Category Archives: Reviews

REVIEW: YVES TUMOR @ CLUB SODA APRIL 22

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Yves Tumor, whose real name is Sean Bowie, is an experimental musician from Miami, Florida, known for creating and producing soulful glam-rock music that works to break both genres and boundaries in the alternative music scene. Yves themself is non binary, and this fluidity is incorporated into their performance, fashion, and their genre defying discography.

Yves Tumor had two openers for the night. First was an experimental rap artist by the name of Izzy Spears. Spears is a member of the experimental and underground punk collective Anonymous Club —produced by Yves Tumor— that aims to remake pop-culture through fine art, installation and performance. Spears performed several songs from the Anonymous Club, warming up the crowd with his high energy tracks that, similar to Yves, challenged the traditional sounds of electronic music. Next to the stage was Doss, an American DJ who has gathered a cult-like following since dropping her first EP 7 years ago. Doss played experimental dance music with trance-inducing beats and rhythms that was full of escalations and intense beat drops and got the crowd jumping and energy flowing, ready for Yves Tumor. 

At 10 pm on the dot, a spiky haired silhouette emerged through a thick layer of illuminated smoke. Yves revealed themself as the smoke dissipated and they launched into their latest single “Jackie”, wearing studded leather gloves, a studded leather jacket and studded crotch harness over a pair of moto pants. Halfway through the set, they removed their leather jacket to reveal a separate leather vest underneath which spelt out 69 in studs on the back, in almost a BDSM leather-cowboy look. Along with Yves’white spiky hair which matched the white triangle painted on their face and cabaret-esque make up, the entire band evoked glam rock style with what seemed like inspiration from other famously boundary pushing artists like David Bowie.

Yves Tumor’s recording might be energy-packed, but doesn’t hold a light to their live show. It embodies all the elements of glam rock and roll with experimental and  electronic or cyberpunk twists, maximizing the  experience in all senses for an incredibly captivating show you could get lost in. They deliver a dark and enticing show, emphasizing the grunge and playing with the pleasure and the pain you can hear in their music, pushing the mics and amps to their limit and showcasing Yves’ talent beyond what can be captured in a studio. Despite the off-the-charts energy, Yves maintained an air of grace about them as they held the mic with poise, making the rich and emotional vocals seem effortless. One of the greatest gems of the show, however, were the added guitar solos that brought even more rock and roll spirit to the show. Yves’ energetic interactions with their lead guitarist, Chris Greatti, was electric, and you couldn’t look away as they battled for the dominant role on stage, Yves at one point even grabbing the back of Greatti’s hair and pushing them onto their knees as he played the guitar. The crowd ate up every minute of the show, yelling along to the lyrics, starting a mosh pit for beloved hits such as Kerosene and even initiating their own crowd surfing. 

Yves Tumor isn’t a show to miss as they are constantly paving their own path, and not only is the music beautifully executed but the performance they put on and relationship they kindle with the crowd is incredibly engaging, and it’s clear they have fun on stage sharing their vision with the audience.

 

Santa Teresa’s Triple Threat by Eva Lynch

As a part of this year’s M Pour Montreal, a festival which celebrates and support’s Quebec’s indie musicians, Santa Teresa at the Societé Des Arts Technology hosted a three act bill which brought together a multitude of genres for a fun and versatile night.

 

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First to the stage was JayWood, a self-proclaimed ‘sad-jungle pop’ band whose music was a blend of indie alternative and funk, with slapping bass lines and drums beats which stayed in your head and made the energy of each song stand out. With a mixture of three guitarists and bassists on stage, the rhythms and riffs of the music got everyone moving and created a great energy which drew the crowd in and got people warmed up. There were a few technical errors that were handled with absolute grace and showed the audience what thankful and charismatic performers they were. Vocalist Jeremy Haywood-Smith ad-libbed an apology which only made it even easier to connect to their performance. With how the sound reverberated in the space, the vocals were a little overpowered by the instrumentals, but fortunately the instrumentals were enough to carry the show on their own and still provide that great groove.

 

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Next up was alternative pop and R&B artist Mauvey, who entered the stage wearing a show-stopping sequinned, lilac tracksuit with sleeves down to his knees, complete with a matching sequinned hat. As soon as Mauvey sang his first note you could tell he’d had his heart broken and you felt it with every line he sang, as he left those raw emotions on the stage and embodied them in his dancing. In his short moments of addressing the crowd, Mauvey expressed how grateful he was to be on the stage and authenticity radiated off of him throughout the performance. As a thank you, he dedicated one of his new hits to the audience as a gift for showing up and took the moment to do some affirmations with the crowd and remind us all that we are loved and important — staying true to his mandate of always spreading love.

