The night is yours. Get the low down on the underground every week with the Fringe Arts Blog.
The first time I went to a show by myself was in Vancouver, at St. James Hall.
The deconsecrated church is in the middle of a leafy, residential area of the city and everyone sat in the pews listening to Basia Bulat softly plucking at an autoharp with her band sitting quietly in the background. The second time I went to a show by myself, it was for Great Lake Swimmers, at that same hall in those same pews. The third time I saw a concert alone, I made my way to the sold-out Foals gig at Club Soda, whose math rock sounds promised to be way different than anything involving an autoharp or banjo.
Foals have been around since 2005, and their polished performance reflects those years together. This was no squeaky-clean show though; the extended solos and shoegaze jams, combined with the slight changes in the odd song, made the whole thing seem that much more engaging.
The first part of the set is a mix of old and new. Tracks off of Foals’ latest album, Holy Fire are heavily represented, but it’s when the first few bars of “Spanish Sahara” echo in the packed room that the atmosphere noticeably changes. The man beside me grabs my arm and smiles, eyes shining; “Cette chanson est incroyable, non?”
As the song ebbs and flows, we’re bathed in blue light and everyone holds their breath in waiting. The light turns red just as it explodes into the climactic ending of “Spanish Sahara.” The full drum kit comes in and lead singer Yannis Philippakis launches himself into the crowd, surfing atop the hands of fans as he somehow manages to continue playing the guitar, dipping up and down before eventually hopping back onstage to finish the song.
Few words were spoken by any of the band’s members during their nearly two-hour long set, but Philippakis and company found other ways to involve the audience that surpassed any sort of language barrier (though their attempts at French were admirable, punctuated by the odd “Ah, fuck it,” said in a British accent).
During their final song, the fast-paced “Two Steps, Twice,” which features the delicate guitar riffs that drew me to Foals in the first place, Philippakis, guitar in hand, left the stage and made his way around the room, stopping for high-fives along the way. At one point, part of the drum kit was gingerly handed off to the crowd who did their best to keep time with the song’s building intensity.
Foals don’t have to verbally convey how happy they are to share their music with you, they more than show it as they bound around the stage and as Philippakis scales the wall (you read that right) to access the upper levels of Club Soda, ensuring that even those watching from above are not neglected. Club Soda is the perfect venue for a band like Foals. It’s intimate without being cramped, and it’s not like there’s anything you could really climb at Sala Rosa.
Sent off into the night, I walk away from the show with a very clear understanding of why I should never have stopped practicing the flute daily—if you’re famous and in a band, you can get away with climbing pretty much anything you want, whenever you want. I could almost hear my mother’s voice in my head, reminding me that climbing things is dangerous, but c’mon Mom, he’s a rockstar.
We’re in this subterranean black box at the MAC, sitting on our coats in front of a stage that’s elevated just above ground level.
The ancient, monstrous bass saxophone sits obediently on its perch, beside its dwarfed alto counterpart. Light streams down on the stage as if from a skylight in an old Roman church. This is a venue for high art, a descriptor those familiar with Colin Stetson’s solo work will find all too fitting.
As Stetson humbly walks on in a simple white t-shirt, the stage is now set. After all, his body is as much the instrument as his horns are.
He’s all wired up, from his throat to the thickly bound cords hanging off his sax, snaking into their inputs. As he begins with his alto, it becomes clear how fitting this underground stage in Montreal’s contemporary art museum really is. The sound is immaculate; every subtlety and climax consumes the space. The room falls silent as he fights through each movement. For a moment I fear he’ll rip apart the little instrument pouring forth his music.
His leads quiver like a string section; the clicks of the sax keys punctuate his heavy inhaling. Stetson utilises a technique called circular breathing—huffing constantly into his instrument to create an unbroken drone, while inhaling sharply through his nose.
Above it all his throat singing bursts forth like some beast emerging amid the cacophony. He’s a charging rhino in the extended version of “Judges,” a great ship rocking against tall waves for “In Love and in Justice.”
We’re tricked into hearing a story he’s told many times before, what Stetson calls the saddest thing he’s ever heard—the 52 Hertz Whale. It sings in a frequency that no other whale can hear, forever lonely but still crying out. It’s this tragic sentiment that inspired one of Stetson’s new pieces, “High Above a Grey Green Sea.”
But it’s “To See More Light,” the title track off of the forthcoming final installment of Stetson’s New History Warfare trilogy, that steals the show—encapsulating all the power of this virtuoso’s style. The trilogy has seen Stetson push his playing further than perhaps even he thought possible, and the cult following has been growing. For someone who’s day job is playing with the likes of Arcade Fire and Bon Iver—and even the great Tom Waits—the love he’s received for his passion project must come at some surprise. After all, it’s like nothing we’ve ever heard before.
Malcolm Duncan, a.k.a. Malky, has been producing music for several years, developing his skills while completing a BFA in Electroacoustics at Concordia. Little did I know, hidden on the eighth floor of the MB building are a bunch of music producers.
