solidify Jacques Greene’s place at the intersection of festival-friendly catharsis and mesmerizing glitchiness. 


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Though he currently operates out of Los Angeles, Mike Silver spent the majority of his early career as CFCF based in Montréal. (The inventive work he did in Canada seems to have had a strong impact on many of the releases on this list.) Silver’s 2021 record, memoryland, is wonderfully imaginative and unpredictable. Pulling from unlikely inspirations—Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, films like Morvern Callar (2002)—the record puts a neon-drenched spin on the angsty tropes of ‘90s alternative. (This 2021 CFCF remix of the Baltra track “Will You Be” mines a similar vein.) The homage to youth is as gripping as it is endearing. Underground parties and punk shows have always shared a penchant for scrappiness. Memoryland draws a cheeky and extremely enjoyable throughline between these two free-spirited movements.

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