Tag Archives: Show Review

Chenaux in Beirut

Show in Review: Eric Chenaux, Le Fruit Vert, MiSR

Chenaux in Beirut

Monday, July 23, Casa del Popolo

One of those quiet nights at the Casa where the room sat completely empty until the minute before it was packed near to capacity. A full room on Monday for MiSR, Le Fruit Vert, and Eric Chenaux. MiSR found Radwan Moumneh (seated, wearing sunglasses) on mandolin, Jessica Moss (up font and standing) on violin, and (forgive me) a third on a floor tom.  The trio played a single piece, starting rhythmically and quiet, slowly building into percussion, and ending with a sparse group acapella.

Le Fruit Vert features former CKUT music director Andrea-Jane Cornell and Marie-Douce (of Pas Chic Chic, others) facing off on a near-total-dark casa stage. For those familiar with Cornell’s other musical exploits, this performance was particularly exciting as the duo ventured into decidedly more… tonal waters. Chanting, churning, and overlapping vocal melodies fought break against slow, measured chest-ringing bass hits and the dark stirrings of Marie-Douce’s organs. Other sounds: the pair wore bells on their heads. Andrea-Jane was obviously conducting some other unidentifiable spectral sonic daemonry from an immense pedal-spread on the floor.

The night finished with Eric Chenaux (seated next to a chair bearing his effects pedals). He switched between a heavy hollow-body electric guitar and a smaller classical, but with both he laid out distinctive and simple songs (mostly, from what I can tell, from or in the style of his newest release Guitar & Voice, out now on Constellation). Simple is perhaps not the best word considering Chenaux’s songs were sprawling—meditative and tense tracks that often featured 5-10 minutes guitar interludes. To pull off such… adventurous guitar riffing (this blog-poster having seen even the likes of Dinosaur JR’s J Mascis fall very short on a similar seated fuzzed-out riffing odyssey) is a feat in and of itself, but to see Chenaux play crescendos up and down the neck with the evocative emotional gut punch of a Really Good violinist was something else entirely.

Barely moving, and with the mic a few inches further than normal away from his face, Chenaux played quietly, but had no trouble being heard over the rapt crowd. What a voice! I had heard of his involvement with fellow by-way-of-Toronto Constellation artist Sandro Perri, and the similarities are definitely there (but, oh look, a young Chenaux playing post-punk, a bit of a head-turner as well…).

All ’round: one of the better shows I’ve had the pleasure of attending in quite a while. Watch out for Le Fruit Vert’s immanent debut tape on Los Discos Enfantasmes as well as Eric Chenaux dates in Ontario and Quebec this summer.






Psych Rock in the Southwest: Austin Psych Fest 2013

CKUT’s own Tram Nghiem went to Austin Psych Fest this year and thought it was pretty rad. Listen to her APF Campus Mixtape and check out her review of the festival below!

Austin Psych Fest is quite the young festival. Since its inception in 2008, the top names in psych rock have flocked to the Texas to play three days of experimental and psychedelic jams. Psych giants like Brian Jamestown Massacre headlined last year’s festival– at this year’s fest, huge artists like Joel Gion, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Black Angels, Clinic and The Moving Sidewalks all moseyed down to Austin to play music and enjoy the Texas heat.

Each April, this festival showcases the diversity of psychedelic music and aims to bring together bands that represent the genre’s transformations through the last century. The Black Angels and Reverberation Appreciation Society have come together to present a festival that represents psychedelic music in all its forms, and that’s what makes Austin Psych Fest so unique. Nowhere else will you find Boris— a Japanese experimental rock band– playing alongside Tinariwen (a group of Tuareg musicians from Mali that have been together since 1979) and Alabaman surf rockers Man or Astro-Man? in the same weekend.

Roky Erickson’s set was a special moment that stood apart from the rest of the weekend’s sets. Erikson is one of founding members of 13th Floor Elevators, a massively influential psych rock band from Austin. Although he’s such a musical success, he’s dealt with many challenges throughout his career including forced electro-shock therapy in the 1970s and several mental illnesses. Roky Erickson really commanded the crowd’s attention with his soft on-stage presence but wicked musical performance.

