POP Montreal: BUFFLO, Kurvi Tasch and Nancy Pants

Photo Philip Fortin

The most ambitious POP show I've ever seen wasn't even on a stage — it was in the back of a cafe with tables and pillars in the middle.  

At Le Cagibi, BUFFLO was clad in black and 10 feet tall. Standing in near darkness, he took us through the sounds that will appear on the follow-up to his 2014 record Unseam'd.

But this was no simple listening party.

Some soulless creature was in the middle of the room, conjuring nightmarish, industrial passages blended with singing and spoken word. With a mic to his cowl, he would uncover beauty for brief instants — a beast making pop music — only to be again washed into blackness.

His troupe lurked in the crowd, shouting, leading puppets or wrapping themselves in red twine.

For BUFFLO, the question of how a producer can turn his music into a performance was beside the point. Instead he created an environment for his sounds to live in, letting the music become the room. BUFFLO's night enveloped the venue, leaving us in fearful awe as his spindle limbs conducted this captured symphony.

The set ended with him disrobing under a strobe light, then grabbing an acoustic guitar with the whole room singing along. And just like that, the trip was resolved.

Kurvi Tasch. Photo Sean Vadaru.

Kurvi Tasch. Photo Sean Vadaru.

Kurvi Tasch have fleshed out their sound as a four-piece, allowing singer Alex Nicol to drop the guitar when they bring things down. At Divan Orange they played cuts off their self-titled full-length from last year, plus some new stuff with synth in place of the four-string.

For a band driven by guitars, it only makes sense they now have two of them. Second guitarist Ouss (who also plays in Pool Boy with bassist Mike) added another dimension to their melancholic tunes, still giving Alex's voice room to lead.

Nancy Pants. Photo Sean Vadaru.

Nancy Pants. Photo Sean Vadaru.

Then Nancy Pants took the energy up a notch, subbing Kurvi Tasch's introspective indie groove for sheer excitement, lead by singer/guitarist Ohara Hale.

Like an indie take on the music from Grease, their hook-heavy tunes are made to be sung along to. A relatively new band (though none of the three are new to Montreal music), they exuded pure, silly joy as they played stuff off their debut, last year's Total Nancy Pants.

That joy was picked up by the crowd, dancing and swaying along as the band goofed around onstage.

Want a Kurvi Tasch CD? Help them get physical

Despite the pleas of many a Kickstarter campaign, crowdfunding isn't going to do all the work in making your dreams come true. To do it right (and to get the trust of strangers / fans who would potentially back you), you need to have a stake in the project before listing off perks. Montreal trio Kurvi Tasch already have a full-length album recorded, for download on Bandcamp page and on a run of cassettes. They're looking to raise some cash to make some CDs. 

It's an album of mostly mellow guitar-driven tunes recorded at Freelove Fenner's studio The Bottle Garden and mastered by The Besnard Lakes guitarist Rich White at Breakglass Studios.

You can contribute to the campaign (and check out the perks they're promising) on the French crowdfunding site Microcultures.

POP Montreal: Ronnie Spector, CROSSS, TOPS, Kurvi Tasch

Ronnie Spector at the Rialto Theatre. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo.

At the Rialto opening up for the legendary Ronnie Spector is Bloodshot Bill, making music to dance to for a room full of tables. I've never seen Bill on such a big stage, and it feels a little weird. Even he admits how absurd it is to play for a bunch if people sitting down, making his pauses extra long and telling the crowd to "shhhh" before chuckling and moving on. Somehow in a fancy theatre his act feels more like a schtick.

But all is not stuffy here at this POP / Jazz Fest collaboration, and by the bar his ferocious psychobilly is met with cheers — the rest slowly warming up to him. But whoever's doing lighting fails miserably at following Bill's impromptu stops and snorts.

When Ronnie Spector takes the stage for her "Beyond the Beehive" show, she has the crowd's full attention. This was a night about affirming her importance in the history of pop music, with Ronnie narrating her story in front of projected photos and video clips as she works through the singles.

It was an emotional trip through her relationship with deranged killer/hitmaker Phil Spector, taking us through the pain of being in an abusive relationship.

"All I knew about Phil is that he was one smooth operator," Ronnie says as she details her first encounters with a man who would go on to trap her in her own home and try to ruin her career. The instantly recognizable "Be my Baby" was played in an encore to allow for some loophole in Phil and Ronnie's divorce settlement.

