Concert Review: POP Montreal @ the MAC

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Despite booking huge, internationally recognized artists and having the capability to appeal to those unfamiliar with the city, Pop Montreal reads more as the fall version of Suoni Per Il Popolo than anything else, holding the spirit of the city it inhabits above all else. The Plateau and Mile End are filled with a particular energy this week, with daily passes allowing for young folks to bounce around to various venues and enjoy a multitude of events in a very free spirited way. On my first night I was actually drawn downtown to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to experience three local projects with an ear for droning soundscapes. The ominous room set the perfect tone for the evening as concertgoers were met with high ceilings and black walls to complement the enveloping sets that took place over the course of the night.

This show really did wonders for me, here are my thoughts on each set:

                                                                      Automatisme
The throbbing drones that began William Jourdain’s performance never really left his sound pallet, resulting in a sort of industrial lens that encompassed each stylistic change throughout the set. By stretching songs on for periods of seven to ten minutes Jourdain certainly paid respect to the Constellation Records Ideology, but his ability to touch upon dance-able grooves amidst more abrasive material stood as a relatively unique quality. Blissful electronic melodies could occasionally be heard over the dramatic background with textural shifts evolving into moments of dense, wobbling beats. These songs may serve as an indicator of the direction of dance music in the future. Moments to encourage both head bobbing and critical thought filled the experience resulting in a capability to appeal to a wide audience without sacrificing musicality.

                                                                       Jessica Moss
Jessica Moss clearly understands the violin’s natural capability to produce heart-wrenching material, which was indicated by her set’s most climactic points. However, she also avoided riding this wave too heavily, contrasting her anxious moments of instability with gradual resolutions into silence. Playing a quick-hitting, 25-minute piece based on the “journey for all people to find peace,” Moss set an impressively lush tone considering her reliance on a relatively minimal set-up. Simple ideas grew into echoing soundscapes with manipulated violins filling every corner of the room. Raw, distorted melodies from vocals and violin, occasionally breached the surface of the backdrop resulting in moments of stunning transcendence.

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                                                                 Jerusalem in My Heart
Jerusalem in My Heart has a vision. Besides the ability to create massive musical moments with the juxtaposition of shimmering synthesizers and high intensity buzuq playing, the group adds to their aura with projection screens and stage magic. The theme of instability follows the music everywhere, each phrase dancing around resolution as nonspecific visuals float around lead singer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh adding to the hypnotic nature of the whole experience. More intense vocal moments were matched with stunning strobe lights, dancers emerging from the background only at the very end to cap off the constantly growing emotional weight. Perhaps a good summary of the set’s effect on the audience came in a moment of silence. After finishing a song towards the end, Moumneh took an extra minute or two to adjust for the next song. Unsure of what to expect next, every member of the crowd remained completely still, signifying the breath-taking nature of the performance they had just engaged in.

– Review & photos by Donovan Burtan