JUTA_Photo05Running Through Hoops reads like a personal travel log and a quest for some sort of anchor on a journey that is emotional tumult within and stormy conditions without. The lyrics speak of eagerly pining for solid ground when disorientation takes hold. When new seeds won’t seem to take root and the existing plants won’t bloom, all you can do is calmly sit out the cold and patiently wait for spring.

One colder than usual April, Pierluigi Aielli came for an extended visit from Italy to stay with Barbara Adly in her native Montreal, where she has collaborated with such talented local acts as Plants and Animals, J.F. Robitaille and Olivier Alary. They holed themselves up in her plateau apartment, as the cold seeped in through the windows and doors, tingeing their first compositions.

Juta [yu-ta] was born as Adly began to travel back and forth between Italy and Montreal. As a duo, the intimacy and stark fragility of their performances were cause for many an electric evening as audiences sat perfectly still, hanging off every ethereal note and mesmerized by Aielli’s hypnotic picking style, but they both wanted to expand their dynamic possibilities. They wanted a band. Eventually they were joined by Dario Mazzucco, a fixture on the northern-Italian jazz circuit, Pietro Canali, who had been plying his piano skills in some of Italy’s most successful indie bands, and Ettore Formicone, friend, singer-songwriter and double-bassist extraordinaire.

They honed their arrangements, started to feel their chemistry as a band mature and soon it was time to cross the Atlantic again, but going the other way, and this time five strong.

On that eventful trip, Juta played its first North American shows in New York and Montreal and then enlisted the sonic savvy of Howard Bilerman at the hotel2tango studio to record their debut album. It had been a dream of theirs to join the long line of illustrious Montreal acts who had also chosen to record at hotel2tango, such as Arcade Fire, The Dears and Silver Mt. Zion (whose Thierry Amar plays his century-old double bass as a special guest on Monday’s Haze). Juta had fallen in love with the sound of the recordings that have passed through Bilerman’s hands and they wanted to produce their first album using solely analog means, not only for that warm sound graced with the characteristic hiss of rolling tape, but also to record as if performing live. The resulting album was Running Through Hoops.

When Adly began sharing her time between Montreal and Italy, she experienced the challenge of carving a place for herself in a new city and building a sense of home in a context that had yet to acquire the comfort of familiarity, sensations that come through in tracks like Wait and Monday’s Haze.

The album’s other fil rouge is woven out of the reflections and ruminations that accompany heartbreak and the unsettling road that leads to it. From the cacophony of slammed doors banging in Where to the calm realization that within the ensuing emptiness might lie some hope of a fresh start in Untwined and New Shoots, some of this album’s most touching songs are open heart confessions of a love going wrong and finally unraveling. And of the euphoria that sets in once you’re ready to live again.

But even moments of mellow sadness and disorientation are never devoid of sweetness. The sheer warmth in Adly’s voice colors even the most melancholy moments with cathartic release, conferring a bittersweet tension to the entire album.

Barbara Adly’s writing is disarmingly sincere, but most of all, it is marked by a fierce attempt to cling onto instances of beauty when all else seems to fail. In the end, between one note and the next, amidst the swells of orchestral crescendos and the moments of near silence that follow, the elusive anchor so pined for along this turbulent journey finally materializes, and it is made of a very delicate beauty.

And after composing and recording these songs in Montreal, touring in Italy and signing with a German label, this Italian-Canadian band wants even more of the world to be their oyster. That’s why they’re on their way to Sweden before the spring sets in to make their first video with Vania Tegamelli. This talented filmmaker and director of photography has made short films so beautiful and so poignantly poetic that one of them was adapted by Tiromancino, a successful Italian pop band, to use as a music video. Now Tegamelli and Juta are about to produce a video for All the Places, the band’s shimmering pop ode to setting off and discovering after having been cooped up too long. And off they go now to discover Sweden in all its wintery wondrousness!

Arctic Rodeo releases:
JUTA – “Running Through Hoops” – CD / LP+CD (arr015)