TRACK REVIEW: Ursa Major- Dusk



Ursa Major


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Dusk is available at:

January, 2016

Psychedelic R&B.


Toronto, Canada


Noah Barer and Cavewerk


ONCE again I get to come back to Canada and view a new artist…

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who has crafted quite a special sound.  Before getting to Ursa Major, I wanted to have a look at Canadian music; the genre of R&B- talking a bit about the great young acts emerging right now.  Canada is a country that keeps producing some rather special talent and artists to watch.  Like Australia, it is one of those well-known countries that we don’t instantly turn to for new music.  The U.K. and U.S. press are desperate to make sure their home stars are proffered:  Canada is missing out on a lot of deserved attention.  Existing/established acts like Broken Social Scene, Drake and The Weeknd all call one place home:  Toronto.  To my mind, it is the most fervent and exceptional part of Canada (for new music).  Legends like Neil Young call the city home.  Such a prosperous, diverse and exceptional city:  So much great music is stemming from here at the moment.  Last year, artists like New Fries, Jazz Cartier, STACEY and Dilly Dally were highlighted- each representing different genres and areas of music.  I know the likes of London, New York and Los Angeles etc. have that reputation and well-known artists.  Most of us would probably not look to Toronto if we want to discover the best the music scene has to offer.  That is a shame, as the city is boasting some tremendous young artists.  Ursa Major hails from Toronto and ranks among one of the best artists to hail from here.  When looking at the 19-year-old, I was completed to look at the city and see if there were any like-minded performers.  Other parts of Canada- Ottawa and Montreal etc. – have some terrific bands, but to my ear, Canada’s best solo artists are playing in Toronto.  I am not sure what it is about the place- the communities and heritage the city has- but so many bright and ambitious musicians are making their names heard.  Take away the likes of Drake and The Weeknd and you have a wide range of genres and sounds being fused exceptionally.  Ursa Major describes his sounds as ‘Psychedelic R&B’:  Not something I have ever heard a musician say.  Ursa Major’s lead wants his sounds to recall the masters and mistresses of the past- the R&B/Soul greats- and bring it clearly into the future.  There is a stunning mix of older sounds and modern-day urgency across music that will very little social media details; it will be interesting to see how he develops.  Dusk is a track that was almost destined to spend time collecting dust and potential.  Recorded in dorms., basements and bedrooms:  The song’s D.I.Y. aesthetic was handed to producers Cavewerk and Noah Barer and brought to life.  Together, the trio has created something that is very much a song for 2016.  The dark and troubled lyrics talk of struggling to move on from love and heartache:  The troubles and obstacles faced when trying to move on and face uncertainties.

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Those pained utterances are supported by a composition that fuses the passion and sexuality of R&B whilst giving it a Psychedelic twist.  That coming-together creates music that stands among the most original out there right now.  The teenage has scribbled the lyrics- worked on the music and ideas- between classes; whilst ensconced in dormitories and facing the troubles of youth.  If you look inside Dusk you will find much you can relate to.  The track is not just confined to our author:  The themes and moments explored can be understood and speak to everyone listening.  There is a lot of pressure put onto artists, and with Ursa Major being so young, let’s hope he manages to overcome the hurdles and expectations and keep making exceptional music.  The media loves a fresh-faced and hopeful young artist.  Few terrific teenage acts are performing in the world of music:  Ursa is a rare commodity and someone we should all keep an eye for.  I know Ursa Major has performed a few songs before- hooking up with other artists- yet Dusk seems the most personal and individual track he has created.  I can see 2016 being filled with possibilities and more music-making from the Toronto native.  That sound he has perfected is such a beautiful thing you cannot escape its wonders and nuance.  It is great to hear a young musician that has such a sense of identity and purpose so early in their careers.  Too many artists struggle and take time to discover who they want to be.  You get no such qualms with Ursa Major:  A star that is already shining and seems sure to burn bright for a long time to come.  I hope a trip to the U.K. is planned- I always say this with every artist I love- but there is such a great sound laid out.  So many fans-in-waiting would welcome him in and be keen to pay tribute to one of the most original artists currently working.  If an E.P. or album is planned for this year, I am not sure but it seems like Ursa Major has plenty of inspiration and potential in him.  If Dusk is anything to go by, it will be a very exciting and deep record:  Something that will pick up a lot of fans and new support.

