Efrim Manuel Menuck / FET.NAT / Fresh Snow / Scattered Clouds Jam Factory, Toronto ON, June 15
Published Jun 16, 2018"This next song concerns itself with the reality that we currently live in and the urgent question of our time, which is 'What does it mean to be alive when we're surrounded by so much death?' and the question that runs right up against it, which is 'What does it mean to be so dead when we're in the middle of so much life?' This song posits the only answer to either of those two questions is an urgent, forgiving, violent love."
Shouted to the audience off-mic in the same run-on key of hope of all the best monologues he's delivered onstage with Silver Mt. Zion, Efrim Manuel Menuck's mid-hour appeal to the audience at Riverside's Jam Factory was a rousing declaration met with quick and celebratory whoops and cheers from a crowd that had dispersed itself amongst the spacious room. Traffic sounds from the highway seeped in from the open windows before Menuck patiently followed up.
"Don't get cocky, now. Because that urgent, violent love takes work, and it doesn't sound like 'Woo!' It sounds like tears."
Presented in cooperation with Boiled Records and local partner Wavelength, the fifth night of programming in this season of TONE was full of crossover experimental acts that embodied that spirit of urgent, violent love, each of their performances exploding in tension-riding gestures of emotion that built, boiled, and spilled all over the room and its high ceilings.
Hull trio Scattered Clouds ushered in the night with a brooding display of gothic post-punk, Phillippe Charbonneau's scorched guitar textures and darkened synth lines inundating the scene with an atmospheric sense of horror while a lockstep rhythm section added a defiant propulsion to the foreboding environment, as if speaking to a steadily building resistance.
Their first performance since the drippy drone set they delivered from the mouth of the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant at Open Doors last year, local post-rock outfit Fresh Snow next marked their return with a half-hour extended composition. Joined here by Brad Weber (Pick a Piper, Caribou) on a second set of percussion implements, their set started from a place of swelling drone, with shakers and restless jingle bells decorating the scene with mystique, guest Karen Ng stepping up to add some sax fog to the mix.
The back-to-back brood-on threatened to turn the night into a test of one-note endurance, but when Weber and Jon Maki cleared their drums of the noisemakers and rallied the troop to a polyrhythmic "Immigrant Song"-esque plod, the action drove into a galloping post-rock sequence that gave way to a heaving noise jam that arced and exclaimed with sax skronk and distortion squalls.
Boiled Records jazz punks FET.NAT disrupted the overcast lineup with an extroverted scene of anarchic alien agitprop that penetrated the room of folded arms surrounding them with a set of free-punk noise jazz. It was only a matter of time before frontman JFno broke out his megaphone and a bag of cardboard signs, clucking along to "Caquette" or darting through the crowd holding a wailing siren and a picture of a squad car aloft, before circling back to the stage and lifting up a sign cheekily advising everyone to "Trust Cops."
By the time Menuck and accompanying performer Kevin Doria (Growing) took the floor, the crowd was ready to go deeper again, and they dispersed themselves amongst the room accordingly, a small gaggle of fans standing in front of the performance area while the rest hugged the former industrial space's timber columns, leaned against the brick walls or took it all in sprawled out on the hardwood floor as if to better align themselves with the vibrations of the mountainous drones Menuck and Doria sculpted from tables cluttered with hardware electronics.
The duo's appearance here came in support of the Pissing Stars LP Menuck released earlier this year, but without the record's drum machines on hand, most of their performance sounded unrecognizable or wholly new, with the exception of the reduced wave-riding drone folk of set opener "LxOxVx Shelter In Place."
Illuminated only by the LED monitors on their equipment and the occasional flick of a lighter, as they busied themselves searching for knobs and patches in the dark, they saturated the room with deafening volume, a wall of amplifiers filling the space with sounds that at times resembled chiming orchestras of distorted guitars or gargantuan structures yawning under their own weight. But Menuck's hopeful vision shined through all the distortion, checking in with the audience throughout the set to make sure everyone was okay. So even as he repeated a set closing line about how "We should all be eaten by wolves," it was a galvanizing experience that made you feel simultaneously seen and sublimated, a part of a broader breathing, bleeding organism that suffers and flourishes and survives all in painful, passionate tandem.