DoubleTooth, the musical brainchild of two Toronto musicians and producers, is providing the soundtrack to one of the dances featured at Dusk Dances.
Dusk Dances, now in its 22nd year, features five contemporary dance pieces by local Canadian choreographers and dancers. It runs this year from Aug. 1 to 7 at Withrow Park.
DoubleTooth will be accompanying the Nia movement class with master teacher Martha Randall. Nia is a dance style that mixes modern dance, yoga and martial arts.
During the half-hour class the amount of energy will increase, and Randall wants DoubleTooth’s music to reflect that, so their songs will be connected by ambient electronic improvisation.
DoubleTooth members are Joshua Van Tassel and Robbie Grunwald. Their music is an improvisational sonic journey inspired by psychedelia, the music of Nigeria in the 1960s, and electronic dance music.
The two will be joined by three different bass players over the course of Dusk Dances, starting with Devon Henderson, then Dean Drouillard and Charles James.
DoubleTooth has completed its first album, Volume 1, on Halifax label Backward Music.
“Both of us have been producers and sidemen,” explains Grunwald. “Being in those roles often equates to satisfying other people’s musical desires. We wanted to do what we wanted to do, not what people told us to do. At the time we began, Josh had a studio space of his own, he got in touch with me.”
Grunwald who is also a scientist, said he and Van Tassel were both into Nigerian music.
“Most people who know about African music know about Afrobeat, but the music we were listening to was just before that. Influenced by rock ’n’ roll and blues from Europe and the U.S., Nigerians in the ’60s were blown away by it. Their music had this young excitement and naiveté to it, but obviously infused with their own musical sensibilities. It produced this entirely different and cool thing that’s not super polished, produced or manufactured. It had rawness, it sounded specific to the way they recorded stuff… They didn’t have a lot of technology there because the industry wasn’t super developed.”
The duo recorded with the vision of just making music without being critical or overly produced. They loved the rhythmic elements, but at the same time, were not looking to make an African record. Grunwald says it just didn’t seem appropriate coming from two white guys from Canada.
Grunwald, a keyboardist, played a number of synthesizers, keyboards and bass guitar, Van Tassel played drums and percussion. On the first day, they had a fully completed track. They were enjoying it so much that they kept doing it until they had a completed album. DoubleTooth is in the midst of working on their next one, Volume 2, which will be a departure from the African influences of Volume 1.
In addition to recording and performing with leading Canadian songwriters and musicians, Grunwald has acted as a musical director and composed for film, television, and videos. He has performed in many venues including at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Toronto’s Ashkenaz festivals and events in Spain and France.
He’s played klezmer music and produced albums for cantors including New York-based Canadian cantor Mo Glazman.
Grunwald says that although he is not religious, being Jewish affects everything about him. “If you ask any of my friends, they would pretty quickly say I was Jewish, because it is part of my culture and who I am. It affects everything about me, but specifically about my art and work. Eastern European music is a huge part of me and my artistic soul. There is a certain heaviness, sombreness, and an academic but also soulful quality to that whole world that I am very naturally drawn to… it’s hugely because of my Judaism.”
For more info and performance times: visit duskdances.ca. To learn more about Robbie Grunwald and DoubleTooth visit: www.robbiegrunwald.com.