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If you want to know how Dusk’s author has progressed and matured, you will need to look back at his past efforts.  Being such a young and upcoming act, there are a couple of songs out there- a little window into what he is about.  Night Sounds was unveiled a month ago- performed by Jules Mercer- and features contribution from Ursa Major and Erez.  Those blended and diverse voices come together to create something harmonious and atmospheric.  The lyrics mix images of ashes being scattered by the ocean and the yearning of our heroine.  It sounds like lovers’ conversation and has such a relaxed and cool vocal that mixes with the edgy beats and wonderful atmosphere.  The composition sees darting thuds and vibrating electronics sit with sound effects and a great R&B.-cum-Electronica fuse.  A great input from Ursa Major- who provides a contrast to Mercer’s soulful voice- it is a wonderful collaboration.

  Indigo was recorded with False Mystics and is a softer and more contemplative affair.  Acoustic strings and echoed electronics being the track in- the energy starts soon enough.   Chilled and boasted some confident vocals:  It is a song that has catchiness and huge effectiveness.  The performances are brilliantly realised and bring life to the track.  Colours of indigo- and moments of years ago- “laugh like a child“.  The Psychedelic elements- and some wonderful electronic guitar work- give bristle, emotion and spark to the song.  You can get lost in the words and allow the song to seep into the mind.  Showing different sides to Ursa Major- who can bond with any other artists seamlessly- you have a talent with huge mobility and diversity.

   Dusk is the first chance for Ursa Major to step out alone and create a track with his voice alone.  What you have is elements of other tracks- where he has collaborated- but a much more unique drive and a sense of personality.  Rather than joining forces and being a back member:  Here you have a song that is a testament from a young man affected by love’s heartaches- keen to burn the past and move on.  As a songwriter, there is a lot of depth and originality to be found.  This progression and mobility means Ursa Major is an artist that has a long career ahead.  Most solo artists either do well on their own or hooking with other artists.  Occasionally you get someone who seems effortless and natural in all arenas and dynamics.  If an E.P. is due- either this year or later- it will be interesting to see if there are any collaboration to be found- maybe just solo songs.

