Published Aug 12, 2018The basement of Église Saint-Édouard was haunted three times on Saturday night. Big Brave, Anamai and Ben Shemie each brought droning, ghostly vibes as part of the Festival SOIR in Montreal's Petite Patrie neighbourhood.
Suuns' Ben Shemie opened the show with a solo set, in front of an array of stacked amps and speakers, and armed with just a microphone. He conducted his wall of sound by passing his mic over the speaker cabinets, ingesting their emitted tones and shifting them, highlighting them and letting them dissipate at his whim.
Playing with feedback, it all had a kaleidoscopic quality that you can hear on his Enduring Love cassette. It felt like a peek into the sounds reverberating inside Shemie's head.
For a few instants, some poppy optimism would bubble up from its parenthetical haze, and Shemie would turn to face the crowd. The drone gave way to minimal beats, brought to life by Shemie's voice, and glitchy manipulations triggered with the swing of his microphone.
Those brief structured moments, something like a more stripped-down version of a dark Suuns groove, were weaved together by his ambient improvisations. We were enveloped in the sound as he blended and tweaked his tones, exorcising a chopped and modulated organ from his rig while a face toggled from happy to sad on his computer screen.
Anamai's witchy incantations were illuminated by a single camp light. Pacing back and forth, her shadow loomed across the blank projection screen behind her.
At times strumming her guitar, Anna Mayberry was at her most hypnotic when she set aside the instrument, further layering her voice as if to emulate a multi-headed beast while a looped low-end pulsed through the monitors. It culminated with the trance-like "Air to Blood," Anna herself appearing possessed by her own spell.
Mathieu Bernard Ball from Big Brave added an extra layer of texture, his guitar work pushing ambient waves through Anamai's mystic folk. Her music feels as if it has lived forever, long residing in old wood and breathing in new life with each ritualistic performance.
Big Brave's Robin Wattie sang with a war drum cadence, bathed in feedback that only grew throughout their performance. Mathieu dragged a bow across his guitar to create a droning foundation as the two constructed a meditative, but oh-so-heavy take on "Lull" off last year's Ardor.
The band were down a member, with drummer Louis-Alexandre Beauregard sitting this show out due to an injury ("Be careful!" warned Wattie near the end of the set). But the different setup was a good fit for the show, with the previous two acts building off of a shifting floor of noise rather than a steady beat.
Whether live or on record, Big Brave give their songs plenty of breathing room — and this was even more the case tonight. They ended in a fashion similar to the way Shemie had started things off, facing their amps and letting the circulatory fuzz and feedback course through.