Like a solar eclipse, it’s a rarity to see the newly-minted duo ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT live. Since the droney and mind-expanding collaboration between Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra) and Ariel Engle (Broken Social Scene, La Force) released their debut full length, Darling the Dawn, almost a year ago, I can count the number of times (on one hand) they’ve played live in Montreal. With this context, their performance al La Sala Rossa was a welcomed headlining addition to Taverne Tour — a moment of inspirational twilight for the experimental Montreal scene.
The live set up is a simple one — Menuck sitting down behind a couple modular synths, looking a bit like Rasputin or Alan Moore with his frazzled silver hair and beard and Engle slaying the mic with a few effects — but it’s strange just how much noise this duo can make. At a moment’s notice, a song like “Waiting for the Light to Quit,” can morph from a hushed ballad to a thunderous whirring of epic proportions.
What makes an ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT performance so memorable is the amount of sonic space both Menuck and Engle leave for each other. Engle’s voice is impressive and theatrical, with a perfectly balanced recipe of delay and chorus reverb, and the constant ebb and flow of Menuck’s synths spark into huge lead passage freakouts that turn your mind to mush.
At times the journey was soft and gentle like an arriving sun, at others it was like falling into a collapsing star. Similar to the enormity of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor show, each song bled into the next, creating one long entity of a performance. But because ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT is still quite new, there’s much more unpredictability: the duo didn’t play Darling the Dawn single “We Live on a Fucking Planet And Baby That’s the Sun,” but they did jam a stretched out version of the sinister “WICKED LEADER.” There also was one other song early in the set that even the Godspeed You! Reddit thread couldn’t put their finger on — perhaps there’s some new music on the horizon.