Pop Montreal 2013 Review: Saltland & Ought

CKUT’s Carol Fraser recaps some highlights from this year’s Pop Montreal:


It seemed entirely right when towards the end of Saltland’s set under the big red roof at Eglise St John the Evangelist, someone lay down on the floor next to me, closed their eyes, and really felt the sounds coming from Rebecca Foon’s cello. Rather than some of her Constellation Records instrumentalist counterparts such as Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld, Foon’s playing is less technically virtuosic, instead showing off her ability to create subtle yet mind-altering sonic environments. In other words, Foon, with the aid of loop and effects pedals, is a masterful songwriter. Saltland is an accurate moniker, evoking the feelings and moods of a vast and uninhabited landscape, one you wish to simultaneously escape from and to. Most significant to Foon’s music is its rhythmic drive, not always present in the work of soundscape artists. It makes you want to get up and tango as much as it demands the emotional focus of the savasana or “corpse pose” of yoga. This is spiritual music for secular times, and experiencing it performed under a haunting sculpture of Christ on the cross served to heighten the effect even more, reminding all Montrealers present of the sacred and the diabolical that exists in the simplest of melodies.


Ought is exploding. Perhaps not literally, perhaps not yet, but their energy and that of the crowds who flock to dance with them is enough to set a room or two on fire. Though their performance at Rodos En Haut was not as out-of-this-world as their memorable set at Brasserie Beaubien for CKUT’s Arts Birthday celebration in January, the band’s sound was even more focused, burning down the house last Thursday night. (Yes, at times they are reminiscent of that band.) Comprised of local rockers Tim Beeler (Isle of Pine), Tim Keen, Matt May (Countrywide) and Ben Stidworthy, Ought writes songs that are incredibly catchy and danceable all while tackling issues of patriarchy, capitalism and artistic limitation. The band invites listeners to “express it with me” on their sing-along track “Habit,” and the listeners oblige, breaking the unspoken codes of indie rock shows and actually dancing. Like crazed, uninhibited young people who know nothing of posturing and even less of self restraint. A new song, performed at the end of their set, hinted at – no, exploded outwards a taste of what’s to come for these four.