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Dark and vibrating electronics spar with clicked beats to begin Dusk with an appropriately unsettled and nervy opening.  Right from the off you are immersed in the force and black majesty of the introduction.  Putting me in mind of ‘90s Trip-Hop- acts like Massive Attack came to mind- you have a song that is so fascinating and meaningful within the initial seconds.  Atmosphere, drama and images are summoned as you surrender to the building momentum.  The production values allow those compositional elements to come through sharp and clear.  When our hero gets to the microphone, his words are unsettled and show some restrained anger.  “Dark haze right before my eyes/when I was numb, I succumbed to your lies” show a young man that was in love and got his heart broken.  Maybe too invested to see the truth- the real motives and calculations of his girl- you can feel that disappointment and unhappiness come out in the vocal.  Looking back at events and a hard time for him; you have these strained and harrowing recollections we all can relate to.  We all know the type of vixen that is being ascribed:  Maybe the heroine was cheating or making false promises to keep her man happy.  Maybe the past was better and filled with some more prosperous times.  Wrapped inside a lonesome existing- “Smooth winds make me reminisce”- you have a subject that cannot help think of love and scars that have been left.  Although there are recriminations and accusations emerging- looking at the dissolve of a once-pure bond- our man has some fond memories and a part of him still yearns for the girl.  That soft skin and beauty is in the mind- maybe a desire to rekindle the better days- and a new-found lust can be discovered in the performance.  At all stages, that composition keeps pervading and inspiring.  The mix of beats and electronics create something haunted and spirited; R&B-influenced and dangerous- the loud and soft contrast with fast and slow.  Our lead ensures his voice has those same characteristics and qualities in them.  In the first verse there is some pace and consideration:  Making sure the words resonated and are given true passion; an emotive and leveled projection.  As darker subjects start to come in; that voice races and accelerates the tempo.  Looking at drinking and drowning sorrows- given the realisation the bond is broken- Ursa Major wants to numb himself and forget his troubles.  I am not sure what caused the relationship to crumble.  Maybe there was no communication or the girl was feeding too many lies.  In spite of the demolition and mistrust; you can tell there were some great days and a true connection.  Without her soft skin and tenderness, our hero wonders what he will do.  Such desperation and anxiety comes out; it is impossible to ignore that suffocation and sorrow emerge.  Being a teenage musician- and others who tread this same ground- most would deal with such issues with a lacking maturity and clichéd lyrics.  What you get here is such wisdom, maturity and intelligence come through.  While the lyrics do look at bleak possibilities; you cannot deny there is a need to change things and expunge the past.  Ursa Major ensures the lyrics are universal- and do not disconnect listeners- but have enough personal history to make Dusk an authentic and authoritative track.  It appears the girl only calls when she is drunk and things are going bad.  When the tears run and the walls are closing in:  That is the time when our hero receives a phone call.  Once upon a time there was a natural love that seemed like it could endure any struggle.  Now, there are those late-night calls and something rather pathetic.  Maybe the heroine was a support for Ursa Major- when he was struggling she was there for him- hence the reason she is missed.  On the one hand, you get a young man that seems to want to get rid of her influence- and all the troubles and heartache caused.  On the other, there is that longing and need to reset things- capture those glory days and how things used to be.  The boy is inspired by soft keys and piano melodies.  Perhaps recalling the origins of the song- turning that pain into something productive- you get some recall and a story progression.  In his room or basement- wherever that music and lyrics came together- memories still tumble and make their way onto Dusk.  Remembering “beer-stained perfume” and broken glass:  All those elements and shards are put together in a musical collage that keeps pressing to the final moments.  Changing his voice up- the pace and way the words and presented- gives the lyrics such energy and unexpectedness.  The composition bubbles, burbles and vibrates to soundtrack a heart that is feeling the effects of a rather tumultuous past.  The hero is merely stated words and saying how things were in the past.  Now everything is over, he is making decisions and seeing how he will progress.  A chance to change life and make a new plan:  The influence of this break-up cannot be understated.  In the final seconds you are caught in the drama and wonder as to the song’s true nature.  Of course there is a lot of pain and unsettled recollections.  That obvious, you wonder whether everything is that clear-cut.  Maybe there were some great times that have made Ursa Major the artist and man he is now.  That girl- whoever she happens to be- has been important whatever way you look at it.

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A terrific and assured song from a Canadian artist that can speak and connect with any listener.  Noah Barer and Cavemen have ensured Dusk sees the light and is given the exposure it deserves.  Helping with the composition- and producing the song- you have a number that is among the most affecting you will hear.  Fans of Drake, The Weeknd- and other natives of Toronto- will find some familiar strands within the track.  The abiding impression is a song that is very much the work of a musicianship keen not to be compared with anyone else.  The subjects of love and regret are hardly groundbreaking:  The way you address them can determine how far you make it in music.  Ursa Major has not simply employed the same clichés and ideas as his peers:  You have an artist with a very distinct pen and a new way of covering the topics.  Among the shadows and hard realisations, you have a hopefulness that comes out.  Wanting to escape the bad days and focus on a better future:  Dusk is a song that has many layers and ideas working away.  A track that does lose its appeal over time- a song that gets better in fact- it is a hugely impressive effort from the 19-year-old Canadian.