I have been to quite a few music festivals, but Austin Psych Fest 2013 has to be one of my favourites. I met some really cool people and had conversations with them about a wide array of subjects, ranging from enchanted rocks to sitar-playing instructions. 2013 was the first year that Austin Psych Fest sold camping passes in addition to festival tickets. This addition really enhanced the experience of festival-goers. The bands that played, the people who attended, and even the staff who served really reinforced my faith in music as a form of connection among people. If you love psych music and are thinking about heading down next year… DOOO IITTT!

Check out Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performing live at Austin Psych Fest 2013 here.


Om @ Il Motore


Once upon a time, man was blind. He saw not the walls that threatened to enclose him, and Montréalers were not immune to this malaise. And then, with one swift strike that lifted this veil of mediocrity, OM came to town. Now, foolish mortal as you are, you might ask: who is OM? Or what is OM? OM is a centrality. OM is the omniscient voice. OM is the tangential gem of one of the best stoner metal bands ever.

Al Cisneros first came together with fellow Sleep member Chris Hakius to form OM back in 2003. The project quickly established itself, and in 2009 Emil Amos replaced Hakius on drums and Robert Lowe joined on guitar last year. Focusing on spirituality and religious mysteries, the band has grown better with every album; their fifth, Advaitic Songs, was released last July to great critical success.

Montreal’s show was begun by local duo Maica Mia, a part post-rock, part experimental pop band that I had caught a few times before. The combination of Maica’s strong vocals and Johnny’s unique drum beats resulted in an enjoyable set overall. They were followed by Daniel Higgs, a folk banjoist/ancestral preacher from Baltimore. I’d be lying if I say I knew how many songs he performed, since he kept playing each round as long as he could without having to pause for water or tuning. He was relaxed, improvising and possibly composing songs all night long, occasionally nodding at his brother that he introduced a few times to us. In his own way, he was quite enjoyable  — Higgs Boson joke and all.

Lucky that I was, I was standing right next to the speakers when OM took the stage and as soon as Cisneros struck his bass, I was literally pushed back by the resulting wall of sound. Two minutes into the set and the crowd witnessed him playing in a trance-like state with eyes closed, and we could only stand in awe of the great rhythm he and the rest of the band exhibited. Lowe was another noteworthy performer, moving tirelessly with each song and changing instruments regularly. They played mostly from their most recent album, but also included a few older songs alongside a smattering of unreleased material. The whole set flowed so smoothly that at one point, when the two vocalists were in a duet, everyone’s head went from one side of the stage to another until we were all in a “State of No return”.

All in all, it was a brilliant show and the band members were so immersed in what they were playing that I found myself asking Lowe later how challenging it must be to do this each day on tour. All he did was smile and say, “Well, I sometimes ask myself”. With that in memory, I was returned to the land of petty men, with assignments and tests, to await until next week, when another tangential from Sleep, High on Fire, would be in town.

– Bimo Niraula


Dopethrone @ L’Absynthe

Dopethrone played in Montreal on October 20th

So you’ve got an exam on Friday evening. Another on Monday morning. Shut up, I know YOU didn’t, I did. Physics hard up. The two days that some call weekend, I call catching up time. Not with friends! With my papers. Except, this Saturday, Montreal had Dopethrone.

Dopethrone is a great band from Montreal that has come out with some great music in the past few years. They’re a leading force in the sludge industry that roll some tight …CDs, along other things. Their latest album, III, contains some of the heaviest doom riffs and stoner jams out there and was received very well by many critics, including yours truly. It was officially launched at the show Saturday, although digital sale was begun about a month back from Bandcamp.

When I reached L’absynthe, Teethmarks were just starting their set. Teethmarks is a hardcore band from Toronto that wasn’t afraid to get the show going. The vocalist got off the stage and into the crowd, something I always admire. After them was Collider, a sludge band from Ottawa. Despite having not heard much of them previously, I absolutely loved their music. It was heavy with reverb and the songs were tightly unique. They did a wonderful job and set the stage very well for the night’s headliners.