He ended the show with the performance of his song Flowers, which continued to build until he was screaming the chorus and his voice sounded raw, in one of the most emotional performances of the night. For this final song, he descended from the stage, becoming a part of the crowd and welcoming us even further into his world. If you want to have a listen for yourself, Mauvey’s new album, The Florist, was just released on November 19th and can be found on all streaming platforms. 

 

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The last act, Ethiopian-born, NDG raised Naya Ali was clear when she started that her goal was to create a vibe and bring us into her universe and that’s exactly what she did. She entranced the crowd with beats so loud you could feel them in your bones, in what became a full-body experience. With her messages of positivity and clean flow, there was a clear artistry in all her songs: from her translation of an entire song to French, to a particularly poignant performance of her song ‘Toronto’s Gold’ which addresses the issue of gun violence. Ali is another artist who radiated love and care for her audience, although it must be said that the entire line-up was nothing but gracious and their passion reminds us of what we’ve been missing and what there is to look forward to as we make an even greater return to live music.

Review: Body Breaks – Bad Trouble

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By: Jackson Palmer

While Body Break’s debut album is, at first listen, daunting and off-the-map, few bands rival its unique blend of catchy indie rock riffs and wry lyrics with non-Western microtonal experimentation. Recorded in multi-instrumentalist Matt LeGroulx and vocalist Julie Reich’s respective Montréal and Toronto bedrooms, Bad Trouble’s lean 21-minute runtime beguiles its deft melodical skill, focused songwriting, and perceptive self-analysis, not to mention the underlying DIY-ethos of the group, a fitting production style to accompany music about generational frustration, environmental waste, and self-doubt.

It’s hard to say exactly where on the indie spectrum Body Breaks exists, partially because they so clearly draw on towering inspirations, and partially because they truly do their own thing. On a few of Bad Trouble’s tracks, such as “Between the Heart and the Mind,” Le Groux’s angular guitar work combines with Reich’s multilayered and out-of-tune vocals in a way that harkens to Public Strain-era Women, while its title track seems to draw from the unpredictable energy of both Pavement and Palberta. But what makes Bad Trouble a work of its own is its fusion of weird garage rock with Balinese gamelan-inspired, non-Western tunings, the combination of which solidifies a focused and intentional musical statement of experimental rock which heavily flirts with noise and dissonance. Underlying each of Bad Trouble’s songs is a tight structure glued together with catchy hooks. As a result, every song has heft. The album runs like a centrifuge spinning on the verge of losing control.

While the tonal experimentation of Body Breaks is both novel and effective, I found myself wanting to hear more of the band’s lyrics, lost as they sometimes are in an inconsistent sea of reverb, such as on the track “Work for the Man.” In these instances, I can’t help but wish the vocals were mixed more clearly to make clear exactly is being sung. To be sure, Bad Trouble’s weight comes from its rawness, its strange mash of rock, folk, and pure mania, and many of the lyrics I can hear are good and fitting, though it is a slight dampen to the otherwise sharp lyricism present on the rest of the album. On my personal favourite, “Generation Y,” a pondering, immensely fuzzy anthem dedicated to feeling out of step with the world, Reich wonders: “Generation X, don’t ask why, stuck in the middle, but which generation am I?” On “Reality,” a song that fittingly sounds like a corpse being shocked to life with LeGroulx’s guitar, Reich pontificates on truth and falsity, wondering “how will we know if it’s real or fake? If it’s a dream or a memory?” The album’s vaguely Violent Femmes-esque closer, “Break the Icons Down,” a middle finger to the intrusion of technology into private life, repeats its simple mantra “I don’t ever wanna see your technology inside me” in a delivery that feels equal parts self-assured and yet drenched in cynicism. Body Breaks’ subtly romantic yearning for self-discovery and assurance seem far too sensitive for an album defined by pounding drums and wild melodies, but their ambitious themes and musical goals are done justice by each members’ unique understanding of how to both play by and denigrate the so-called musical rules.

