Courtesy of Motormouth Media

Culture  Blending opera, film score, and rap

Montreal artist Lunice releases cinematic debut

Lunice Fermin Pierre II has progressed from 19-year-old b-boy to versatile artist. Lunice, a child of Filipino and Haitian immigrants, is based in Montreal and draws heavy influences from African-American artists, saying, “I grew up around hip hop culture, I keep it as basic as that … but that influence is undercut with electronic undertones.” He originally pursued DJing as a teenager, which kickstarted his desire to create his own music.

Across 11 tracks on CCLX (360), Lunice unravels a “stoner opera that blends new rap production, film scores, and modern club music.” He combines rap, hip hop and electronic to offer listeners an enticing listening experience.

The album is layered and intense; one song is instrumental bliss, the next is provocative verse. It’s theatrical. The albumís first half showcases traditional old-school rhythm and blues, while “Freeman” features poetry and ushers in the album’s midway point, “CCLX III (Intermission).” “Drop Down” has a heavy downbeat fit for a club, and features Le1f rapping. “CCLX III (Costume)” has spiritual undertones as the final notes are elevated and synthesized, almost optimistic. When The Daily asked Lunice about the meaning behind some of his songs, he responded, “How I react to my music could be completely different to the next person, which is great because [art] is so subjective.”

According to Lunice, there’s a new wave of experimentation both within the hip-hop/rap genre and between several genres. He claims, “[the genre] can’t only be straight rap.” From this mindset comes his fierce support for and involvement in impromptu jam sessions in electronic and rap music taking place across his hometown of Montreal. Explaining the legacy of collaboration and its positive contributions, he says, “There were sessions where you could bring whatever instrument you need to play music out, to come up with new sound and new music every weekend, it was the perfect setting to push our boundary and experiment. That was a thing from when Kaytranada and his crew were bubbling up, or even when we look at the history of Jazz.”
His general narrative is stylistic, four songs hold an eponymous title, and foreshadow the different “acts,” while other numbers work independently. We start off the album with “CCLX (curtain)” wherein the listener is told to “save your better change for the road” and is consistently reminded of the artist’s musical background, with an electronic downbeat which lasts throughout the whole opening feature. The tonal changes are often defined by the reprisal of sullen rap from a moment of silence during the song. It concludes. Since the release the audience feedback has been positive and perhaps more importantly, critics have also embraced his creativity.

Although the album is dark in sound and tone, many lyrics are optimistic and uplifting. The music video for CCLX’s lead single, “Tha Doorz,” mirrors the album’s format. Conceived in Montreal five years ago, the song features a swelling, ominous synth; Lunice actually only used one main synth melody throughout, crediting Kanye West as an inspiration for that creative decision.

The video is immaculate and abstract. Lunice’s cinematographic mode of processing becomes apparent as the song combines club, trap, and a hypnotic depth found within the slower beat, all coalescing behind the music videoís abstract choreography. When Lunice was asked about this, he rehashed his passion for film and the creative potential in combining the audio and visual, explaining, “What’s interesting is that I’ve come to realize that I really do enjoy shooting, almost as much as I like music, which is funny because for some people it just comes to making the music.” He studied editing and film in CEGEP and at Concordia, saying he’s always loved the “hard work that comes with taking creative risks,” both in performing and in audiovisual media.

In the last few seconds of the record’s final track, “CCLX IV (Black Out),” we manage to hear a snippet of Lunice’s unrestrained laugh. When asked about ending the album on this note, he stated: “The whole recordís pretty dark so I wanted to just lighten it up and even to give an impression of ‘to be continued’ into something a little more light-hearted to follow.” He’s very excited about the immediate future, citing that he already has notes and blueprints for the next album. He recognized that for his debut, though, the dark musical undertones, conceptual textures, and hints of optimism make the album a layered, complex piece. Lunice’s final laugh offers a layer of hope amongst the abstractions and swells of CCLX’s tonal darkness.