Dopethrone took hold of the room from the moment they began with a set that was tight, heavy and deep. The whole room was enveloped in smoke with the vocalist’s eyes staring at us from the band’s perch atop the stage. At the onset of every song, he morphed into an empowered Sadhu from the Hindu temples and turned human only at the end. Despite a few glitches, the bassist and drummer had killer rhythms and held things together enough to result in an amazing set. I’d know – my ears are still ringing.

Everyone had a blast: the bands were great, the people were great, and the guest vocals from Julie were terrific. Yes, the death-grind conditioned fan within me was longing for a moshpit — but for that, there is next week. Until then, live on with your ordinary lives, as I will with mine and if you dare, listen to Dopethrone at dopethrone.bandcamp.com.

– Bimo Chann



Last Friday Flying Lotus sold out the S.A.T. on Saint-Catherine street in Montreal leaving a lineup of disappointed fans out in the cold.

Psychedelic two-layered visual projections enhanced the music tenfold, though at the end of the night cheers for an encore had no avail after a notably short FlyLo set clocking in at 70 minutes.

Steven Ellison meandered through a good chunk of his new material from ‘Until The Quiet Comes’ while dropping in a few older tracks and pop references of Beastie Boys and Radiohead. He also dished out a bajillion high-fives to eager fans and hyped up gamers in the audience with an out-of-left-field Mortal Combat sample (“GET OVER HERE!”). Understandably, FlyLo’s more sensitive songs were left off the set list to keep folks feet moving.

However, opener Teebs impressed me and clearly many more. With an array of dynamic shifts, the artist less commonly known as Mtendere Mandowa expertly swept filters and tweaked beats on a sampler not so different from the one used by J Dilla on 2006’s ‘Donuts’.

Both artists are on Brainfeeder records, you can find them and their music right here.

– Nick Schofield

Erin Sexton

Erin Sexton, Susan Alcorn, & Andrea-Jane Cornell at Casa del Popolo

Erin Sexton

This concert was scheduled for the day after the Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival ended, underlining the fact that original music can’t be boxed-in by a calendar.

I walked in for the final minutes of Erin Sexton’s set. Exploring the thresholds of pure noise, Sexton’s performance was one of crunchy crackles, whizzy whistles and gut shaking rumbles. A small video camera pointing at her hands and the interesting objects she was manipulating projected onto a large screen above the stage and gave the performance a refreshing directness.

Susan Alcorn

I was very keen about hearing Susan Alcorn perform live, being a huge fan of pedal steel guitar. For those who may not know pedal steel outside of its de-rigueur presence in country and western music, it is possibly one of the most difficult musical instruments to play, what with its multiple pitch-shifting pedals and knee-levers, foot operated volume control and non-tempered strings. Alcorn, seated centre stage at her impressive looking instrument, began her performance with fragmented melodic passages referencing classic C&W riffs, eventually strumming out more complicated textures. Her set was crowned by a beautiful long passage that was reminiscent of French impressionistic music of the early twentieth century: shifting chords and a roller coaster ride of tension and resolution, like the musical equivalent of a three dimensional kaleidoscope. There were three or four moments when Alcorn performed short stringent and loud improvisations, which I found to be jarring and out of context with the rest of her music, but appreciated that she was taking risks making her instrument produce sounds it was not intended to.

Andrea-Jane Cornell

The night was capped by a performance by Andrea Jane Cornell. Standing in front of the stage behind an interesting assemblage of hi and low-tech objects (laptop, accordion, a spaghetti mess of cables and doo-dads), she started with a series of low hums accompanying fragments of the song “  The First Time I Saw Your Face” interpreted by Roberta Flack, which sounded like it was coming from a time machine damaged transistor radio. A succession of overlapping tones and field-recordings of birds, wind, and rain produced a calm/tense atmosphere, recalling the soundtracks in some of David Lynch’s better movies. The sound voyage continued with Cornell panting into a mic with spooky echo (à la Inuit throat singing), shifting pure sine tones, squeeze-box and very pretty old-timey analogue-sequencer riffs, always with a background of low-end rumbles and drones. The performance conjured a dust-bowl era carnival heard through mescaline-tinted earphones. It was impossible to gauge how much of Cornell’s set was improvised: the entire performance had a very cinematic and highly orchestrated emotional development, all the more impressive by the fact that the anachronistic hodge podge of stuff she used meshed seamlessly from one sound to the next.