Paradoxically breaking convention and yet using it to great effect, Body Break’s Bad Trouble is unique proof of the vast territory yet to be fully explored in the marriage of pop song structures with non-Western musical theory. Undergirded by idiosyncratic hooks and memorable experimentation, Body Break’s debut is a simultaneously cute and deeply pissed-off twenty-minute paean to individual exploration, self-reflection, and finding harmony in dissonance.

Album Review: Lungbutter – Honey

There has been, for many years, a dichotomous debate in regards to consuming music: is it better recorded or live? I can’t think of anything more disappointing than seeing your favourite band play live for the first time only to have the music be void of the personality which initially attracted you to it.

On the other hand, it is equally disappointing to discover a new band live, be enticed into
listening to their latest EP, only to find that the energy and vigour which you loved so much
during their set to be confined to that set alone. “When will this musical catfishing end?” You
wonder. Luckily for you (and me, and everyone), Montreal based trio Lungbutter provides the
best of both worlds.

 
The group formed back in 2013, the band is made up of vocalist Ky Brooks, guitarist Kaity Zozula, and former CKUT music director Joni Sadler  rockin’ it on drums.

Despite this minimalist set up the band possesses energy which compresses more power than even a  five or six piece band. The noise-rock trio has opened for bands like Psychic TV, Perfect Pussy, and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan and has also played the OBEY Convention in Halifax, and POP Montreal and Suoni Per II Popolo here in Montreal.

 

Their debut album Honey was released on May 31st, 2019 on Constellation Records,
and will surely cement the trio’s place as one of this city’s most iconic bands.
The album opens with the title song “Honey” and features Zozula’s classic guitar style: heavy
distortion, impressively obtrusive and yet strictly melodic. These opening 50 seconds invoked in
me an excitement for this album the same way I would be for a live show. The spoken quality of
Brook’s voice fuels the energy of the album. Combining this chanted style with frequently
repeated lyrics creates an atmosphere that is incredibly catchy and high powered, making
Honey” the perfect opening song for a Lungbutter album.

Over the course of 34 minutes, 11 songs perfectly fall into each other. Their relatively short
length (the longest one being the closer, “Veneer”, at five minutes and 29 seconds) makes it easy to absorb the album in one sitting, and I would go as far as saying that this is essential for first time listeners of both the band in general and the album specifically. While all these songs are strong in their own right, I want to highlight a few of my personal favourites.
Flat White” is the fourth song and one of two singles on the album. Matching the rhythmic,
chanting style of “Honey” “Flat White” captures the visceral, raw emotion of this album better
than any of the other tracks.

 
Intrinsic” is the seventh song and the second single on the Honey. The song encapsulating a
similar sound to Pixie’s Surfer Rosa album, featuring a slow and heavily rhythmic intro which
erupts at around three minutes in. The context of the rhetorical questioning of the lyrics shifts
drastically with the tempo change, giving the repeated intro lyrics “having a future/it makes a
difference” a heightened sense of urgency.

 
Finally, the holder of my favourite title on Honey goes to “Depanneur Sun”. The lyrics “I love myself through books, pottery and so on/yet I will never finish my book” spoken with Brook’s tone and infuused with Zozula and Sadler’s instrumentation lend a sense of angry and stubborn self-love.
Due to its largely instrumental nature, “Veneer” serves as the perfect epilogue to the high
intensity of the preceding 10 songs. It gives the listener room to reflect the lyrics they’ve heard and leaves them with a sense of closure. The entire album weaves together with perfect
precision: every song is exactly where its supposed to be, and every note is exactly where it
should be. The ability for an album to sound so hectic and so controlled at the same time is
nothing short of masterful.

 

I highly recommend Honey a listen and also check out Lungbutter at
Suoni Per II Popolo this summer on June 15th.

~Review By Madison Palmer, student programmer and blog writer

Album Review: Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

With yet another midterm season upon us, it is sometimes easy to neglect the notion that professors lead careers outside of their lectures, and Tim Hecker is no exception.  The Vancouver-born McGill professor began his music career as a DJ and techno producer, the influence and experience of which resonate thoroughly across his September 28th release Konoyo.  For his 9th studio album, Konoyo shows concise stylistic refinement, employing synthesizers and software that emphasizes the importance of the samples Hecker is isolating and manipulating.  The foundation of the musicality and inspiration of this album stems from a form of Japanese imperial court music known as Gagaku; an intense ‘drone-style’  produced by the incorporation of instruments such as bamboo mouth organs and double-reeded aerophones.

