POP Montreal: Un Blonde, Big Brave, Technical Kidman and Saxsyndrum

Photo Ashutosh Gupta

I don't think the early crowd for Arto Lindsay knew what they were in for, but given that they were there for an experimental headliner with an expansive career, they had the good taste to get it.

Un Blonde's madman music is like nothing else you'd hear at POP, or likely anywhere else. Jean-Sebastien Audet mashes the smoothness of R&B with jarring guitar clangs, and you get the feeling the song only exists for as long as Audet and his bandmates stay on the same psychic wavelength.

His voice naked as can be, Audet did more with his singing than most singers can with a pile of pedals in front of them. 

It took a couple songs for the crowd to get past the 'what the fuck is going on' feeling, but by the end everyone was loud, cheering on the musical mania. Un Blonde's prolific output is required listening for anyone seeking new sounds. 

Bathed in red light, Big Brave played a few tracks off their crushing new LP Au De La ("On the By and By and Thereon", "And as the Waters Go") at Quai des Brumes. It was a mini-set since they had just played their release show a week earlier. The small show felt like POP's best-kept secret, though given the stacked lineup Friday, crowds felt splintered across venues all night.

Feedback is an instrument for this trio; Robin Faye's barks and screams punctuating waves of distortion and steady, heavy percussive blasts. Everyday is doomsday when you're listening to Big Brave.

At the Passovah showcase, Technical Kidman turned l'Esco into an esoteric dance party. Singer Mathieu Arsenault sucked everyone into the band's electronic world, even if it took wandering into the crowd to get the attention of a dedicated texter (she eventually noticed). It's clear they're now familiar with their new, sample-driven tools. Now we just need a follow-up to last summer's A Stranger Voice EP. 

Saxsyndrum's members were pulling (a minimum) of double-duty on Friday, the lineup under command of falsetto-man Alexandre Bergeron for a Year of Glad set earlier at Théâtre Fairmount. But headlining the Art Not Love showcase at La Vitrola, it was Dave Switchenko and Nick Schofield's turn to lead things, Bergeron and cellist Justin Wright growing out Saxsyndrum's dancey, psychedelic groove. 

"Maceonectar" became a whole different, and darker, lumbering beast with the four-man lineup. The electronic minimalism of "Zonko" became a whole lot jazzier. And to end things (maybe a bit too early, but blame festival scheduling for that), they paid tribute to legendary disco producer Giorgio Moroder — who had played his first-ever Montreal DJ set earlier that night at Église St-Jean Baptiste.