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Photo: AJ Korkidakis

Gig Pick: Kid Koala’s Music To Draw To at Black Squirrel Books—01.30.19

By Stewart Wiseman on January 29, 2019



After a decade of stimulating the minds of Montreal’s creative community, Kid Koala is bringing his acclaimed Music To Draw To sessions to Ottawa. Kid Koala (Eric San) was raised on the West Coast and moved to Montreal both for school and to immerse himself in the city’s renowned arts scene. However, like many West Coasters, San overlooked and underestimated the dark side of Montreal: winter. Although he now finds the never-ending season enjoyable, being barricaded under layers of clothing and feet of snow routinely puts a halt on Kid Koala’s party-music producing. To make the winters tolerable, Kid Koala developed Music To Draw To, an immersive ambient electronic music project that “puts the brakes on your mind.”

“There’s a pulse to this city that changes with the weather. Montreal’s a party city, but everything calms down in the winter,” says San. “I record the restorative and brain-massaging sounds of Music To Draw To exclusively in the winter. In fact, once the snow melts, and if I’m not finished a Music To Draw To track, I shut down all the work and don’t open it until the winter comes back.”

“In fact, once the snow melts, and if I’m not finished a Music To Draw To track, I shut down all the work.”

Kid Koala’s second installment in the series, Music To Draw To: io was released on January 25th and retains the invigorating yet soothing sounds that he debuted on 2017’s Satellite. The album was recorded over the last two winters in Montreal with collaborator Trixie Whitley, who San credits with crafting the album’s darker tones.

“The eureka moment came when we were working on ‘Hera’s Song.’ She really dug deep and made what I consider the most sinister track I’ve ever made,” explains San. “She took the track to an entire other level, then I had to kind of rework the whole track to match her intensity. I still wanted it to be a drone simmering track, but have it slowly build to this chaotic wall-of-sound crescendo because her voice is so powerful.”

Kid Koala’s music may be better recognized as the soundtrack to every raucous summer party, but io effectively submerges the listener into the depths of the mind to provoke instances of introspection and contemplation. Music To Draw To: io serves as the second in a series of three installments, with a follow-up expected in 2021.

Although the name of the event may sound like it’s exclusively for your neighborhood Picassos, there is no drawing experience or skill level necessary to attend Music To Draw To. In fact, you don’t even have to draw. Although the gatherings first began when Eric San was working his way through designing a graphic novel, the Music To Draw To sessions have continuously attracted an eclectic mix of talented individuals across disciplines since they started in 2009 at the Théâtre Sainte-Catherine. There is likely no project that you can bring to Black Squirrel that will be too out of the box.

“Even the first time we did it in Montreal there were people knitting and somebody actually brought a loom,” says San.

“The first time we did it in Montreal there were people knitting and somebody actually brought a loom.”

Recently, Eric San has noticed more tech-sector workers attending the sessions looking for music to zone out to while coding. Kid Koala’s reflective drone sounds have also been helpful in the development of life-saving work.

“I saw one lady working on a project that I thought was some sort of CG animation character, but she told me, ‘No, actually these are brain scans,’” explains San. “She’s not the only scientist that comes. There was a gentleman who was connecting geometric points on his computer, and I asked him what he was working on and I think he was building a protein!”

Eric San notes that there’s something special about being around people who are deeply focused on their work, even if you’re not working on a related project. “The energy of this creative focus is contagious in the air, and I hope it untethers people to be their most inspired selves.”

Kid Koala is hosting Music To Draw To at Black Squirrel Books (1073 Bank St) on Wednesday January 30 from 7pm–11pm. Admission is free. RSVP on Facebook.