I want to preface this review by admitting that I am fairly unacquainted with the electronic genre, and Konoyo was my first introduction to this distinct style of experimental minimalism.  While I don’t have precedent albums to compare this one to (including Hecker’s previous works), I can say that my first impression of this album was overwhelmingly positive.  Released by Chicago-based label Kranky, the tracks intertwine with each other perfectly, keeping the listener in a suspended tranquility deprived of jarring breaks as the album completes its hour-long play.

Konoyo opens with “This life”. Comprised of only jarring synth tones until approximately 30 seconds in, this track sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album.  It is, tonally speaking, clinically cold and through immense tension the songs create a sense of apprehension.  The sounds emulate waves as the tension pulses through its eight-minute course and demands the full attention of the listener.  On an interesting note, while it obviously connects seamlessly to the following track “In Death Valley”, it also pairs perfectly with the closing track “Across To Anoyo”.  At the 15 minute mark, the song’s intensity ties together the elements of the first six , with a significant call back to the first track as the music fades out into more ambient.


Moreover, t
he length of these pieces gives Konoyo a highly introspective quality.  The meditative nature of Hecker’s style makes this unavoidable, regardless of whether the listener is closely analyzing and dissecting the music or just throwing it on as background music while studying.  This is an amazingly versatile album, that can be perceived as complex or as simple as the listener wants, and serves as a virtuous introduction to this genre.

~Review by Madison Palmer, Noise Architect

 

 

Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy

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Montreal’s terrace season is starting to wind down.  Leaves are slowly oranging, and the infamous humidity that has been hanging in the air over the past couple of months is starting to crisp up.  The encroaching post add-drop lethargy is hanging over students, and they may be starting looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the upcoming gloomy fall days.  Thankfully, Mitski’s new album can provide an end to that search.

Be the Cowboy is the Japanese-American artist’s 5th studio album, and is truly a gem sent down from the bedroom pop gods.  Tying together atmospheric lyrics with relatively grungy rock guitar riffs, the soon-to-be 29 year old has been hailed as “the new vanguard of indie rock” and this new album —released August 17th— lives solidly up to this reputation, however it is at its core a very standard sounding indie album.

The standout songs are, obviously, incredible.  The opening track, “Geyser” is, in my opinion, one of the strongest songs on the entire album.  It establishes itself with a haunting synth that slowly builds up to a climax about 1 minute and 20 seconds in.  The atmosphere of the song creates a feeling of bright optimism. This atmosphere is complemented amazingly in the closing track “Two Slow Dancers”, a song that not only saved the album for me, but also gave me a glimpse at what I wanted the album so badly to be.  The song is contemplative, nostalgic, and just as lyrically and sonically powerful as the opener.

Everything in between these two are all —lyrically speaking— cookie cutter indie songs. Tracks such as “Old Friend”, “Nobody”, and “Blue Light” could easily have been left off the album and it would have no significant effect on the listener’s experience.  The songs that stood out the most were the ones with actual unique qualities. “Remember My Name” and “A Horse Named Cold Water” are both incredible examples of this diversity; the former embodying the same college band feeling as the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack and the latter, opposingly, showcases stripped down vocals over a few piano chords.  Even “Me and My Husband” (far from my favourite song on the album) is a jarring shift from the songs it sits between, adopting a noticeably more 2011 mainstream indie pop sound.

In spite of these qualms, Be the Cowboy is unquestionably a good album.  All the songs blend together beautifully, and its length of 32 minutes makes it the perfect soundtrack to your fall semester study sessions to help ease you into the fast approaching midterm season and even faster approaching winter.

Review By Madison Palmer

Concert Review: Bat Fangs, Hop Along @ le Belmont

From the band’s very first address to the audience, it was clear the Hop Along show at the Belmont last Saturday would be a relaxed evening with hearts warmed by great music and charming and humorous band members. Throughout the evening, banter between spectators and band would blur the lines between the two for an intimate show appropriate of the Belmont’s shoebox performance space.

Before this, Washington, D.C.-based Bat Fangs warmed up the stage, announcing their provenance via the bassist’s Capitals tee and a brief introduction from singer/guitarist Betsy Wright. Wright and drummer Laura King formed the band after bouncing around a few other groups, and their experience oozed out of their ripping guitar riffs and flourishing tom hits. As if their stage presence didn’t scream of enough rock n’ roll cool, they introduced the song “Bad Astrology” by yelling out, “was anyone here just born bad?” It took a moment for the audience to respond, probably because they first assumed it was a rhetorical question meant for the band members themselves. The answer was a clear “yes.”