A night of beautiful and engaging sounds, I highly recommend seeking out the music of these three performers. Satisfaction guaranteed.

– Marc Montanchez

Aids Wolf

FIMAV In Review: Part 2

The second installment in our four part series covering this year’s FIMAV festival.

by Pascal Denis Lussier

Maïkotron Unit with Stephen Haynes

Michel Côté: clarinet, tenor sax, maïkotron; Pierre Côté: acoustic bass, cello; Michel Lambert: drums, maïkotron; Stephen Haynes: trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn.

Always a joy to experience, both for the visual curio and the way in which these musicians challenge our auditory expectations, this little-known Montreal band managed to garner a cult following in the mid 80’s that was happy to see its return in ‘11 after what seemed like its demise. The maïkotrons—brass instruments with added sections, valves, and contraptions—are the brainchild of Michel Côté, invented in 1983 to force band members to break free from the conventions imposed by their habitual instruments as well as an attempt to demark themselves in an acceptably-gimmicky way within a hard to sell and then stagnant market. The result is an openness and abandon that engages listeners into beguilingly textured microtonal depths that provides the grist for more conventional improv. The trio itself is always interesting, but I’m tempted to believe that their success best lies in performances with a guest musician, as they’ve recently done with saxophonist Dave Liebman and, in this case, with the Bill Dixon-trained and imposing Stephen Haynes who perfectly complemented the group’s democratic approach with sparse but powerful and haunting lines.

Jean-Pierre Gauthier / Mirko Sabatini – “Le temps qu’il faut perdre”

Jean-Pierre Gauthier: invented instrument, iPad and iPod apps; Mirko Sabatini: sampling, contact microphones, iPhone app.

A collaboration between two sound artists equally steeped in the visual arts that flirted with the boundary between musicianship and electronics whilst providing a soundtrack to an engrossing split-screen film: two cyclists racing throughout Montreal. Some of the push-button percussion irritated, this type of approach often raising ethical issues with purists, but the outcome nonetheless managed to absorb rather than gravitate towards a sterile soundscape. However, as if they stretched the piece to fill an hour, some sections ran way longer than necessary and at least 20 minutes should be chopped from future presentations. On another note, this concert was a great advert for what’s possible with Apple iTouch products.

Joe Morris / Mike Pride / Jamie Saft – “The Spanish Donkey”

Joe Morris: electric guitar; Mike Pride: drums; Jamie Saft: synthesizers.

An aptly-named project considering that a “Spanish Donkey” is a medieval torture device; this high-intensity free-rock jam delved into a Peter Brötzmann Machine Gun-inspired universe of raw, hostile skronk. If this concert was on SoundCloud, the visual would be a solid block from beginning to end. Sadly, the show was a technical failure; Morris’ heavily-distorted guitar work, entirely reminiscent of Caspar Brötzmann’s but lacking in definition, blended with Saft’s heavy drones and bass modulations to produce a deafening wall of noise wherein only Pride’s crisp, furious drumming was perceptible. The low-frequency vibrations produced by Saft added to the incessant buzz by seriously rattling Pride’s drum kit. Yet, the aggressive, almost-therapeutic release provided by such a concert was, for some, a welcome change from the more acoustic and cerebral shows, and many left with a grin on their face while an equal number found the show insufferable.

John Zorn – “The Concealed”

John Zorn: direction; Joey Baron: drums; Trevor Dunn: upright base; John Medeski: piano; Kenny Wollesen: vibes; Mark Feldman: violin; Erik Friedlander: cello.

Virtuosos Mark Feldman and Erik Friedlander joined Zorn and the previous night’s lineup to offer us another world premiere, a fresh new project that combined the Nova Express ensemble with the Masada String Trio to produce music that coalesced the mystical and lyrical elements of both. Each composition, drawing once again from Zorn’s Jewish roots, were set to a mystic text and image selected by David Chaim Smith, each piece calling for a different configuration ranging from solo to duo to the sextet, while also focusing on the Masada String Trio and even offering a Nova Express composition, and as such, the unifying element wasn’t entirely obvious if not for the images, which, in themselves, didn’t really add a necessary dimension. Any which way, Zorn’s well spring of melodic imagination was once more effectively displayed, as was the ample talent of the other musicians.

