Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
Do you say “Moooog” or “Moag”? It’s a question of minor importance to music nerds of the world who insist that the latter pronunciation is the correct one when referring to synthesizers created by the late Robert Moog.
The thought of pronunciation and general music nerdiness came to mind when delving into the work of the duo called Dialoog.
They’re childhood friends from Rotterdam with an Ottawa connection. Their groovy, Moog-recalling name is simply the Dutch word for “dialogue” which is what musicians Yuri Bakker (keys, synths, samples) and Michael Powell (drums, percussion, samples) attempt to do through music — they talk in a kind of call-and-response format.
Sometimes one musician will create a bendy, noodley line of notes and the other will mimic it back in the same tones, but using a different instrument.
Their form of monkey-see-monkey-do music is stuff of high-bohemia music geekery (Bakker went to Juilliard, Powell went to Berklee. Cred, eh?).
But it’s not aimed solely at nerds and obscurists who might recognize their re-creation of a Gustav Mahler composition, mixed in with some hip-hop.
If you attend one of their free jams at Café Nostalgica on October 23 and 30, you can appreciate the tunes on a musical level or a referential level — or both.
“Most people probably wouldn’t recognize that song — and they don’t have to,” Powell says. “I don’t think it’s more enjoyable if you know it’s some Mahler bastardization.”
Powell is sitting in an Ottawa coffee shop with Bakker and their friend Greggory Clark, a publicist with the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Clark met Bakker and Powell through mutual friends while studying in Brussels. Now the extended group of friends and musicians — who organize themselves under the label Pop Drone Records — try to gather annually in one city or another to play a series of shows or a festival. They have the twin goals of sharing their music and getting together for a jam/bonding session.
The Pop Drone label features experimental electronic music and includes Clark’s band Pony Girl, along with Josef Pollock, Ryckholt, and James & Blackburn. The title was cribbed from a Cheap Trick tune. Pony Girl recently held a CD release party at La Petite Mort and Dialoog played for some eight hours at this year’s Nuit Blanche.
It was the soundtrack to the night, quite like a score. Dialoog’s music has no lyrics. Rather, the dialogue is musical.
Bakker’s studies are rooted in classical music. Under his solo handle Ryckholt, he created two albums based on the personality characteristics of the composer Robert Schumann. Powell, meanwhile, brings in a contemporary sensibility. His studies focused on electronic music and production.
Powell says such references are not meant to be like an Easter egg, whereby the musically knowledgeable pick up the subtle references to dead composers like a hidden treat. The classical works are like a jumping off point for the duo to explore more contemporary sounds.
“We come from different backgrounds, but have a shared interest in the music we’re making,” Bakker says, with Powell adding, “There’s some yin and yang going on.”
Dialoog plays at Café Nostalgica on Wednesday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 30. 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. No cover. Open jam after the performance. Bring a sax! A drum kit, keys, amps, mics, guitars, and a bass will be set up. http://popdrone.ca