By Julijana Capone
WINNIPEG – When Toronto transplant Joanne Pollock moved to Winnipeg two years ago, it inspired more than just a creative spurt of tumultuous electronic music. It made her question her entire sense of self.
On her debut full-length, Stranger, out this month via Venetian Snares’ own Timesig label, the electronic artist investigates how new environments can affect identity.
“When I moved to Winnipeg, which is a very different city than Toronto, I felt like I had lost a huge piece of myself…it was almost like I was an extension of my surroundings. When that was gone, I was completely lost,” she says by phone during a visit to Toronto.
“Every song is kind of a different element of myself and an examination of each of these parts of me.”
Opening track, “Carnival,” expounds upon a sense of “Winnipeg turmoil” that Pollock started to feel while living in the city.
“So many parts of “Carnival” are parts of conversations that I had with someone, where I was like ‘I don’t know if I’m depressed, or if it’s the city, or if it’s me?’ And someone was like ‘Yeah, that’s what it means to live here,’” she says.
“Living in Winnipeg as a creative person is like a fight. Manitoba is the most conservative place. There are so many creative, artistic types, for sure, but it feels like all of us are in a constant battle with our surroundings, with the other people that live in Manitoba—with everything!”
That anxiety resonates on some of the production of Stranger. Panicky drum patterns are interspersed with surges of sedating synths and Pollock’s calming vocals, culminating into a dreamy atmosphere that’s continually challenging.
An evolution of sounds formed on 2015 EP Optimist, Pollock’s latest effort reveals an experimentation that’s become more adventurous and assured.
“I still feel like I’m only beginning with production,” she says. “I’m always learning new things, and I’m always learning new ways of doing things.”
Using a drum machine as a compositional tool to map out different parts of songs, Pollock also incorporated an array of vintage synths and software, along with acoustic and vocal samples for the album. In fact, some of the samples are interwoven so adeptly they’re often difficult to distinguish, begging for closer listening (hear or, at least, try to hear: the disguised guitar samples on “Expect Me”).
With more time, money, and space than Toronto could ever allow for, Winnipeg, it would appear, has been fertile ground for pushing Pollock’s art forward.
“It’s given me the space and time to make really self-doubting, tumultuous music that Winnipeg tends to nurture for some reason,” she says.
If anyone understands the complexities of living in the isolated city, it’s Winnipeg electronic artist Venetian Snares (a.k.a. Aaron Funk), whose own inner-battles with the city have played out in his music, and whom Pollock continues to work with on side project Poemss. Their ongoing collaboration, she says, has played an important role in her own technical and creative development.
“Whenever you’re working with someone, you just absorb so much of their energy,” Pollock says. “What I learned from him was his attention to detail…he’ll go 16 hours working on like 30 seconds of music, and he’ll do that for five days in a row. Before I was like ‘OK, this song is done,’ and I just let it out. But he made me realize that you have to honour your music.
“You have to honour the songs with your time and you have to dedicate yourself to the music.”
Joanne Pollock performs June 15 at The Good Will Social Club (Winnipeg), and June 24 at The Hifi Club as part of Sled Island (Calgary). To purchase her new album, visit joannepollock.bandcamp.comJoanne Pollock, Sled Island, The Good Will Social Club, The Hifi Club