Hop Along took advantage of the sizzle left by Bat Fangs’ riot grrrl torch and immediately launched into the lead single, “How Simple,” off their album released earlier this year, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Onlookers lining the front of the stage and pockets of them throughout the venue bounced and hooted along to the contagious melody of the refrain, reflecting the more optimistic half of the lyrics, “Don’t worry we will both find out/ Just not together.” The set that followed would include most of the 9 songs from the short-but-sweet track-list. Origin-indicating shirts seemed to be a motif of the night, with a member wearing a Modern Baseball shirt, this time referencing a fellow band from Philly.

Front-woman Frances Quinlan broke the ice by thanking the crowd for coming out on their “only Saturday of the week,” adding that, “it’s just bazonkers.” Over the chuckling crowd-members, she ironically added, “yeah, I’m a wordsmith.” Though meant in jest, one of the band’s greatest strengths is Quinlan’s songwriting. She excels in stringing together monologues that put the listener in the shoes of characters imagined, observed, or of her own in ways that are still deeply relatable even through layers of idiosyncratic imagery.

The band then took a brief detour through their past discography with “Kids On The Boardwalk” from 2012’s Get Disowned and “Texas Funeral” from 2015’s Painted Shut. By the time the irresistible rhythm guitar of newer song “Somewhere A Judge” rung out, anyone in attendance not previously unabashedly crying out memorized lyrics would have understood their excitement. Indeed, successfully singing along with Quinlan and coming at all close to replicating the often unexpected turns in melody and her many vocal inflections should definitely be considered a feat. Quinlan’s voice has the ability to take on as many identities as the diverse assortment of those described in her lyrical narratives, from understated whisper to disinhibited howl and somehow, in combination of both, a throaty yelp full of simultaneous force and restraint.

“What’s the Montreal version of a Waffle House?,” Quinlan asked, foreshadowing the next song, “I Saw My Twin,” about Quinlan spotting her doppelgänger in a West Virginia location of the restaurant chain (the crowd’s decided equivalent: “La Belle Province”). Afterwards, Mark Quinlan, the band’s drummer and Frances’ brother, lightened the topic of lives that could have been and the thin veil of celebrity by joking, “just about 420 songs left.” In response, a member of an enthusiastic group in the crowd that had previously screamed out an open invitation to their address after the show, yelled in ecstatic recognition, “the weed number!” The tone of the show became serious yet again as Frances started off “Look of Love” as she does in the recording, with just her voice and her acoustic guitar. Lyrics containing the album’s title wove a story about a guilt-ridden childhood experience in which her wish that a disliked neighborhood dog would stop barking at her is fulfilled by a car accident. Though Quinlan had warned the audience of melancholy subject matter just prior, the song ended in an uplifting reflection on the beauty in life after death upon returning the dog’s grave and seeing birds feeding on the garden over it.

The thematic intensity continued, this time taking a turn for the biblical with “What the Writer Meant” and “Not Abel.” Hop Along’s latest work differs from their previous efforts with the addition of strings either bowed or plucked in the background of most of the album, including these songs. Understandably, this feature was not translated to their tour, but the absence of the arrangements was barely noticeable with Quinlan’s poignant lyricisms and the band’s camaraderie that both made their playing seamless and the audience feeling like a part of the family.

With this atmosphere in mind, I almost expected Hop Along to make light of the traditional encore formalities and perhaps continue straight into the end of their set after a wisecrack about not leaving the stage. Though in the end they went through the motions, they promised to return as soon as possible after treating fans to old favorites “Well-Dressed,” “The Knock,” and “Tibetan Pop Stars.” I have no doubt they’ll have an even greater troupe of loyal music lovers waiting when that happens.

~review by Dylan Lai

Concert Review: Hanna Benn, Sinkane & Son Lux @ Theatre Fairmount

Paradoxically, one of the best ways to characterize the music of Son Lux is that it’s difficult to do so. The genre-resistant group was originally the solo project of Ryan Lott until 2015, and his proclivity for out-of-the-box musical exploration has drawn comparison to (and a collaborative project with) Sufjan Stevens. Personally, his unique vocal timbre is reminiscent of James Blake. This affinity for the unusual also apparently extends to Son Lux’s choice of touring partners, as openers Sinkane and Hanna Benn blended their own selection of sounds to give audience members a taste of what was to come. As I entered the Fairmount this past Monday to catch the end of Hanna Benn, the already substantial crowd was a clear indicator of the magnetic power and intrigue of ambiguity.