Zorn Enthusiasts take note! Next year’s FIMAV will celebrate Zorn’s 60th anniversary with a full day dedicated to Zorn projects.


FIMAV 2012 In Review: Part 1

Pascal-Denis Lussier

The 28th edition of Le Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) was held from May 17 to 20, presenting 19 concerts that spanned all definitions of the genre, questionably so in some instances, though always within the aggressively anti-categorization ethos that seems to be the running thread between all that, ironically, now qualifies under this broad category.

Approximately 4000 visitors attended the festival’s three venues, roughly the same as last year despite stronger pre-sales, and though this seemed to worry organizers who were banking on this year’s roster and a more traditional approach to experimentation to increase ticket sales, is it any wonder this was the case considering the current political climate combined with the harsh reality affecting such festivals? Experimental music is never an easy sell.

Not all shows can please all, but as with previous years, criticism of the 28th edition seems to limit itself to lesser aspects that have nothing to do with the music; the lineups, the overall quality of the shows, and the judicious stage set ups and lighting which consistently lean towards “irreproachable”. The production team certainly deserves acknowledgment for yet another undoubtedly successful festival.

Day 1

Phil Minton – “Feral Choir”

Vocalist Phil Minton came to town; localites showed up, learned Minton’s hand signals and approach over the space of three evening workshops, then improvised an hour-long “choral” set under Minton’s grimaced directions and subtle hand gestures. Whether or not the improvised din, growls, laughter, shouts, and bawls produced by Minton and his 29 vocalists are in themselves worthy of dissection is moot, the exaltation witnessed on stage was contagious and entrancing; primal-scream therapy for participants and observers conducted by a passionate musician. A brilliant opener.

John Zorn – “Nova Express”
John Zorn: direction; Joey Baron: drums; Trevor Dunn: upright base; John Medeski: piano; Kenny Wollesen: vibes.

After a four-year absence from the festival, John Zorn returned with a world premiere, a William S. Burroughs-inspired project that departs from Zorn’s abstruse avant-gardism to showcase his jazz flair through an exploration of the manic neurosis that inhabits Burroughs’ novels. The use of vibraphones evoked The Dreamers, but here compositions flowed with more accessible structures that relied on elaborate orchestrations and the sheer virtuosity each player brought to the whole under Zorn’s exacting direction, whilst offering plenty of space for mind-blowing solos. Seeing Trevor Dunn on double bass in such a context sparked cognitive dissonance for some, but his versatility and skill fit the bill, notwithstanding a slight technical failing that blurred heavy basses rather than helped to define them. Wollesen, whom most may know for his drumming, provided deft mallet work and enchanting lyricism on vibes, as Medeski, leaving his Hammond behind, graced, tickled, and slammed the ivories with the usual ease that seems to contradict his skilful mix of speed, accuracy, and opulent tone colour. And Joey Baron… well, if you’re unfamiliar with the man’s playing, don’t dare speak of “best drummer” until you’ve listened to him. Incredible. Truly astonishing musicians and a well-received success.

Mary Halvorson Quintet

Mary Halvorson: electric guitar; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet; Stephan Crump: double bass; Jon Irabagon: alto sax; Ches Smith: drums.
Despite Halvorson’s rapidly-growing reputation in and outside of the New York scene and her undeniably unique tone supplemented by pitch-change effects and a blend of feisty-yet-tender agility on guitar, the concert was a disappointment. The avant-jazz charts lacked depth albeit interesting heads that tended to go in circles rather than offer true launching points for shared exploration; most compositions were structured around the statement-solo-restatement development form, and tended to overstate their case. Some of the playing lacked oomph, particularly Finlayson’s extended trumpet solo which lacked power, the notes wet and unrounded as if he’d completely forgotten the function of his spit valve. Had Halvorson opted on offering tighter charts but more of them rather than stretching fewer to their limits, no doubt the show would have been more interesting. An artist still worth exploring; mark it down as a bad night?


