Monday, September 14th, 2009
The Caribou Vibration Ensemble and Koushik at The Opera House in Toronto
Frank YangIt’s been almost a year since Caribou’s Dan Snaith walked off the stage, giant cheque in hand, having been crowned the 2008 Polaris Music Prize winner for his stunning record Andorra. But since then, things have been largely silent in camp Caribou since then, as Snaith was presumably hard at work on the follow-up record.
Then in May, word of a live show for the Fall. Not a tour, but the sort of special event that happens when Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips calls up and asks you to come out of hiding and play a show at an old country club in the Catskills, aka ATPNY. And as befits such an occasion, rather than just call up his usual co-conspirators and play a typical Caribou show, Snaith went through his rolodex, gathered together folks from Four Tet, Junior Boys and Enon, amongst many others, and essentially assembled a super-sized Caribou, an uber-Caribou – The Caribou Vibration Ensemble.
So while the ATP performance this past weekend in Monticello, New York was the big event, Thursday night’s show at the Opera House in Toronto was much more than just a dress rehearsal. The opening act for the evening however, Koushik, may have been. Though Koushik is billed as a downbeat electronic/pop/hip-hop artist, on this night he/they were essentially 3/4 of the Caribou Vibration Ensemble – of which Koushik Ghosh was part of – in jamming mode. Not jamming in the sense of everyone on stage trading solos, but more establishing a solid, unshowy groove and building simple melodies over top. They played pretty much straight through, trading instruments and letting things go where they would, then wrapping it after about 30 minutes – right about where hypnotic began to give way to tedious. Wise.
After about a half-hour intermission, Caribou took the stage, less a band than an orchestra with distinct sections (brass over here, massive percussion setup in the middle, strings in back, keys and electronics over here) and at a full fifteen members, dwarfed the nine-piece configuration of the openers. Now at this point, I have to offer context – or lack of. I’d only gotten into Caribou during the Polaris process last year, so I’d never seen them live and further had never really listened to any of the albums previous to Andorra, so frames of reference for the performance and reinvention of the songs is limited at best. But in this instance, I think that’s alright because doing things the way they were was entirely beside the point of the evening.
Across approximately 90 minutes and ranging through the two Caribou records and one Manitoba album, the Ensemble took Snaith’s already widescreen compositions and enhanced by an impressive light show, blew them up into IMAX-scale. Describable at various points thought the set – and sometimes within a song – as electronica, jazz, tribal, psychedelic or noise but never losing sight of the pop roots, the Caribou Vibration Ensemble was a sight to behold and a sound to be heard. The high points would have been the vocal numbers – a choral “Melody Day” and Jeremy Greenspan-sung “She’s The One” – had they been properly audible. Note to sound guy – when six people gather around the mics at the front of the stage, that might be a hint that you should turn them on in the PA. As it was, from up front they were still audible enough to impress but those should have been the show-stoppers.
Those complaints aside, it was still a wholly impressive and memorable evening and I can only imagine how terrific their set was at ATP – surely standouts of an absurdly stacked lineup. And now Snaith returns to crafting the third Caribou record and the rest of us return to waiting patiently, though he’s already on record as saying it will be a departure from the classic pop of Andorra. Holding up this experience as a benchmark for future Caribou live performances is also probably unreasonable, but that’s fine – it works quite well as one of those unique experiences that I feel lucky to have been able to witness. eye and Exclaim have reviews of the show while NOW was on hand to catch some video.
Photos: The Caribou Vibration Ensemble, Koushik @ The Opera House – September 10, 2009
MP3: Caribou – “Melody Day”
MP3: Caribou – “Barnowl”
Video: Caribou – “She’s The One”
Video: Caribou – “Melody Day”
Video: Caribou – “Irene”
Video: Caribou – “Hummingbird”
And to anyone who enjoyed – as I did – watching Caribou’s touring drummer Brad Weber beat the tar out of his kit for both the Caribou and Koushik sets, note that he has his own band in Pick A Piper and they will be at the Horseshoe this coming Friday, September 18, as part of the 100th show celebrations for local promoters No Shame. Also playing are Green Go, Ruby Coast and The Skeletones Four. This is something you should attend.
The Hidden Cameras have finally added the hometown finale to their massive Fall tour in support of new album Origin:Orphan, out September 22, by scheduling what’s sure to be an over-the-top show at the Opera House on December 5.
And if you don’t want to wait till Winter for a little Hidden Cameras fix, consider heading out to James St in Hamilton come October 9 for Supercrawl, a combination street fair, art show and music festival that will be headlined by the aforementioned Hidden Cameras and also feature performances from Ohbijou and many more. And it’s an excuse to go to Hamilton. Who doesn’t want to go to Hamilton?
A whole mess of new videos meeting Can-con requirements hit the web last week. Great Lake Swimmers released a new one from Lost Channels. There’s features on the band at The Courier-Journal and Nashville Scene.
ChartAttack talks to Amy Millan about her new solo record Masters Of The Burial, out next week, as well as what’s going on with her bands Stars and Broken Social Scene. She plays the Mod Club on October 14 and has a new video from her new album.
Video: Amy Millan – “Bury This”
Video: Cuff The Duke – “Promises”
Oh No Forest Fires went wandering in a Newfoundland forest and refrained from setting any fires, instead they shot a live video. They’re part of a stacked bill at Lee’s Palace next Friday night, September 25, with The Balconies, Fox Jaws and Whale Tooth.
The Line Of Best Fit declared last week Bella Union week, in honour of the UK label who brings the likes of Ohbijou and The Acorn to adoring British masses, and in an apparent show of solidarity with the label’s website, which went AWOL, TLOBF too went offline. But they’re back now and I can point you at a few of the features they offered including a guide to west Scotland from My Latest Novel, an interview between label boss Simon Raymonde and Midlake (new album forthcoming entitled The Courage of Others) and Ohbijou have put together a “get to know Canada” crossword puzzle. Of course, Line Of Best Fit readers are already well-acquainted with the Great White North thanks to their series of Oh! Canada posts and mixes, the fourth volume of which is now available to download.