The joy of sax

There is of course a plethora of shows and DJ nights happening this week, but let me first hip you to two record launches on the weekend.

Local treasure Constellation Records is releasing two killer albums, the first being Colin Stetson’s third installment in his New History Warfare series: To See More Light, four sides housed in a gorgeous gatefold jacket. Stetson’s massive talent on alto, tenor and bass saxophone is as thrilling as it gets and should be considered one of Montreal’s greatest gifts. His cascading melodies careen into each other while harmonics are set free to hit the guardrail, with new musical tangents emerging from the impact. Stetson’s voice reverberates through his horn’s pipes as sub-pulses keep everything chugging along. This would all be well and good, but what makes it truly mesmerizing is that Stetson miraculously performs these pieces without the aid of loops or overdubs, with dense and sometimes cacophonous noise captured completely from a single live performance. Percussion is provided with his sax valves as Stetson keeps his plates spinning on the sticks with his exhaustive voice heaving over top as battling arpeggios create counter-melodies, crashing on the rocks and rolling out to sea. The man’s breath control and overall technical ability are stunning, but thankfully he steers clear of the skronk-fest trap. Stetson’s true talent is his ability to carve out moods from a sense of desolation to pure joy and exuberance.

This record, mastered by the king of low end Mell Dettmer (Earth, Sunn O))))  reveals new treasures upon each repeated listen. I guess I should mention that Bon Iver guests on four of the tracks, but although he does a tremendous job, this is clearly Stetson’s show.

As incredible as this record is, you HAVE TO see Stetson in a live setting to really see what he’s about. Check out the Friday and Saturday sections for info.

Another Constellation launch happening on the second of Stetson’s two-night reign at Sala is Saltland’s I Thought It Was Us but It Was All of Us. Led by Rebecca Foon (Esmerine, Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Set Fire to Flames) and rounded out by Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Esmerine), Saltland weave a gorgeous tapestry that hangs on repeated anchoring themes, hushed ethereal vocal harmonies and electronic and acoustic percussion. Production is expertly handled by Mark Lawson, with a huge roster of guests that include members of the Patrick Watson band, Arcade Fire, gy!be and Colin Stetson.

Foon’s croon is sure to bring up comparisons to Cocteau Twins, but upon repeated listens she breaks free of her influences and really carves out a signature sound. Thompson’s percussion is able to move up front but boldly takes on a supportive role, letting Foon’s cello lines and vocals guide the songs home. This is an absolutely killer debut. Check Saturday’s listings for the amazing double bill featuring both Stetson and Saltland.

Giggin’ and drinkin’:

Tuesday – Things start off with a bang once again this week with my second choice for pick of the week. Don’t miss Southern Lord recording artists Nails when they pulverize Il Motore with support from their heavy friends Xibala, Early Graves, Lay Waste and Dark Circles. The good (southern) Lord’s fixation with crust and grind has continued over the last couple of years, but none of their stellar releases can touch the sheer ferocity of Nails. Mixing in grind, crust and hints of black metal, Nails is about as vicious as they come. Don’t miss.

On the flippity flop from Nails’ teeth-gnashing intensity are the comforting indie rock sounds of Titus Andronicus with So So Glos and Young Lungs at one of my favourite rooms in the city, Club Lambi.

Wednesday – If the Nails show has gotten your knee o’ jerkin’, you’ll also want to show up to Katacombes for their regular metal night, Friends of Hell, hosted by DJ Satannick (Cauchemar, author of Hellbent for Cooking cookbook and editor for the zine Morbid Tales). Expect classic metal mixed in with doom, black and n.w.o.B.h.m. If this doesn’t already have you making tracks, Wednesday will also mark the grand opening of Katacombes’ huge terrasse.

Friday – DJ Pascha once again holds down her bi-monthly night Save Us at Notre Dame des Quilles. Expect everything from smooth R&B to hip hop to hair metal.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the baritone croon and twang of Li’l Andy, you can catch this Mile End cowboy at Casa tonight with Adam Waito.

If there is one local trend that I must applaud, it’s the recent surge of soul nights happening around the city. Tonight you can let your backbone slide at Playhouse, site of a Queer Soul Dance Party with classic Mtl deeg Lynne T (Lesbians on Ecstasy) and Manu Manuela, Captain My Captain and live go-go dancers.

Continuing in the metal beat-down this week is Putamen Insula, who launch their cassette Souriez at the cavernous and delightfully evil CFC (ex-Zoobizarre). Stuffing the bill with solid menace will be the atmospheric black metal of Wendness and the dark synth of Duvet du Diable. Come feel the darkness!

These gigs and DJ nights are sure to be a hoot, but my obvious pick of the week happens tonight (and Saturday), when the almighty Colin Stetson proves why he is one of the best musicians ever to grace our city. Stetson opens his two-night stint at Sala with opener Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire). See ya at the bar.

Saturday – If you were unable to scrounge up tickets for Stetson on Friday, you’ll get another chance to dive into his cacophonous web of sound tonight at Sala with amazing support from fellow Constellation recording artists Saltland.

I would’ve loved to have caught Stetson two nights in a row, but alas, I’ll be on the wheels of steel for my weekly, Let’s Get Rad Again. I’ll be serving up raw soul, searing psych, post-punk and whatever else my soused mind chooses at Notre Dame des Quilles. Come on down and get shiddy with the wizard!

Back in the day when every band in Montreal sounded like Suicide and Six Finger Satellite, locals We Are Wolves ruled from on top of the heap. Although they still use electro-punk as their touchstone, they have managed to bend it into a signature shape over the years, and this evolution continues on their new rekkid, La Mort Pop Club. These musical miscreants play Cabaret Mile End with support from Decades.

Sunday – One of the most fun nights in the city oddly sits on the Sabbath: Notre Dame des Quilles’s brand spankin’ new karaoke night, Lipster. Moving from their former digs at Royal Phoenix, hosts Michael and Julie will get their third NDQ Lipster edition underway with guaranteed appearances from some serious local crooners. All schlubs who can’t carry a tune in a bucket are also encouraged to show up by 11 p.m. — this room will be utterly hammered and won’t remember an inkling of your shit version of “Purple Rain”. Warning: Stay away from the ever-flowing Jagerbombs if you have to show up for work on Monday.

If you want to start your Sunday on the right foot, before your karaoke debacle, you can make tracks to Cagibi at 7:30 p.m. to catch their ’80s horror film night. Sunday will host 1985’s Ghoulies with a rare viewing of Spookies starting things off. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.

Finally, another installment for the Sake of the Songs series is getting ready to roll on June 20. This edition will pay tribute to the glory days of post-punk labels Stiff, Rough Trade, Postcard Records and Fast Products. If you are a solo artist or a band, as Sake of the Song are now in a venue that allow loud bands, you can make a bid for the three songs you’d like to perform by emailing  sakeofthesongs@gmail.com. ■

Current obsession: The Bee Gees, 1st

Jonathan.cummins@gmail.com

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