a, Arts & Entertainment, Music

Pop Montreal 2015 round-up

Orbiting the musical enormity of Stars of the Lid

Stars of the Lid combined creativity, classical composition, and raw musical power to create soundscapes that are simply incredible. The two composers—Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie—remained mostly in darkness for their performance at the Ukrainian Federation. The quartet of accompanying string musicians were slightly illuminated; however, the visual aspect of this show was not directed towards the performers, instead it took the form of patterns projected across the stage.

The excellent acoustics of the space allowed the subtle resonance of their music to hush the audience. Stars of the Lid took simple melodies and built and layered them until they shook the crowd to the core, physically and emotionally. Their closer, “December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface,” evolved from a simple yet beautiful melody into a tidal wave of sound before descending back into simplicity in a glorious resolution. Stars of the Lid, who have not released an album since And Their Refinement of the Decline (2007) performed both on the last Saturday and Sunday of the festival. No other artist was given two headlining performances, and it’s not hard to see why Stars of the Lid was given the honour.

Braids bring intimacy and intensity to Rialto

Beneath a strange lobby lined with bean bag chairs and Monster sponsorships, a late night of female-fronted acts filled a small dance hall as part of POP Montreal. The headlining performance came from Braids, an ambient rock trio initially from Calgary, Alberta. The bandperformed songs from their recent album Deep in the Iris with gusto; the percussion from Austin Tufts gave a backdrop of urgent energy to the lyricism of Raphaelle Standell-Preston.

The enthusiasm of Braids was visible even before they arrived on stage—it was possible to see the band psyching each-other up for the performance in the backstage area. This enthusiasm bled into the crowd, who cheered and danced enthusiastically to tracks such as “Blondie” and “Taste.” Preston’s voice was powerful and ethereal, filled with character that fleshed out the subtle nuances of the deeply personal album. Long-time fans of Braids got a taste of their older, more ambient flavour in the interlude leading to “Warm Like Summer.” To close the show, they played the fiery and feminist “Miniskirt,” an anthem which combines personal tragedy with defiance of gender roles. Overall, this show had the audience and the performers share a fun space of excellent musicality.

Tim Hecker challenges the concept of a ‘Concert’

Tim Hecker’s performance at the Phi Centre was simultaneously a show and a contemporary art installation. In a room filled with scented fog and dimly lit in changing colors, Hecker’s overwhelming sounds roared and resonated. Eager fans trying to slide closer to the front of the room would have been surprised to learn that there was no “front.” Hecker performed from behind a glass screen, probably unseen by most of the audience, who formed a circle with no real central point to focus on. Some people closed their eyes, some sat down on the floor, but everyone seemed quiet and overcome by the multi-sensory assault of Hecker’s creation.

Those familiar with Hecker’s repertoire could hear aspects of many albums in his catalogue, which gained new power in the uncommon setting. The show concluded with relentless high pitched vocal sounds coordinated with a blast of more and more fog, until you could barely see your hand in front of your face. As the short 45 minute set came to a close, with a quick “gracias” from Hecker, it was difficult to gauge the reaction of the audience. Ultimately, this show felt like an intriguing way to give music new meaning and a practical joke at the same time—a feeling one would hope the artist himself intended.

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