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It is great being contacted by new artists and hearing what they have to say.  Usually- and the last few weeks especially- I have been reviewing U.K.-based acts.  In fact, they will make up the next couple of weeks of reviews.  It is always good investigating terrific acts from Britain:  It is nice to take a trip out once in a while and expand my horizons.  A lot of media sources are not really looking beyond home when it comes to promoting the best music around.  It is a shame artists like Ursa Major seem to be confined to Canadian attentions.  Of course, the 19-year-old has fans throughout the world- despite some social media anonymity- but it would be good for press sources here to recognise his ilk and what they are capable of.  It is not surprising to me to discover another treasure from Canada.  Throughout the country there is such a wealth of wonderful and varied music.  Every artist that comes through has such passion and potential:  I can think of few other nations that are so consistent and diverse.  Toronto is a city that a lot of us will only ever visit as tourists.  As much lovers, I think more people should turn their attentions here.  Away from the obvious likes of London and New York:  You can discover so much untapped gold across Toronto.  I have highlighted- in the top of this review- some of the bands and acts heralded last year.  They will continue to plug throughout 2016; there are a whole host of new upstarts that are just starting to come to critical attention.  Whatever your tastes in music- some sexy R&B or ‘60s-sounding Rock bands- you are pretty much covered.  Toronto is a part of the world that has been in my thoughts for a few years now.  The music that comes from here never fails to surprise and surpass expectations.

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Ursa Major is- I am going to avoid any star-based puns and jokes- a talent that deserves a lot more credit than he has.  To be fair, he is hard to locate across social media and the Internet- just a SoundCloud account- I hope the youngster gets an official website together and ensures many more people discover him.  The music is certainly affecting those who have heard it.  Looking at the SoundCloud comments- the feedback for the single, Dusk– there is plenty of love and admiration to be seen.  Dark and heavy; passionate and intelligent:  A musical insight into a man who wants to dissolve his past and move into the future.  As we surge further into 2016 there will be a lot of people wondering who they should follow and invest in.  With the band market getting attention and biggest focus- rather unfairly I think- I am looking at the great solo artists emerging.  In this country there are some stunners to be found for sure:  Each with their own ambitions and objectives.  Being a passionate music lover, I find myself looking at other countries for inspiration.  The U.S. has always been good and reliable:  So many cutting-edge and amazing acts play here.  Canada needs to get more people behind it; supporting the music they house.  Whilst their native media sources are doing this; why are more people not getting behind them?  You cannot accuse the country of lacking quality and consistency.  In terms of cities, few match the reach and splendor of Toronto.  Whilst Ursa Major- and the producers behind the track- have Montreal roots; it is Toronto that comes under the microscope.  I will be spending a lot of time this year keeping my eyes focused on the city to see what comes next.  I am not sure who the city’s media are highlighting (to watch as the year progresses) but Ursa Major must be among them.  Such tender artists- Ursa Major is not even 20- tend to start out rather uncertain or take the time to mould their sound.  The maturity, direction and confidence are already there with our young star.  There is no precociousness and predictability with regards the music.  A lot of younger artists focus on love and heartbreak but do so with little flair, depth and grit.  You want someone that take meaty and troublesome issues and delivers them with some punch, nuance and effectiveness.  You do not have to scream down the microphone or throw everything into the pot.  What Ursa Major does is take some dark issues- moving on from the past and making a better future- and creates something intense and hugely memorable.  I have been seeking solo acts that I can stick to and promise great future returns.  Ursa Major will be releasing new material very soon- let’s hope so anyway- and there is such a unique and special sound already cemented.  R&B and Psychedelia are not genres you would ever imagine could come together.  The sensuousness and sexiness of the former marrying with the latter’s edgy, druginess and hardness make a wonderful couple.  It is said opposites attract and this seems to be the case for sure.  Not only do they match but they better one another.  The R&B shades of Dusk are augmented and given fresh life:  The ‘60s/’70s-recalling Psychedelia is given modern vibe and sounds completely reborn.  At the centre is that voice that sounds unlike any I have heard.  Making sure those personal and harrowed lyrics are given hope and memorability:  You have a performance that is filled with life, heart and soul.  A long career for Ursa Major awaits so do not miss Dusk and…

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THE first steps from a brave and bright young hope.



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