Caterina Infinity artwork

Montreal electronic folklore label Cosmovision Records thinks globally

Label head Felipe Nadeau on repping an international movement and counteracting under-representation in the local scene.

Montreal label Cosmovision Records is releasing the second volume of their Animals of the Earth compilation this month (on Aug. 15), and aside from the fact that it’s an impressive collection of electronic folklore tracks (with great cover art by Divan Grafico that’s characteristic of Cosmovision’s on-point visual signature), the release aims to shed a little light on a global challenge that has been shifted to the backburner.

“Today our planet still waits urgently for our action and with the latest events, Mother Earth itself is screaming to humanity to slow down and reconnect with her in a spiritual way,” reads the Cosmovision statement. “We invite you to come with us on this journey through the musical ecosystem of the Animals of the Earth to discover, respect and care for these beautiful beings that live with us.”

Ahead of the compilation release, I spoke to Felipe Nadeau — who runs the label alongside Tibo, Don Mescal and El Extravagante — about a sound that connects international communities, and navigating a global music scene from a place that hasn’t paid much attention.

Lorraine Carpenter: Can you tell me about the electronic folklore movement?

Felipe Nadeau: This is a global movement, it’s from everywhere: people from South Africa, from Japan, from Chile. It’s a whole new wave of electronic music created by people who make music with a little bit more folklore while experimenting with high technology, and with an element of environmental engagement, consciousness about the earth. It’s huge in Europe, it’s huge in Latin America, but here it’s kind of still developing. North America had it from before but by another name — the Burning Man crew, the ethnic-music hippies, though we don’t like the term “ethnic” now, haha.

The music movement really responds to the current state of society, the big environmental problems we have, the problems with the native cultures that live in the Americas that are still invisible. With this music, people are starting to pay more attention to their events, their sound, their culture and their stories.

LC: How do you feel about the more dominant styles of electronic music here?

FN: House and techno used to be more relevant in the ’90s but now it’s a completely different story. Even the more techy crew, for example, like Mutek (festival acts) — there’s a lot of technology going on, but where is it going? Where is the substance there? Especially now, with the world on the edge of collapse, music can be more of a meeting place. That’s why I feel people are loving this music more and more every day.

Our crew is (aged) 25 to 40, and a lot of these guys were really into house and techno when they were in their 20s, when it was big and fresh. Now we want more than just the average Roland synthesizer. We want sounds from exotic places of the world, sitar, South American drums, African djembe, kora, expanding the year a bit.

Cosmovision Records Animals of the Earth Vol. 2 artwork
Animals of the Earth Vol. 2 artwork

LC: When we communicated prior to this interview you stressed the fact that your label is run by and features acts from all over the world, including local and Canada-based artists who are visible minorities and immigrants. What has your experience been like as a label in the local scene?

FN: This project started as a necessity, as a minority group of South Americans, and a lot of women as well. I was born in Santiago, Chile and I arrived in Montreal in 2018 — I had lived in Toronto before — and there was no place for us, nothing. We started gathering people and connecting to a community and we became an internationally growing project. None of the big festivals have ever paid attention to us. I’m not saying we should be on the main stage of Osheaga or whatever, but Mutek for example invited Nicola Cruz, one of the biggest artists in this genre, they knew about us as the only (electronic folklore) label and collective in Montreal, and they didn’t even invite us to do a small warm-up.

This is the first time I talk with any Canadian media. It’s a big, big challenge. We need to put money upfront to get a bit of visibility from the Canadian media. We’ve been in Mexico City FM radio, in Berlin, we’ve had parties in Vienna.

I’m not surprised by all the problems that happen here with diversity — it’s a big shame. Montreal has a lot of diversity, and Toronto as well, but it really doesn’t profit from it much. It’s still very one-sided, we’re still fighting to be a bit more visible, and it’s so hard.

In Toronto they always say, “Oh, we’re so diverse here.” It’s a nice discourse, but having one neighbour from India and one neighbour from Mexico doesn’t mean that your society is culturally diverse. If there’s no cultural interchange, it’s just a demographic phenomenon.

I feel like Cosmovision Records combines the diversity of Montreal and the city’s love for technology. 

I feel that’s something we’ve been doing and presenting to the crowd. If you go to a Cosmovision Records show, you can see a live act from South America and the next one is Arabic and the other one is European and then African. It’s a big melange of things.

Cosmovision Records
Cosmovision artist Ultra K

LC: Where have you guys had events locally?

FN: We’ve been at les Jardineries, Jardins Gamelin, Ausgang Plaza, Cabaret Lion d’Or, Nomad Life and l’Escalier, and also festivals in Val David ans Sherbrooke. I once made a party at l’Escalier and everybody was like, “What?!” But if Canada had more places like l’Escalier, the scene would be another story for sure.

In Chile, the way people do underground music is very different. I feel like the Cosmovision way of working has a lot to do with how we do underground in places like Latin America, a lot of guerrilla-style, sharing, gathering, working against the mainstream. Usually people here in North America want to be in the mainstream; we know we’re not going to be in the mainstream so we work to present an alternative. 

LC: Parties and shows are obviously not happening now but do you have any future plans that you can talk about?

FN: We haven’t had a night at a proper club yet because everyone is into house and techno madness, but we had some offers for this year. Of course with COVID everything is on hold. During the pandemic, we kept working a lot as a label, releasing stuff online, inviting people to streaming, doing interviews. We haven’t stopped at all. 

We’ve gotten a lot of donations. Our music is free to download, that’s part of our politics. You can get it on Spotify and all the main platforms, whether you live in Africa or South America or a place where you can’t spend $10 for an album. It’s name your price, really, pay what you can. We’ve had a really, really good experience with donations, and this is super important as well: the label is actually self- sustainable. We’ve organized things very well so we have a big crew of people. We don’t put any money into it, just time. ■

Animals of the Earth Vol. 2 is being released track by track on Soundcloud.

For more about Cosmovision Records, please visit their website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit our Music section.