Playgrounds

Client

Artist

Writer

Creative Director:

There are basic emotions that drive my creativity like hope, nostalgia, melancholia and joy. Sure, sometimes I like to make sad stuff, but I tend to give it a feeling of hope so it doesn't just feel sad. I think it all comes up to emotions in the end. It has to make you vibrate, whatever makes you vibrate. -Mongwau

It's a project of the past to me, where things didn't have to be so complicated or fast-paced. It echoes my real life sentiment too, and I hope this album helps us reach that point, even just a little more. -Damon Broussard

Process

Swingset chains rattling, chanting voices of jump-rope calls, the sound of feet on gravel and blacktop underneath the summer sun, voices of children rising and falling in response to the game's highs & lows...Welcome to the colourful, visceral world of "Playgrounds" by Quebec-based artist, Mongwau

With his 4-song EP on released on Tsunami Sounds, Mongwau has created what feels like an interactive playground for the listener. 'Interactive' because it's almost impossible to listen to it without having an authentic, instinctual, and almost visceral response. It's a Chillhop / Classical / Foley sound experience that helps reconnect us with feelings and impulses we had as children. And that's part of what Mongwau wanted to do with the record: 

 I went to a music school and I can remember sitting behind pianos and already playing some profound melodies and soothing riffs. That's what I'm trying to recall with Playgrounds. I hope for people to recognise themselves in this and to reflect back on their life to help them cling onto the good parts, switch their focus from the negative things. -Mongwau

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With my father and mother being musicians and music teachers, I was born in a musical environment from the beginning. While my mother was teaching me the basics of music theory, piano and guitar, my father was showing me the digital realm of music production. I first started to write music at 6 years old in Encore, which is a scoring program like Finale. At that age I already had one guitar composition that I still play nowadays and one piano song I wrote in Encore that I still have in my computer somewhere. I'm really the kind of person who keeps everything he does I don't really know why I started all this but I sure felt a freedom of creativity while doing it. -Mongwau

Mongwau's spare production style - no more than 4-5 elements per song - creates an open, dynamic sonic space that quietly draws us into each song, and reminds us to keep listening, keep watching, keep playing. He, himself, is playing with musical concepts as he toys with musical juxtaposition, putting ideas together that feel serious yet spirited, playful yet focused, and full on romantically whimsical. 

I'm personally inspired most by my own childhood. When Mongwau showed me his album "Playgrounds'', it reminded me of my past and the awesome memories that came with it. I love when artists capture a sense of time & place in their music, and I've been trying to emphasize that with the label more lately. -Damon Broussard

Music

The songs on the album are named after quintessential childhood games - Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, Marco Polo - and they act as nostalgic glances back to simpler days and less complicated pursuits. But these songs aren't happy-go-lucky musical yarns that tell a one-sided story of cheery childhood on the playground underneath a blue sky with a pocket full of candy store money. Rather, they tend toward melancholia and romantic dreaminess. That's one of the most unique juxtapositions Mongwau makes on this album, and it's a strong undercurrent throughout his greater body of work. 

 

Hide and Seek” - A strong juxtapositional sense kicks off the first song as he combines the elated voices of school children on the playground with pensive, patient piano chords. This creates a happy/sad loping rhythm of this gentle opener.  Then, a piano melody emerges, quickly followed by the Chillhop-infused hyper-compressed drums and bassline, and bingo, Mongwau's sound is complete. The children playing at the playground, the casually careful piano chords, wistful melody, all elements telling us to expect the unexpected on this record.

Kick the Can” features a toy-piano like sound, again set within a non-traditional (for Hip Hop anyway) 6/4 time signature, a lively & lighthearted song that echoes a nostalgic feel from the Tin-Pan Alley songwriting days of the 1930’s, another keen juxtaposition by Mongwau. This is the kind of flexibility and scope he brings to his music: Not one genre, but all the stuff he's played, heard, and thought up fully belongs here. 

I'm very versatile, always ready to incorporate whatever new knowledge I acquire or whatever new instrument/sound I get my hands on. I don't like to make streamlined music, I prefer exploring new avenues and surprising myself with the results. I can play a very large array of instruments and that makes it easier for me to mix textures and genres together. -Mongwau

Playground” is the album’s namesake, again in the 6/4 time signature, and it boasts swingset chains jingling, cars passing, school bells ringing, and a slightly more distressed overtone to the foley sound/ambient soundscape. The addition of some nice, low string sounds lend a symphonic element to this song, and a trumpet-like instrument states the somber melody after the crunchy, swaying, polyrhythmic drum beat kicks in, keeping the heart of “Playground” sincere, earnest, and fitting for the rough and tumble playground scene. 

This one relates to a strong feeling of Nostalgia. “Playground” is meant to make you feel a strong connection with your past self, the kid you were at school and how it was back then. Not everyone can relate to this, I know that, but for me, the best parts of my life were back in primary/secondary school. -Mongwau

Marco Polo” is the final track - defiantly set in 6/4 time again haha - that comes with a buried treasure via the unexpected appearance of iconic French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy’s masterpiece, Claire de Lune. Debussy's is considered one of Classical music's OG  "Impressionist" composers (a term he vigorously rejected) and is uniquely set in 9/8 time signature (that parallel is not lost on us, Mongwau). Claire du Lune is probably one of the most well-known piano compositions and is both romantic and melancholy, dripping with patient longing, and features a spare construction style - sound familiar? We're perplexed, intrigued, and curious - Why does Mongwau include snippets of this iconic masterpice inside "Marco Polo?" 

 

Claire de Lune is indeed well known. It's my favorite piano song. I often find myself playing this melody whenever I sound design soft piano sounds! But in this song it's different. I accidentally started playing the arpeggios at the end over the beat while jamming out some ideas. That's when I decided to throw this song as a hidden token and I think it pays off in the end.

-Mongwau

And this explanation says it all. At first, TBH, I was almost tripping on this famous, gorgeous song being dropped into this modern, experimental Chillhop number. Thoughts about copyright infringements, meshing the two different time signatures together (6/4 and 9/8), the possible conflict of musical "integrity" in combining Hip Hop & Classical music together...and then it hit me: THIS IS PLAY. Mongwau chose to "play" instead of worry, and the combination of these two songs is so satisfying, that it has me thinking about where I'm at with my ability to just "play." Thank you, Mongwau-

Closing

Mongwau is truly playing on "Playgrounds" and I think he wants us to play along. Maybe these 4 songs are the equivalent of walking up to that new kid on the playground and saying, 'hey. wanna play?' Let's take that risk, guys, jump into it, and let this album remind us to keep play at the center of our work. 

Mongwau's music is important to our catalog because we try to represent projects that come from a true place within. We like to capture personal themes. Everything about this album has a "behind the scenes of something greater" kind of feel. Like we're taking a short glimpse into the endless memories of Mongwau. To me that's exciting, and I'd love our catalog to be filled with projects that echo the special moments of people & places around the world. -Damon Broussard

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 I like to think of Mongwau as a platform where I can land any genre. Maybe someday you'll come across my page and stumble upon metal music, then some songs later House Music, then later Lofi Hip-Hop and maybe symphonic music even! Who knows?

-Mongwau