At 71, Ronnie's voice still holds up and she has attitude to spare. It was an honour to hear her story, from growing up in Harlem to getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But then it's time to return to this decade at a packed Brasserie Beaubien, where there's a lazy attempt at a mosh pit while CROSSS are playing(read an interview with CROSSS here). They're channeling Sabbath heaviness as singer Andy March is joined by his current band for one of the last times, Nathan Doucet bashing the hell out of the kit. They're followed by Calgary punk four-piece Hag Face, who successfully beat all those '60s girl group songs out of my head.

At Casa Brazilian Money take a moment from their upbeat pop set to plug Monster Energy, who are sponsoring POP this year. I'm going to assume it was a joke making fun of the whole thing (they can't actually require bands to talk about an energy drink can they??), but I was mostly impressed the singer was able to take a swig of their new "blue" flavour with a smile on his face. Anyways, this non-sponsored blog post is telling you to never drink that shit, even if it's free.

The crowd's loving The Rural Alberta Advantage as they work through new stuff at Cabaret Mile End, but the band is having even more fun. Singer Nils Edenloff says it's the biggest crowd they've played to in Montreal (if you don't count opening for The Hip last summer), and it feels like everyone is singing along to their old stuff.

TOPS at Sala Rossa. Photo  by Cindy Lopez.

While it's a radio-friendly sing-along at with the RAA it's hipster prom at Sala for TOPS, the band playing cuts off their dreamy new record Picture You Staring. Their sound is part Fleetwood Mac part Twin Peaks (a comparison someone must have used before) and they own the hometown crowd, headlining the sold-out Arbutus Records showcase.

I cut out early though to catch the end of Kurvi Tasch's set back at Casa, expanding their track "Fractured Lens" with a furious jam in nine and ending the set with the title track off their new record On Firm Ground. Their sound has evolved into something creeping and reactive, drums and bass playing off Alex Nicol's twisted chords as they pull from the darker parts of new wave.

Kurvi Tasch stand 'On Firm Ground' with debut LP

Kurvi Tasch are releasing their new album On Firm Ground tonight at La Sala Rossa with Archery Guild, Maylee Todd and Baked Goods, and you can stream the whole thing here via their Bandcamp page before the show. They'll be giving away a limited number of posters with download codes to get the record, and once those are gone they'll have download codes for PWYC.

The local three-piece recorded with Freelove Fenner's Peter Woodford, and Richard White from The Besnard Lakes did the mastering at Breakglass Studios. Singer/guitarist Alex Nicol picks away in a blanket of reverb, giving the record a dreamy feel even as it hits moments of intensity, like the bass & drums-dominated "Fractured Lens" and the slow-building title track. It's a consistent but unpredictable go at their first proper record.

Kurvi Tasch share "Cross That Line" from their debut LP

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Kurvi Tasch just posted a track off their (as of yet unreleased) debut LP On Firm Ground.  Chill out to "Cross That Line," that familiar Beach Boys vibe blanketed in jazzy guitar. Freelove Fenner singer/guitarist Peter Woodford recorded and mixed the record in his all-analogue studio The Bottle Garden, and the record was mastered at Breakglass Studios. Catch them at La Vitrola on June 28 with CTZNSHP and Holy Data to hear more new stuff from this local trio.

Here's a video of the guys playing "Dead End" last year at The Plant.


Post (Yoga) Punk

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu_sH7TQsoA] Once the yoga session was over at The Plant, things got a little loud. We shot the guys in Kurvi Tasch in the Van Horne space ahead of their POP Montreal show.

“Collaboration is the main thing. There was a lick that we worked off of and then a chorus came after that,” said singer and guitarist Alex Nicol of their song “Dead End.”

It’s the band’s usual way of doing things, layering their parts together to form a new song.

They’ve been playing together since the fall of 2011, born in a basement in Villeray that was a short-lived rehearsal space once it became clear they were too loud.

It’s when Nicol, along with bassist Mike Heinermann and drummer Oliver Finlay all lived together in that space that the band was really formed.

“It was really more out of convenience that we started playing together,” jokes Finlay.

Kurvi Tasch is no soft-spoken folk band. Furious drums, heavily effected guitar and lead bass lines drive their almost-new wave sound. In their performance at The Plant, Nicol’s voice gave a slight Morrissey impression, floating on top of the chords in drawn out tones.

In the next few months they’re playing shows on the East Coast of Canada and New York, and they’ve already been out to Alberta earlier this year for the Sled Island Music and Arts Festival.

“Everything’s sporadic, everything’s a demo. What we need is to put out a record,” said Nicol. “We just have to learn how to record ourselves, and that’s huge for our band in the next six months.”

Originally published by The Link Newspaper.