Benn’s crystalline vocals, which also made an appearance on Son Lux’s 2016 EP Stranger Forms, floated over compositions influenced by her eclectic classical and gospel training. Sinkane, up next, mixed the music of his Sudanese roots with jazz and funk elements for an energizing set that showcased the talents of the group’s members. The guitarist got a few improvisational solos in, and the harmonies of keyboardist/vocalist Elenna Canlas backing up frontman Ahmed Gallab’s soothing tenor transformed to lead vocals for the majority of the band’s final two songs.

Before long, Lott’s faux-hawk appeared under the dim stage lights. He was joined by guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, and the trio introduced themselves with the first few chilling verses of “Forty Screams,” then the opening song from their latest album Brighter Wounds. The project is the second to include Bhatia and Chang as official band members after 2015’s Bones, though the group has been performing together since 2013. Though the most recent album is sonically more accessible than the last, Lott hasn’t lightened his hand lyrically. It’s an intimate reflection on his alternating hope and uncertainty for the future spurred by the recent birth of his son. His trembling falsetto, sounding always as if he might be moments away from tears, lends itself to expressing the raw content of the music. Varyingly passed through filters and paired with his eclectic production, full of instrumental samples and effects with a distorted yet organic feel, it can be hard to be sure he’s emitting the sounds you’re hearing or if they originate from some otherworldly source.

Though Son Lux is Lott’s brainchild, the group’s writing process is reportedly highly collaborative. Accordingly, the musicianship of the of the other members was given ample time to shine, with the band adapting their recordings for the stage to highlight their skill. Bhatia had a few solos and covered string parts by adjusting his tone, and for “Stolen,” Chang broke into an extended drum break to finish off the song. Building off this energy, Lott later showcased his usually restrained voice by belting out the resplendent chorus of “Dream State.” Digging into the keyboard unconventionally angled away from him, it seemed like he was holding on against a musical fervor that would otherwise sweep him away.

As he approached the end of the set, Lott joked with the audience, playing on the traditional faux exit and encore by telling the audience, “the song after this is our last…but not really. Just pretend it is.” The crowd happily obeyed, keeping energy levels high. When the band got to their “last song,” they requested that the people in the venue participate, instructing the crowd and cueing them in to sing a melody adapted from one of the string parts in the song. The tune in question, “All Directions,” was befitting of the impromptu choir, since a similar effect is applied in the final refrain of the recording. The lyrics, “And weren’t we the beautiful ones/I promise we were,” also stir up a collective impression of loss and redemption that was easy to feel part of.

As promised, Son Lux exited the stage before re-entering and delivering a smoldering performance of “Aquatic.” To spark things up again for their (actual) last song, they treated everyone to their most popular tune, “Lost it to Trying,” getting the audience to join in once again – this time without any request needed.

~ review by Dylan Lai

Concert Review: Tess Roby, Girl Ray & Porches @ Theatre Plaza

Last Sunday, Theatre Plaza hosted an ode to DIY music with three distinct artists demonstrating synth-laden electronic, good ol’ rock, and a final act that combined the two. Local group Tess Roby opened the night with a simple setup: Tess on keys behind a mic, and her brother, Eliot, on guitar. Her warm, unadorned vocals (strikingly similar to the few studio recordings she has released) and pulsing synth cascades instilled a moody stillness, the only movement coming from the intermittent stomping of guitar pedals and the milling about of audience members. For her final song, “Ballad 5,” she requested that all the lights be turned blue, softening the ambiance one last time before taking her leave.

Girl Ray appeared shortly afterward with a classic guitar band outfit, adding just one touring member to their three-girl London-based act. Layering a modern lo-fi guitar sound over 70s folk/pop influences, they ramped up the energy along with the swelling crowd, even garnering cheers for a brief coordinated shimmy between guitarist/vocalist Poppy Hankin and bassist Sophie Moss.

