Suuns (comet club, 05/05/13)

by juicyfrog

to give new impetus to my last (dated) gig review which ended with “music will save us for sure”, i’d like to tell you about an album that brings to an end with a track called Music Won’t Save You. the time has come to introduce a band that deserves to have the place of honour.


tonight the dancing toad and the juicy frog hit the road again together for a concert at Comet Club. this is an introducing gig, because none of us know Suuns very well (pronounced soons), a part from their first (brilliant) 2010 album Zeroes QC which plays constantly in the pond. Montreal’s band tours currently europe to promote Images Du Futur, a second album released at the beginning of 2013 by Secretly Canadian.

suuns    suuns_imagesdufutur

the quartet features guitarist/vocalist Ben Shemie, drummer Liam O’Neill, keyboardist Max Henry and guitarist/bassist Joe Yarmush. it really puzzled me, when i got to know that three of them actually studied at the same jazz school, because Suuns’ music is actually unclassifiable and, ok, i’m not a music expert, but not especially jazzy. in the interview Suuns gave to McGill News, Max Henry gave this enlightening answer to the journalist who asked him about possible connection between Suuns and his jazz studies:

“The building blocks only do you a service when they eventually disappear,” he says of his musical education. “The classical world might be square building blocks, and the jazz world might be rectangular building blocks, but the shapes that we’re getting at aren’t pixelated, they’re not built out of squares or rectangles. They’re continuous.”

needless to say that the toad and i are kind of impatient to see them entering the stage, warmed-up by excellent long-lasting arab melodies which spread in the venue after the disappointing, dull, introduction by Lucretia Dalt.
the atmosphere conveys an electric agitation when the band finally shows up. some tortured, bleak vibes arise from the stage straight after.
Henry’s keyboarding notes strengthened by heady beats give a short introduction to Ben Shemie’s murky, faint, singing as Music Won’t Save You commences. what a very delicate, thickening appetizer reinforced by bewitching guitars. oh boy, this is going to be a pleasantly loud evening.

and it is indeed.
the concert is a rich mixture of both albums with (if i’m not wrong) Armed For Peace, 2020 (oh my, Yarmush’s incredible guitar impersonating Doppler effects), Pie IX, Eddie’s DreamPowers of Ten, Up Past the Nursery and Gaze among others. Suuns’ music is both complex and magnetic, with looping stacks of frenetic guitars, fantastic unconventional keyboard sounds, frantic drums and rhythms. not to mention a choking voice that gives the impression to restrain some terrible angst.

whereas my body is carried away by the post-rock drone of certain songs, my attention mostly focuses on Shemie’s half-mutter voice – a mix of insidious rage and despair. the delightful analogy with rock/punk on Armed For Peace or Gaze, as Henry abandons his keyboard for a guitar, helps me to free myself from this fascinating grip of anger tinged with gentleness.

it’s difficult (and it’s appropriate not) to box up Suuns into a music category or even to give a specific description of their music. because the foreboding Zeroes QC tends to venture into wild indie rock and shoegaze, whereas Images Du Futur flirts more with cold electro and dark dubstep and krautrock. the second album is indeed more risky, experimental, maybe more demanding and hopeless too, but damn effective.
during the concert, Liam O’Neill’s positive energy contrasts with the serious interpretation of the rest of the band. a great concentration and perfectionism are palpable, and Shemie’s smile at some point breaks the (however delightful) surrounding tenseness. i’ve never experienced such an alluring tension before.

when it’s (alas) time to come back to earth, it’s not easy to let the band go. the toad looks at me kindly, conscious that, as usual, i’ll need a few minutes to regain consciousness. as we ride back home, i’m not really surprised when the toad tells me that his favourite songs are the “rocky” ones. i also have a marked preference for Zeroes QC, although the menacing side of Images Du Futur is very exciting.
especially if music won’t save us.

but for some reasons, Suuns’ music may convince us otherwise.