Pharmakon / Marshstepper / Ligature

La Vitrola, Montréal QC, December 12

BY Ralph ElawaniPublished Dec 13, 2014

Noise outfits are not creatures born to be loved. But just as Santa can't be the merry obese old man he is without Krampus (or his French equivalent, le Père Fouettard), true ugliness needs beauty to stand out.

Last night's Suoni Per Il Popolo/CKUT event reinforced an idea crucial to the dialectic involved in the appreciation of any noise performance: aside from certain isolated exceptions, stages are places where some kind of ocular stimulation should be going on. If nothing that can rival the sonic assault is happening, something inevitably gets lost in translation. 

Does/can noise be translated into something else than itself? Not really. This is why Ligature's set of harsh noise/death industrial should have taken place on the floor. One needed not to understand what Christopher Hansell was squealing over his dense noise collages to figure out that the wide and open space provided by La Vitrola's stage was paradoxically taking away some potential from that sonic clusterfuck.

Marshstepper's set, which took place on the floor and involved more ritualistic qualities and less sadistic sonic austerity than Ligature, carried a trance-inducing quality coupled with dissonant synth noises reminiscent of early minimal synth outfits and some of Throbbing Gristle's unnerving syncopations (yes, familiarity is all when grasping for landmarks amidst sheer noise). That being said, the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt" did not apply in Marshstepper's case.

After only a few minutes of waiting, Pharmakon's Margaret Chardiet took off her leather jacket and walked on stage. Using a delay pedal, rudimentary percussions and already pretty beat up drum sticks, she shaped the beat to "Intent or Instinct," a track from her latest output on Sacred Bones, Bestial Burden, and began prowling the stage in full black garments and leather gloves.

While deeply entrenched in aspects of the bodily and the carnal on albums, her live performance at La Vitrola lacked the penetrative and even painful qualities of her recorded music, largely due to the fact that the powerful effects of her guttural deluges and chiselled oral battering were not put properly at the forefront of her performance, however perfect the industrial (live) percussions turned out.

After spending half of her 20-minute set molesting that first-rate percussive tool of hers and the other half amongst the maquis of bodies dressed in black and massed in front the stage — many seemingly suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, captured yet bonded on an emotional level — Chardiet resumed her short set with what is perhaps the second most important element to the efficiency of any miasmatic performance of the kind: perfect timing. In other words, the oft-forgotten art of leaving the crowd hungry.

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