Published Oct 25, 2014Two songs into Mozart's Sister's first of two HPX sets this weekend, I was worried I was watching an insular pop experience — and not just because the audience at Olympic Hall was slow to build.
The Montreal act, a solo project of Caila Thompson-Hannant that performs live as a duo, opened with accruing noise, the songs staying woozy and hazy, with hooks buried among collisions of pretty but indistinct noise. Thompson-Hannant's attention focused more on her keyboards and her collaborator than on the crowd, and I worried the set was going to be one of those pop shows that performs to itself and asks the audience to tag along only if they so wish.
Soon, though, the tone shifted. The beats became more pronounced, the hooks more audible; Thompson-Hannant began to command the stage, her arms flailing, seemingly inviting the audience to move along with her. Her upper register, her strongest weapon, became more powerful, reverberating into a swirling cascade of high-pitched noise. Live, her lyrics aren't always audible, but they seem less important than the feelings they suggest sonically, an intoxicating pathos that Thompson-Hannant accentuates by whirling around the stage. Like her friend and peer Grimes, she uses her voice for atmosphere rather than sharp accentuation and, when channelled into a great hook, it's an impressive wall of beautiful noise.
Even though Being, the band's full-length debut, only came out in August, Mozart's Sister had even newer material in tow, which ended up as highlights. I'm a sucker for a good chorus, and her new songs featured the most catchy, engaging bits of the set. Another highlight: "Mozart's Sister," the project's self-titled song, a fuzzy, catchy gem that was only played thanks to an audience member who requested it. The night had started a bit worrisome but, as the set wound down, Mozart's Sister had earned their dance party.