Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
FME 2012 Day One
Timber Timbre, Half Moon Run, and more at Festival de musique émergente 2012
Frank YangSo as I mentioned in passing last week, I spent the Labour Day long weekend up in Rouyn-Noranda, Québec, attending the Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, henceforth referred to as FME. It’s okay if neither the where or the what don’t mean much to you – they didn’t mean much to me before I agreed to attend. Getting up to speed requires a little geography and history, so if you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin.
Wikipedia can give you the vitals, but basically Rouyn-Noranda is a mining city in Québec located about eight hours from both Toronto and Montreal and three hours from Timmins, Ontario. It’s not geographically northern Québec – there’s a hell of a lot more of la belle province above it – but as far as large settlements go, it’s up there. In addition to the mining industry, it’s the regional capital, is home to a campus of the Université du Québec, and hosts a film festival as well as this music festival. It’s not big by any means, but somewhat surprisingly has most any of the amenities you’d want for urban living, not least of which is a 24-hour poutinerie that I got a little too well-acquainted with over the week. It’s remote, but it’s not rural. I’ll get to the “what” of the festival tomorrow, but one of its main venues was the Agora des arts, a charming small church converted to arts centre with a somewhat less-charming lack of working HVAC. Which is to say that if you crammed it full of people in late Summer, it got hot. And on this opening night of the fest, it was crammed full of people. Thus hot.
The first act of the night was David Simard, originally from BC but now based in Québec. Performing with just a guitar and backing vocalist Brie Neilson at his side, he offered a short but charming set of tunes with an laid-back, troubadour vibe laced with a touch of scoundrel. Nothing you haven’t heard done a million times before, but still done well. Southern Souls has featured Simard a few times.
Montreal’s Half Moon Run have done pretty well for themselves for a new outfit and a debut album in Dark Eyes, from being all over NXNE here in Toronto a couple months ago to lining up high-profile support slots in the US for the likes of Patrick Watson and Metric. And yet for that success, I was asked more than a few times by people I met what I thought of them – insecure much? Anyways I told those people what I’m telling you – they have a very of the moment sound with a fondness for late-era Radiohead-y electro-emotiveness, Local Natives-y percussion, and not a little modern R&B funkiness and fondness for slow jams. It was all made very radio-friendly and accessible and rather safe-sounding. A few points sounded like they were riding the edge a bit, but mostly not. I wasn’t especially won over but clearly, they don’t need my support. They’re doing just fine.
Timber Timbre were the evening’s headliner and even though we had both traveled up from Toronto, I realized that I’d never really seen them live properly besides last Fall at the Polaris Prize gala, where they were shortlisted for Creep On Creepin’ On. They weren’t quite the nine-piece ensemble that played that occasion – they numbered six this time out – but they sounded great. The church setting seemed like the right one for them, despite there being something decidedly unconsecrated about their sound, even though the dark and creepy quotient seemed somewhat dialed down. That was a good thing, though, as projecting less affected gloom made room for more variety of emotion to come through. And while I’m not sure what the heavy, distorted number that closed their main set was – I don’t know the Timber Timbre catalog that well – it was much more visceral than I’d have expected from them and maybe served to prep the room a bit for Godspeed in a couple of nights.
Photos: Timber Timbre @ Agora des arts – August 30, 2012
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”
MP3: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Too Old To Die Young”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Swamp Magic”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Bad Ritual”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Demon Host”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Woman”
Video: Timber Timbre – “Oh Messiah”
Video: Timber Timbre – “We’ll Find Out”
With the Agora closed but the night still young, it was then off to the Caberet de la dèrniere chance for a little France French in the form of Jesus Christ Fashion Barbe. Yes of course that decision was based entirely on their name, though it wasn’t nearly as glammy or in your face as you might have expected. Or at least I expected. Instead, they offered a Gallic take on English post-punk with a decidedly low-key presentation. The tunes were alright – they took the melodic rather than abrasive route through the genre – and deceptively complex in structure, but a little more dazzle in the live show or originality in approach would have held my interest longer. Instead, poutine called.
Yes it’s back to school/end of Summer season, but it’s also high-profile record release season. And a whole bunch of those have just been made available to stream. David Byrne & St. Vincent’s Love This Giant collaboration is up at NPR. They play the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on September 20 and The Stool Pigeon, New Zealand Herald, and Pitchfork have feature pieces on the project.
NPR also has Coexist, the new one from The xx. Grantland, The Skinny, Spin, and The Guardian all have features to coincide with next week’s release. And while the NPR stream is fine, the band’s own geo-interactive stream is cool to play with.
The Vaccines’ second album Come Of Age isn’t out until October 2 in North America but its UK release on September 11 means The Guardian can go right ahead and stream it right now. CBC Music has an interview with the band. Update: It’s actually out in the UK and Canada now; only Americans have to wait till October. Sorry folks, commonwealth perks.
Stream: The Vaccines / Come Of Age
The self-titled debut from TOY, on the other hand, is out concurrently in Europe and the UK so the preview stream at The Quietus is the same lead time for both continents. The Line Of Best Fit also has a feature piece.
Stream: TOY / TOY
The release of Pet Shop Boys’ latest Elysium got moved up from September 18 to 11 at some point, hence it being available to stream at The Guardian right now rather than next week. There’s also a new video.