Duncan is from Ottawa and made the move to Montreal as a last-minute decision when he was 19. Moving away from the residential side of our nation’s capital to the diverse metropolitan of Montreal, Malky was thrown into the world of music production. It was at this point that he started taking his music more seriously and became ambitious about his production.
He started dabbling mostly in hip-hop, sending tracks to his friends, who would rap over them. Now his style has broadened to include various genres, such as ambient and electronic. But his hip-hop roots can still be heard in his latest work, which moves from acoustic-instrument-driven to heavy, downtempo electronic pulses.
Duncan is surrounded by musical people, and even shares his St. Henri apartment with another DJ. This lifestyle has influenced his style and the music he chooses to take to full production. While the tracks heard on his website are not directly mixed with other people, his friends contribute by giving him feedback.
“What makes me want to finish a song is when someone pops into my room and says ‘oh that’s really good’,” Duncan said.
His work is the result of a process of daily music-making, tireless editing, re-working and yes, even more alterations. Malky is aiming to produce “professional music” and is often not satisfied with his work.
“When you make a song, something may be missing and it may take years to find the perfect sound,” he said.
“It may not be [that there is] something missing, but something that’s there that shouldn’t be.”
For the summer, Malky is looking to get more into DJ-ing on a regular basis, and continuing to develop his own style on the production side. He’s working on developing a method of bringing concert-style performances and DJ-ing together, to show the production aspect directly to his audience.
So I will be keeping my ears open for Malky’s ambient hip-hop once the snow’s all gone!
For more on Malky’s music visit his bandcamp page.
Anthony Gonzalez, the genius behind the awe-inspiring shoegaze tunes of M83, has achieved his dream of taking his music to the big screen.
M83 is most known for their 2005 release Before the Dawn Heals Us, and the 2011 mega-hit Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, with the catchy and saxxy tune “Midnight City.”
Gonzalez has teamed up with Tron: Uprising composer Joseph Trapanese for the score of the upcoming sci-fi flick Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise in a post-apocalyptic future on Earth.
The first song of the score, “StarWaves,” was released March 6, 2013.
Reminiscent of John Murphy’s “Surface of the Sun” score for the 2007 film Sunshine, “StarWaves” has an eerie celestial melody that slowly builds and gains momentum, maintaining a melancholy and forlorn tone.
The song reaches climax in a transcendental finale of soaring synths that rocket listeners through the deep reaches of space, swelling with emotion, then retreating back into the cosmos as quickly as it arrived.
The soundtrack for Oblivion is set to be released on April 9 through Back Lot Records.
We’re adorned in feathers and beads, at our own indoor Woodstock in Metropolis.
Everyone’s smiling, soaking the music into our skin. The lights aren’t quite dimmed yet as Dan Deacon plays master of ceremonies, raving about forests of hair with a drummer on either side of him. He acoustically loops and layers percussion with the help of his ensemble, and shit-talks the laptop member of his band. He caresses the stage monitors, propelling good wishes through the crowd amid his hippie club music.
Deacon tells us to keep up the protests, that they’re good for us, before leaving the stage to our headliner’s sound techs. It’s not until then that I realize Animal Collective has lined the top and bottom of the stage with giant teeth.
Unceremoniously taking the stage, they lull us in with “New Town Burnout” before exploding into “Moonjock,” both off their latest Centipede Hz, a handbook to new-school psychedelia with Deakin back in the mix. Panda Bear behind a full drum kit and Avey Tare wielding a guitar, everything’s much more live here than the Merriweather Post Pavillion setup. They stay away from anything on their biggest record, until “Brother Sport” makes a welcomed appearance in their second set.
An early high point is “Today’s Supernatural,” the crowd erupting as the bouncing trip disintegrates into distortion halfway through the song. We’re all dancing together, hands twirling in the air like 21st-century flower children.
The first set is all about Centepede Hz, but they start turning back time after returning to the stage, first by channeling The Grateful Dead in cut time 7/4 “What Do I Want? Sky.” We sink deeper as each interlude hints at the next song, dropping into dancing and ecstasy at the perfect moment as they do so often. The crowd laps up older favourites like “Did You See the Words” and “Purple Bottle,” we all scream along with Avey Tare as he jumps around during “Peacebone.”
It all ends without a word; with barely a moment of silence during their nearly two-hour set, the contrast is jarring. We’re left with an infectious high, willing the night to continue and for an encore at least to hear “For Reverend Green.” But no such luck, although we’re better off than Toronto—the band cancelled their Saturday show due to illness.
The show reveals only one side of Animal Collective, of the always-weird, always evolving band’s huge repertoire. This Centipede Hz tour shows them as old pros with a light show that swallows you whole, retreated from their ultra-accessible Merriweather / Fall Be Kind phase. They’ve come out the other end with yet another sound, more psychedelic than ever. Where they go next is anyone’s guess.