Sunday, 6 March 2016

Bell Witch, Wrekmeister Harmonies & Welwitsch @Turbo Haus, Montréal, March 5th 2016

Before the end of my spring break, I had a dark rendervous at Turbo Haus for a slow metal evening. The two American west coast bands were accompanied by a local opener

Welwitsch (not even sure about the spelling as it wasn't clear on the event)

A new Montréal band with nothing released yet, this trio plays sludgey stoner/doom but do nothing to actually distinguish itself in the populated doom ocean. The drummer (a member of the black metal band Perchten, I think?) also handles the vocals but those weren't quite convincing, they're in the semi-harsh style that Matt Pike is known for but they lacked conviction and power. The guitar tone was huge and sounded really good and the compositions, while generic, are decent enough and for what I assume were one of their first gigs ever, they knew what they were doing. I'm happy Montréal's doom scene is starting to grow but I'd like some innovation, still they were a good opener.

Wrekmeister Harmonies

The collective formed by J.R. Robinson (guitar, vocals) appeared here as a quartet with the help of Bell Witch's two members on drums and bass and also a woman who handled the keys, some vocals and the violin. Most of their tracks are long crescendos starting with ambient, post, drone moments and finishing with heavy parts influenced by sludge, doom and the likes, the performance offered here wasn't different. For the first ten minutes or so, we were served some very atmospheric ambient with ethereal clean vocals( both male and female vocal chords were used), violin and some clean guitar playing. Things got heavier when the headlining guys joined as the rhythm section! Robinson looked like a madman (the alluring and gentle sort) with his grey beard and his mix of harsh and commanding vocals, he's a strong presence, that's for sure. The song (50 minutes or so?) seemed like a track they wrote for the tour since it's not from their latest album (Night of your Ascension). Even if it was a bit repetive at times and they could be tighter, it was highly entrancing, sombre music and the respectful crowd seemed really into them, it was profoundly quiet for the duration of their set. 

Bell Witch

I was a bit skeptical about how good can a funeral doom duo be live but the Seattle based project were convincing. The perfectly executed six strings bass antics of Dylan Desmond combined with the blistering heaviness of drummer's Jesse Shreibman really brought the experience to the next level. Their set comprised of three long movements such as the 22 minutes opener of Four Phantoms, their latest album, was intense and managed to suck my energy with how emotionally charged it was. Even if they're only 2 guys, there's a large amount of subtleties in their performance, from the intricate bass tapping to the non complex but totally intelligent drumming.

Drained, I rode the metro with the feeling that I've spent an happy evening listening to truly mesmerising music about death.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Local Sounds: Volume 6.0

To celebrate the end of my spring break, here's two reviews of  some very interesting local bands and one observation about a young Québec rock classic.

Le Winston Band – Rembobine (2015)

Discovered once again with the help of the guys of Poulet Neige, this sextet plays an explosive form of folkloric music with a fun and interesting modern vibe. Inspired by Quebec trad music, there's also a strong Cajun side to 'em and it almost makes you regret the fact that Louisiana is American now. Armed with violins, accordion, Zydeco, lap and pedal steel, the band also incorporates the traditional rock instruments like the electric guitars and bass to insert a fresh breeze. Despite the young age of the members, authenticity is important for them and they totally achieved their goal. The vocals are nasally and recalls the 60s Quebec country legends that my grand father always liked.

Great album for those who think folk music is a dead genre, not trying to make their sound more accessible like Les Cowboys Fringants did. Le Winston Band are like an reinvented, version of the old Québec/French Canadian folk television show Soirée Canadienne and it's worth your time if you like the genre.


Vapeur – L'effort (2016)
A new project formed by 4 young musicians from Montréal, they share 3 members with Le Winston Band including Andrew Duquette-Boyte (guitar, vocals here, also in metal band Tribunal that I've reviewed some years ago) but it's a completely different beast. It's francophone rock with a strong emphasis on fast paced guitar riffs giving a dance rock feel to the songs. It reminds me of the early garage rock revival instigated by The Strokes or the dance indie of Franz Ferdinand. The 3 songs are well produced, the guitars are incisive and lovely as well, there's an urgency to their music and the flexible and airy production is really adequate. While the music is pretty damn good, the lyrics of Andrew were the clear highlights for me, they're intelligent without being pretentious.

À la vitesse sonore la vérité gravite autour . Tel un cercle de vautours vantera l'oreille d'un sourd 

It's international (in the best way possible) high caliber rock but there's still an interesting late 80s, early 90s Québec rock influence. A promising first offering from Vapeur, I hope that they'll play live soon!


Malajube – Trompe l'oeil (2006)

10 years anniversary observation

In my eyes and the eyes of many, this album is one of the most important Quebec rock records of recent times. I was 16 years old when it was released and it was an essential component of my musical diet back in the day and I've been revisiting it recently to celebrate its 10 years anniversary and it hasn't aged a day and I doubt it will ever become outdated. Anyhow, it made me realize how fast time flies, I still remember playing it to my dad in the car when I got the CD, it was a bit too insane for him!

The variety of Malajube's sophomore album (after the excellent Le compte complet released 2 years prior to this one) is astounding. From metallic rock like “Le crabe” to the poppy hit of “Montréal -40 C” with its glorious synths and the guest vocals of Pierre Lapointe, the ethereal and dramatic “Étienne d'août” or the contribution of local hip hop heroes Loco Locass on “La russe”, they do almost everything and they do it extremely well.

The vocals of Julien Mineau always made sure that the band never really became totally mainstream, like their lyrics
(all about illnesses and the likes), they're peculiar and the fact that they're often buried under the instruments managed to get non-francophone medias interested in the bands despite the language barrier (Pitchfork wrote a positive review for the album as an example).

Malajube are now sadly split up or inactive, their 2 albums after Trompe l'oeil were good but they never managed to reach the same level of quality and groundbreaking emotional experimentation they did here. Mineau has a new more symphonic project called Fontarabie and they're also worth checking out.

Just like Karkwa's Les tremblements s'immobilisent, this album was highly influential on the Québec music scene and will be for years to come.