Why Dorothea Paas Rules by James Goddard

 In Why This Rules

Dorothea Paas

I have loved Dorothea Paas’s music since the first time I heard it. I met Dorothea in Kingston, ON. Have you been to Kingston? It’s a university town, rotten with old money, renowned for its debauchery, home to the headquarters of that most colonial enterprise – Corrections Canada. The winters there are relatively mild; it has something to do with the way the air currents pass over Lake Ontario. I worked for a year at CFRC 101.9FM, Dorothea was a programmer with an unreliable co-host if I’m not mistaken. One afternoon she announced in passing that she had discovered some writing of mine on the internet – almost certainly a Weird Canada review. Not to be outdone I googled her name (mercifully uncommon) and discovered the SONGS EP.

Already on this slight collection of songs for guitar and voice, Paas’ immense talent was clear. These songs showcased Paas’ deft command of the guitar, her vocal prowess and her ear for tasteful production. A steady stream of cassette releases since then has only further demonstrated Paas’ capabilities. Eschewing a path that has seduced many Paas’ folk-inflected first foray did not become the foundation of lushly arranged indie-pop but rather, starting with “A Thirst” (2013), Paas’ arrangements have embraced economy and veered towards abrasion; pairing her classically trained voice with chunky distortion drenched guitar riffs to great effect.

These arrangements are frequently surprising – the song Precious, for example, descends into a noisy breakdown but then from the chaos emerges a voice spoken not sung. That’s an obvious example but in less dramatic ways the shifts between parts, the chords, and the esoteric grooves the band falls into all skew just outside the idioms of today’s guitar rock – every listen seems to reveal an unfamiliar moment, a shimmer, a clang, a harmony heretofore unheard.

Despite the fact that Dorothea Paas is based in Toronto, there’s something of a Kingston that might no longer exist in Paas’s music. This is perhaps most visible in her choice of collaborators. Mark Streeter (Try Harder, False Face), an erstwhile stalwart of the Kingston scene has appeared on everything since ‘A Thirst’. Lately the full band lineup has also included former Kingstoner and shredder supreme Paul Saulnier (PS I Love You). The current quartet is rounded out by Kritty Uranowski, although not from Kingston, Uranowski’s a powerhouse in her own right and contributes a great deal to the live show…and instagram suggests all four are in on the recording session for the next release.

I would be remiss not to mention the humour and pathos that clearly shine through in Paas’, often darkly nihilistic, lyrics. Soon off of ‘No Loose Ends’ (2016) starts off evoking a love song – the relief and distraction of a beloved only to close with the line from which the title is drawn repeated over a minute: “soon none of this will matter”. And…well I could go on and on – I haven’t even highlighted any of the stellar moments from ‘Calm Your Body Down’ (2015) . But I think maybe you get the point.

Why does Dorothea Paas rule? I have loved Dorothea Paas’s music since the first time I heard it and, with every new song I hear, I come to find something new to love. That’s why Dorothea Paas rules.

James Goddard plays the saxophone. He performs solo as skin tone and in the duos NYON and Platitudes. He promotes concerts in Montréal. Platitudes will be performing at Kazoo! Fest 2018 on Saturday, April 14th at Heritage Hall (83 Essex St.)

Dorothea Paas plays at Kazoo! Fest 2018 on Saturday April 14th with Innes Wilson at Red Brick Cafe (8 Douglas St.)


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