“New York” by Milk & Bone
Today, Milk & Bone released their debut album, Little Mourning, and while it now seems a given the duo’s big vocals and dark electronics are destined for big things, even their first official show showed signs of crossover potential.
It was around this time last year that Camille Poliquin and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, friends since CEGEP and longtime backing musicians for just about everyone in town, opened for rappers Loud Lary Ajust at the Red Roof church on President-Kennedy. A dark, electro group playing to rambunctious rap fans was a risky move.
“We were so happy because after a show a lot of dudes, ones who listen to hip hop, came over and told us they don’t listen to female vocalists that often but they really liked it,” Poliquin told me over scones and lavender tea in Mile End. It was full steam ahead after that for a union that was christened when Misteur Valaire suggested the pair come up with a pseudonym for their featuring spot on the party dudes’ 2013 album Bellevue.
But Lafond-Beaulne adds that even Loud Lary Ajust say Milk & Bone are light years ahead of where they were a year ago. Little Mourning doesn’t sound like two friends cautiously stepping into the limelight.
“We knew our strength was our vocals, so we wanted those in front,” Lafond-Beaulne says. “And we liked synths a lot.”
Adds Poliquin: “If you took our instruments away from us, we’d still have a vocal band.”
Their love of vocals can manifest itself in interesting ways. Poliquin isn’t averse to building a choir with a few dozen tracks made up entirely of their own voices – the rougher first takes typically taking the lead – then mixing it with synths to ominous effect.
Lafond-Beaulne, Poliquin and producer Gabriel Gagnon listened to the usual suspects in electronic R&B and pop for inspiration: Blood Orange, Solange, James Blake, Purity Ring, Chvrches. Where they differ from those somewhat is how the songs on Little Mourning tend to start with an acoustic element, like Lafond-Beaulne’s ukulele, before gradually being wrapped in digital darkness. Lafond-Beaulne used the word “enrobé” to describe the melding of organic and electronic, and it sounds better than its English counterpart.
“’Easy to Read’ was written on ukulele and voice, and we kept the ukulele the whole song, but there’s so much electronic stuff around it that it works,” explains Lafond-Beaulne.
“We wanted something cold,” says Poliquin. “We love to start a song slowly, and there comes a point where everything is let loose and we drop the bass. We like to end a song in an epic way.” ■
Milk & Bone launch Little Mourning with a free show at Phi Centre (407 St-Pierre) tonight, Tuesday, March 17, 6 p.m.