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Pop Montreal 2006

Sybarite, Jessica Bailiff & Mitchell Akiyama at Sala Rosa

Posted by Scott / October 7, 2006

This showcase featured Sybarite, Jessica Bailiff and local electro artist Mitchell Akiyama, who filled in at the last minute for Keith Fullerton Whitman, who was ill. Sparsely attended, the choice of (large) venue didn’t help a show that stumbled out of the gate with Fullerton Whitman’s absence, and ultimately left my accomplice and I disappointed in a show we had great hope for.

The potential was there, so what happened?

jessicabailiff.jpgMitchell Akiyama took the stage first, playing improvised electronic instrumentals constructed from “the ground up”, meaning without any pre-loaded samples. He built pieces of warm, churning fuzz, punctuated at times with percussion from crockery equipped with contact mics. Electric bowls, in other words. Akiyama’s delivery was sincere and unpretentious, and his best pieces began with sparse, delicate elements that built upon layers of somnambulant haze with ghost note overtones. Pretty cool. The video footage (provided by artists) featured lonely scenes of roiling seas and long winter roadways and fit with Akiyama’s aesthetic, but also drew attention to the lack of intimacy in the thinly attended venue – the long, empty floor space mirrored by scenes of long, empty vistas on screen.

Next on the bill was Jessica Bailiff, who played acoustic guitar and sang, with her partner playing bass, guitar and Casio accompaniment. Her set consisted of simple voice and guitar pieces, perhaps 45 or 60 minutes worth, and unfortunately lacked anything to keep my interest. Most of the songs were in the same tempo and timbre, with the same instruments and arrangements, and nothing else (percussion, vocal dynamics, a strummed chord for god’s sake) for variety. By way of example, the fourth song was an unchanging I-V progression for three solid minutes. I feel badly writing a scathing review, particularly of a solo artist, but this Jessica Bailiff set just pulled all the energy out of the sparsely attended room, and simply lacked enough sonic diversity to warrant more optimism from me. Perhaps her albums are intimate confessionals that can destroy entire city blocks, but on stage at Sala, it pains me to say that her set seemed far too long, far too uninteresting, and could not end fast enough. In short: a room killer.

sybarite.jpgBy the time Sybarite had taken the stage, a thin crowd had become much thinner. I counted 19 people not associated with the bands, bar, or merch table. And really, Sybarite deserved a better fate. Setting up as a three piece (guitar, laptop and vocals, bass and keyboards, and drums), they played a set that was far more rugged and vocal driven than their last release Nonument. They reminded me of UI, with (Tin Machine/Bowie guitarist) Reeves Gabrels interludes, or perhaps a bit of Warn Defever thrown in. The vocals at times sounded like former Clean singer, David Kilgour, and the band made great use of controlled feedback through a slanted Fender twin, and re-sampling/layering themselves for greater sonic texture. They were tight, practiced, and interesting, but perhaps were fighting an uphill battle against a tired room by the time they’d reached the stage. I think Sybarite would be worth checking out live under different circumstances, but on this night they seemed to be the victim of several unfortunate circumstances.

And so were we.



mona adisa / October 13, 2006 at 08:13 pm
thanks for the reviews; esp. the Sybarite one. we missed it due to other commitments necessarily, but wished to be there. i love the clean , new sound of Sybarite and so look forward to what news i can get about them.
yes, it is unfortunate that circumstances can make that rock pushing uphill such a problem. i am sure another night, even another full moon night, would be totally different and i look forward to another performance...
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