Charity Chan, Jean Derome, and Fred Frith at Casa del Popolo 05.02.12

Marc Montanchez

Arriving at the Casa on the late side after blowing a tire 6 blocks away, there was still a good wait in the completely packed room before the show got under way. Not this reviewer’s typical live music choice, but these people are heavy weights; so there were high expectations that something special was going to happen. Especially from Derome, who’s music I simultaneously love and dislike. The man is a monster on alto sax, one of the few who can conjure actual magic out of an instrument typically employed to allow warbling divas time for cocaine breaks. Yet he is not satisfied warping minds with this talent, and spends equal time exploring the realms of unpredictability and experimentation in the world of contemporary improvisation. So depending on what combo he’s playing with, he’s just as likely to bust out with the most killer and (tear jerking) bop-instructed sax wailing, or screech and bleat for 45 minutes whilst blowing into a variety of cereal box whistles and re-purposed flappy objects.

The trio started their set with fifteen minutes of playing with everything at their disposal. Unlike Frith and Derome, Chan kept her explorations within the mechanical limitations of her instrument. Frith mostly used his electric guitar as a sound table to excite using towels, knitting needles, chains, shoe polishing brushes, etc, while Derome took the express lane through his tickle trunk. Most of the first set was exploratory, but I found Chan to be the only one working away at conjuring plausible inventions.

Thirty five minutes later when the set was over, I contemplated leaving, but the excellent deal on Tennessee whiskey next door and the great Howling Wolf track that the DJ was playing kept me inside, so I detoured back for the second set. This time the trio took a different tack, honing their collective energy towards something approaching and even hovering above the threshold of beauty. There were moments of calm, with Chan weaving crystalline webs of tones around the droning strings and winds (mostly via e-bow and bass flute, respectively). The set ended after a long meditative passage. The room was quiet, no one clapped, the musicians were still. Then Derome whipped out a toy flute and played a ridiculous but perfectly appropriate ditty. Chan and Frith soon joined in for some more intense jamming. Again they stopped, no clapping, more music. The performance ended with much applause.

On the way home I yearned to listen to something earthy, feeling a little hollowed from the stretching my ears had undergone – which usually happens to me after listening to contemporary improv of the European school (rather than, say, African via “jazz” evolutions). At the same time, I felt like my soul had been given a big booster shot because the music those three played was the exact antithesis of sad sack language wars, Line Beauchamp, tar sands, 10 dollar tacos and all of the other lies of life.


The Wooden Sky: show review and Q & A

The Wooden Sky show review (February 28, 2012)

By: Amanda C. Stanhaus

There was a lot to celebrate Monday night at Sala Rossa—a goodbye, an impending record release and a birthday.

Charlotte Cornfield began the night. It was her last show in Montreal before she goes on tour for the next few months. She played heavily from her newest release, Two Horses. There is a reason why I have been randomly breaking into song, singing “Loverman…” much to the annoyance to anyone who overhears me.  Her songs are very catchy. She is one to watch in the upcoming months.

Next up was The Great Bloomers.  Their new album will be released in the coming weeks. They gave an excellent preview of what is to come. And it doesn’t hurt that the lead singer is a dreamboat.

The Wooden Sky was definitely who most of the crowd was there to see. They did not disappoint. There was quite the dancing/singing contingent in the front. It was an energetic show, and you could tell the band was having as much fun as the crowd. Along with the standard rock band set-up, they also used a harmonica and a melodica. The front man played the harmonica and guitar at the same time, impressive multitasking Gavin.

While based in Toronto, they have a special place in their heart for Montreal. Wooden sky records their albums here. And the crowd accepted them as one of their own. When it was announced it was a band-member’s birthday, the crowd broke into an impromptu rousing rendition of Happy Birthday for Edwin.

Gavin, the front man, was nice enough to sit down with me before the show (pictured above). In person, he is calm, friendly, and well-spoken. He is that and more once on stage. He has a commanding stage presence, the kind that is based in the fact that he loves his music. I hope Wooden Sky is around for many, many years to come.