Marker Starling

Der Kanadier Chris Cummings ist der Antiheld im Popgeschäft. Einst studierte er Klavier am königlichen Konservatorium zu Toronto, heute spielt er als Marker Starling seine Liebes- und andere Lebensgeschichten auf einem Wurlitzer-Piano und gibt eher den jazzig zurückhaltenden Flüsterer. Keine Möchtegern-Poesie und verschwurbelte Kunstsprache, dafür in der perfekten Balance zwischen Komplexität und Eingängigkeit.

Toronto troubadour Chris A. Cummings (Marker Starling, formerly Mantler) has been playing Melancholy Party Jams since 1999. A solo performer for many years, his preferred weapons were a Wurltizer electric piano and an early pre-programmed drum machine. More recently he has been supported by a Toronto-based band consisting of Dorothea Paas (vocals, guitar) Jay Anderson (drums), Matt McLaren (bass) and Andy Scott (guitar and keyboards).

Cummings has in the past collaborated with the German band Von Spar, contributing vocals and lyrics to their albums STREETLIFE (Italic, 2014) and UNDER PRESSURE (Bureau B, 2019). His song “Deep Background” was recorded by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier for her Source Ensemble record FIND ME FINDING YOU (Drag City, 2017). His 2010 song „In Stride“ was included in DJ Koze’s DJ-Kicks compilation on !K7 Records in 2015. He has opened for Stereolab, The Books, Destroyer, Yo La Tengo, Gary Wilson and Sandro Perri, and also plays in the bands Matias, Hank and The Canadian Romantic.

Eliza Niemi

Our earliest exposures to music can often be the most formative. For Toronto-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eliza Niemi, that influence came from her Dad who taught her the basics of bass and guitar at home. These childhood experiences of playing music together by ear fostered the sense of playfulness that she’s approached her craft with ever since. They also instilled an ethic in her creative work that prioritizes making music with friends and loved ones.

Those honed guitar —and later piano, cello and vocal— skills make Eliza an ideal collaborator: starting in Halifax’s rich music scene with the mid-2010s experimental pop groups New Love Underground and Mauno, and later in her role supporting artists Le Ren, Quaker Parents and Evan J. Cartwright. Through the rhythms of touring and the brilliant spark that’s shared in musical exchange, Eliza found and developed connections across Canada’s DIY music communities. These collaborative moments fuel her creative practice, whether playing solo, in an ensemble or releasing others’ music as the founder of her own label, Vain Mina Records.

Connection and collaboration lives in the intimacy of her albums, starting with 2019’s Vinegar, an understated set of songs for cello, keyboard and voice that wander with a comforting grace. 2020’s Glass furthered Eliza’s reputation for writing songs that are boundless and experimental without ever being alienating. There’s an open, inviting quality throughout the record, apparent from the close-miked instruments, to her softly sung and affable lyrics that unfold like a conversation with a good friend.

Her latest album, Staying Mellow Blows, furthers these ideas and aesthetics to a staggering degree, retaining the candor, humor and emotional humility she’s known for, while letting the vast number of supporting musicians shape each song with their own emotionally resonant performances. The result feels whimsical and inspired, and is the sound of an artist flourishing.