Suuns / Beliefs

Adelaide Hall, Toronto ON, April 22

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Cosette SchulzPublished Apr 23, 2016

Openers Beliefs fought off quite a bit of microphone feedback during their set, but powered through a set of songs built on a '90s foundation. The shoegazers Jesse Crowe (who's hair is growing back fast after shaving it off) and slouchy young Tim Burton lookalike Josh Korody added Vallens' blue-lipsticked Robyn Phillips and Fake Palms' Michael Le Riche into the mix, which certainly upped the intensity. Crowe looked pained at certain points when she approached the mic, and Phillips was cheeky to watch, pausing her playing entirely to sip from a drink with a black straw. Like the band that would take the stage next, their drummer was the most intense member of the band, really flailing his arms, but nevertheless anchoring the band's sound. Beliefs played up their effects-driven soundwashed interludes, helping ease the crowd into what was to come. It proved to be a perfectly paired lineup once Suuns took the stage.
Under a sinister red light, synth master Max Henry twisted and turned various knobs, filling the room with a chaotic, swelling rumble. Like a sonic chef, he added to the mix piece by piece, until leading man Ben Shemie snuck in with a strum. "Infinity" — the last track of their latest release Hold/Still, their first track of the evening.
Montreal's Suuns brought their dark and scattered sound into a room that already felt quite heavy due to the anxious and eager bodies eyeing the stage in anticipation. That feeling only grew as guitarist Joe Yarmush started and stopped, teasing the opening of another new cut, "Translate." Shemie sang with an urgency and an almost menacing look in his eye — commanding, demanding, and at times frightening — as if to say: "You will watch me, you will pay attention. Oh yes, you will." Focus. Feel.
"Brainwash" and "Instrument" just about annihilated, the deep beats of both songs invading and reverberating through the audience members' chests like an additional heartbeat. "Paralyzer," with Shemie's moans and the creeping wail of Yarmush's guitar, was unbearably sexy, as proven by three couples standing nearby snogging without restraint.
Suuns command a full body reaction to their work — from the synchronized sway of the band themselves, to the audience's head bobs during "UN-NO" and "Resistance," the latter of which didn't quite hit as hard or completely swallow the crowd with sound. "2020," a cut from their 2013 Images du Futur, really struck a sweet spot for the audience, who responded with dancing, jumping, hitting the speaker (which then shook nervously) and high-fiving Henry, despite the sliding main riff sounding muddled and not as tenacious as the recording.
There were moments where both Shemie and Yarmush would miss their cues and start a bit off-beat, when songs would take a moment to find their footing. But therein lies the appeal of Suuns' live show; these are stop-on-a-dime musicians, some of which are jazz trained, and they're prone to drone and stretch out moments until they feel brittle and about to break. Their performance directly reflects that. There were moments when they seemed lost in it all, eyes closed, consumed, pining, be it during a momentary pause from madness with the soft hypnotic swirl extension of "Edie's Dream," in which each band member simply shut their eyes and vibed together or during the gradually growing groove of "Sunspot". The destructive "Powers Of Ten" ended the evening, showcasing just how manic these four can be — not to mention the power of the absolute machine that is drummer Liam O'Neill, who seemingly manages to put every ounce of strength into each consecutive hit (and all that tambourine in "Brainwash"!).
No encore, no need. Henry returned to the stage and was greeted with anticipatory cheers only to unplug his gear. What a tease, the lot of them.

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