Daniel Romano, Emilie Kahn and Archons End Festival de Musique Émergente 2019 on a High Note

FME, Rouyn-Noranda QC, September 1

Photo: Roya DelSol

BY Stephen CarlickPublished Sep 2, 2019

The last day (September 1) at Festival de musique émergente found Montréal harpist Emilie Kahn at Café-Bar L'Abstracto, playing a 5 p.m. set to a reverent audience that filled the performance room and spilled out the door and into the café's other eating area, where latecomers were packed in, hoping to catch her billowing harp songs.
"Island," with its gentle synth sparkle and gently propulsive drums, was indicative of the kind of pop-oriented melodies that make her songs memorable, but it's Kahn's slower, more yearning compositions that really draw you in — which explains the hush surrounding her quieter performances, like "Ten Thousand," on which her softly plucked arpeggios stand out just as much as the drums during the more upbeat chorus. Near the end, she used a loop pedal to build a song: she plucked out a harp bass line and, after adding some twinkling ambience overtop, sang into the harp's body so that her voice, also looped, sounded like a ghost haunting it.

Later, in the evening, Daniel Romano played a heavy, punk-inflected roots performance at the Agora des Arts. The band chugged along enthusiastically, sparing barely a moment between songs for silence. His reedy voice guided the twangy din on the night, where the band opted for noisy rock over Romano's folksier fare. Melodically, Romano has a punkish way of ending musical phrases, as they descend to a resolving chord, like he's trying to make musical sense of a world out of whack. It helps that his classic songwriting style calls to mind artists like Bob Dylan and CCR.

At the Petit Théâtre, locals Archons played a set of blistering death metal that verged on metalcore but engaged in the occasional breakdown amidst the endless blast beats. They were incredible throughout, though the occasional clean vocals evoked Evanescence as much as, say, Mastodon. Their screaming vocalist was consistent and talented, and the band were tight and brutal.

Closing out the night, Miss USA took to the decks outside on 7e Rue, playing a set of acid and techno vinyl or, as his gig poster offered, "aceeeeeed!" His decks were finicky for a while, as skipping records made beat-matching difficult, but he quickly found his groove and never lost his ability to continue his eclectic, tasteful flow. He commanded a group of dancers for the majority of his set, providing one last moment of catharsis for festivalgoers before the end of 2019's festival.

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