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Montreal vocalist Ango soars to slanted R&B heights on free album Serpentine

We’ve kept an eye out for Andrew Gordon Macpherson, a.k.a. Ango, on Montreal’s electronic circuit for years. He’s only recently gained broader recognition through his house-y, hook-laden R&B jams.

Tuesday marked the release of Serpentine, his moody second full-length, as a free download. The ten-track, soundtrack-sounding effort finds Canadian pop’s fledgling star showcasing his warped soul songcraft, backed by a stream of steamy UK house beats. Half the record is self-produced, while he’s assembled a vast talent pool (Jacques Greene, Prison Garde, Eames, Numan, Kuedo, Mike Din) to collaborate with on the other. “Paralyzed”, one of the record’s standout cuts – a dreamy slab of percussion-heavy, synth-y R&B – even boasts its own flickering, ‘sublimated nature’ music video by Montreal photographer Paul Labonté.

Ango describes the concept album as an opportunity “to experiment with new sounds, collaborate with other producers and to further establish myself as a vocalist and songwriter as much as a producer."

The former Haligonian first moved to Montreal years ago on the advice of longtime friend Rob Squire (otherwise known as tastemaking beatsmith Sixtoo/Megasoid/Prison Garde). Through loft parties, bridge burners and a variety of tempo-turning gigs, Ango was quickly acquainted with fellow promising upstarts Jacques Greene and Lunice, as all began to churn out the kind of deep, glitchy goodness that fuelled those mythical Turbocrunk nights at now-defunct Coda Club.

“It was really because of Rob that I moved here,” Ango told NIGHTLIFE.CA back in May, prior to his MUTEK appearance. “At the time I was doing remixes, instrumentals and hip-hop that was very synth-based but less club-oriented. So there was a lot of help and influence from Rob in terms of my sound.”

No time for laurels
Suffice it to say Macpherson didn’t dawdle the intervening years away. He first refined his producer know-how as part of Red Bull Music Academy’s London participants (along with fellow Montreal-based alumni Lunice). That’s when he first set foot in such clubs as Fabric and Plastic People, where he was exposed to a world that had nothing to do with the posturing prevalent in our commercial clubs. “I think that North American underground club culture is extremely different from what it is in the UK, and it wasn’t until I went to London for the RBMA that I experienced that firsthand,” recalls Ango. “No lights – people are there for the beats and the dancing. I saw how music really works in the environment that gave birth to it and still embraces it.”

Back across the pond, he released a number of EPs (including a collection of upbeat love jams entitled Another City on Glaswegian imprint LuckyMe), a cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” made available on Valentine’s Day and work on an uptempo project cheekily christened Nouveau Palais, in collaboration with mentor Squire and aforementioned pal Lunice. The one thread to all those projects? Ango’s savvy signature of futuristic R&B and emotive synth-pop.

As both a serious consumer and purveyor of soulful R&B, Ango was happy to weigh in on the great divide severing ties between ‘commercial’ and ‘indie’ variants of the genre. “I think it’s kind of a disservice to R&B to call the [David] Guetta-produced records that Chris Brown, Rihanna and T-Pain are on R&B. Although those musicians come from R&B backgrounds and have made very serious R&B records, it’s different music… It’s R&B singers making trance. There’s not a ton of soul to that, it’s just putting North American celebrities on European trance records.”

“That’s what the mainstream has become. I think someone like Frank Ocean is far more representative of modern R&B or soul music than anything Rihanna has done that The-Dream didn’t write for her.”

Serpentine is now available as a free download here: ango.ca