With the clock approaching midnight, Porches frontman Aaron Maine took the stage with his back to a charged audience. After counting the band in with his swinging hips, he turned to deliver “Now the Water,” a song off his new album The House. A few tunes in, gentle head bobbing turned to jumping and jiving as the crowd got down to “Find Me,” a single off the album that juxtaposes lyrics about struggling with anxiety against dance-worthy beats. Energized by the response, Maine expressed his appreciation for everyone coming out by informing us he’d worn a “special shirt” for the occasion, indicating something apparently exceptional about his otherwise nondescript black tee. That shirt soon became a centerpiece for communicating the artist’s personality throughout the night, like his deadpan humor when he later clarified that we should actually ignore the shirt and “focus on the music,” a point he reinforced by briefly hiding behind it after lifting it up and over his face for a moment towards the end of his set.

Just as Maine’s dry sarcasm kept the audience guessing, The House navigates the ambiguous emotional spaces of post-breakup introspection, motivated by his recent split from Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos. Still, the music of Porches has never shied away from melancholia, and the 15-song set, split evenly between the most recent and previous (sophomore) album, felt like it could be part of a single work connected by its synth and heart-heavy sound.

Whether or not the awkwardness was deliberate, Maine seemed most comfortable mid-song, swaying along to the murky emotions simulated by the swirl of rhythm, melody, and lyrics that frequently invoke water as a metaphorical vehicle. One couldn’t help but feel the simultaneous solace and solitude in his music when, during the encore, the rest of the band crept, kneeling, into their spots while he began the heartfelt ballad “Country.” Before giving anyone time to reflect, the band closed the night by stripping back the synths and returning to their roots with “Headsgiving” off the debut album, lifting spirits with hearty guitars and drums. It was a perfect way to end. Lyrics like, “And in her eyes/I want to die/Before I die the sad kind,” contrast with those about giving head to encapsulate the sadness, sometimes whimsical, sometimes sincere, but never overly self-indulgent, that Maine likes to inhabit with his songwriting. This emotional gray area has a hazy relatability, even if not always readily accessible – though wallowing in Maine’s world for the better part of an hour certainly helps tap into this space. As I stepped outside to let the cold wind blow away any remaining gloom, I felt a sense of catharsis, and though unexpected, I was sure I wasn’t the only one.

~review by Dylan Lai

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Concert Review: Mal Devisa, Skin Tone, Joni Void @ Casa del Popolo

I went to Casa del Popolo this past week to catch the stacked bill consisting of Mal Devisa along with locals Skin Tone and Joni Void. People were a bit in short supply, it being a Sunday night, but high quality art was not!

Skin Tone’s set explored the outer limits of the saxophone on a bed of drone, and did not lose any steam for its duration. It started with a couple frozen notes, then dissonant wrinkles emerged and grew eerier as Skin Tone began to stomp onstage – a march away from his more melodic material. His horn was already saying a lot, but Skin Tone made the message of his set explicit: Do not be complacent in the continuous displacement of indigenous peoples and killing of black people. At this point, Skin Tone ceased marching and began free-form squealing his portrait of racism, capturing fear and sadness in a pure form. It is worth noting that this squealing is beyond where other sax heroes like Pharoah Sanders go. If you want to hear the place between overtones where a person’s soul lies, then see Skin Tone and watch him crack it wide open.

This set was one Joni Void had been looking forward to since supporting Mal Devisa years ago at a Brooklyn show, and being consequently inspired to continue developing his style. Playing at Casa del Popolo, as opposed to Art Lounge (where I previously saw him), allowed him to dial up the low end of his tracks. This gave the thick, patient thump of Joni Void’s kick drum a greater physical presence, making better friends with the freckled, high-end glass sounds. The opening and closing tracks of his set were particularly special, being composed not of found sounds, but of photos: the opener, a picture of himself, the closer, one of his father.

This was Mal Devisa’s first time playing in Montréal. She played a string of songs, and it feels more appropriate to talk about her style in general rather than the individual tracks. Together, her voice and bass put other forms of expression to shame. As a songwriter, each of her songs are a world of their own in a nutshell. She does not waste a single word in drawing emotional arcs complete and cathartic. The songs compel you to cry at the way things are, then instill a warm confidence in knowing things are that way. When she sings, it’s as though you are with her instead of with the audience, demonstrating a rare ability to command any space she decides to play in. It is exciting to watch where she will go from here, as she is already a master. Overall, I am super happy to have been able to catch three inspiring artists in one go – all are highly recommended!

– Review by Rian Adamian