Published Nov 19, 2016Montreal native Helena Deland took the Casa Del Popolo stage unassumingly, holding an electric guitar and plucking palm-muted chords to a chattering room. By the end of her first song, though, things had quieted down. Her voice is enchanting.
She was joined by a drummer, bassist and additional guitarist for her second, somewhat plodding song, but her smoky low register lifted the slightly lethargic performance. The crowd were already sold, though: they started applauding when the band went quiet for a moment near the song's end; someone shouted "Wow!"
The set hit a slight snag when the bass crackled loudly with electricity and the mics simultaneously started feeding back, but the band powered through, showing some muscle on their bluesy third song that contrasted nicely with the quieter chorus.
At her best, Deland sounds something like a folksier FKA twigs, her voice airy but sturdy; at her worst, she sometimes relies too heavily on wordless cooing that feels more like filler than genuine emotion. Even her best song, a grooving tune that began with a quickly rising and falling vocal part from a solo Deland (it preceded "A Stone is a Stone"), featured a tacky and tacked-on guitar solo from her fellow guitarist.
Deland has plenty of potential. With a little self-editing — and maybe a little more willingness to engage the crowd — she'll be playing headlining shows shortly.