In 2013, Mark Berube spent more than a month at the Banff Centre as part of a songwriting residency. Surrounded by the mountainous splendour of Banff National Park and blessed with an unprecedented amount of time to concentrate solely on penning tunes, it proved a fruitful experience for the Manitoba-born, Montreal-raised songwriter.
Some of those songs made it onto Berube’s solo disc Russian Dolls, which was released later that year. But others wouldn’t find a home until six years later as part of Berube’s Berlin-based duo Kliffs’ debut full-length, Temporary Cures.
That may be the case, but the ultimate journey of Temporary Cures is a long and geographically convoluted one. From Banff, Berube and his musical partner — multi-instrumentalist Kristina Koropecki — would move to Berlin. In 2017, they returned to Montreal to record the new album but decided they only liked about half of it. So it was back to Berlin for more recording sessions. Eventually, the duo settled on the 12 songs that make up their full-length debut, a beautiful mash-up of glistening synth, folk-pop songwriting and the classical leanings that inform both Berube’s piano and Koropecki’s cello.
Koropecki’s contributions to the sound of Temporary Cures are obvious from the get-go, and not just on the haunting instrumental Ampersand where her cello is front-and-centre. Opening track The Days of What’s To Come kicks off the album with a layered synth-and-string soundscape that is both beautiful and slightly unsettling. Tropical Truth, a suitably epic finale for the album, builds from piano-ballad to scorching guitar-and-cello workout.
Then there’s the impact of Berlin. It’s an ever-changing city that has become a romanticized hot spot of musical reinvention thanks to the work that artists Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop achieved there. Since moving there in 2014 on a bit of a whim, both musicians have become immersed in the music community and have stuck mostly to Europe. Koropecki is in Danish singer Agnes Obel’s band and the two have opened for Berlin-based Swiss singer-songwriter Sophie Hunger.