Sometimes you just want a “different” experience. You don’t want to hear the same old pop music you hear when you turn on the radio. Montreal is a great city for music fans. Music is everywhere and of all different varieties. If you look hard enough you will find what you are looking for…wait a minute, isn’t that a U2 song? Anyways…if you were in that kind of mood where you were seeking a nontraditional music experience it happened last night in this very city on the corner of Ste. Catherine and St. Laurent.
To (sort of) coincide with the release of their album Mechanics of Emotion, which was released on April 10, Montreal duo Elsiane played a 75 minute show. If you are not familiar with the duo they are comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Elsieanne Caplette and drummer Stephane Sotto. The name of the band is a combination of their first names and the sound is a combination of both of their talent and personalities. This is truly a product of the collaborative process. Their first album was called Hybrid and was released in 2007. It has been five long years in between albums (Elsieanne worked with Cirque du Soleil in the meantime) and their fans really warmly welcomed them back at their hometown show last night.
Both floors of Club Soda were packed and there was a hum of anticipation in the air. At 8:45 tribal sounding music signaled their entrance. Above the stage there was a screen onto which were projected visuals throughout the show. The screen sprung to life almost immediately then Sotto began drumming and finally Elsieanne walked on stage.
Her onstage demeanour is very similar to the band’s sound. She is very minimal in her movements but attention capturing in her look. Wearing a beaded black dress with a train in the back, black calf-high boots and her hair (a type of Amy Winehouse bouffant, but with a purpose) and makeup done in a very dramatic fashion, your eyes automatically go to her and never really leave. Part of the reason is her look and theatrical on stage demeanour and part is her voice. To say that Elsieanne has a distinctive voice is underselling it. She has a great range able to go from very high to very low. For the most part she sings in a stylized little girl/angelic type voice, but plays with it. At times she will cause exaggerated vibrato by pounding on her chest while holding a note while others she will put her whole hand around the top of the microphone to create an echo effect. Elsieanne is a performer who knows how to set a tone and is technically proficient.
Elsiane’s musical style is one that defies categorization. Like the title of their first album, it is a hybrid of a bunch of genres from jazz to electronica to ambient. There is plenty of texture to each song and lots of layers to get lost in. It is the type of music you might put on while meditating. Last night, they played songs from their first album like “Mend” (a personal fave) and “Vaporous”, but the focus was mostly on the newer songs like the lead single “Underhelped”, “Nobody Knows”, “Mechanics of Emotion”, and “Time for Us”.
At different points in the show the two were accompanied by a cellist and a multi-instrumentalist who played the keyboards, guitar, bass, and even clarinet. They really helped to round out the sound.
The entire show was heavy on atmosphere. It was all created through Elsieanne’s voice and demeanour, the visuals and the music. Very artistic and mellow. Even Elsieanne remarked after one song that was just her voice, a cello and Stephane providing a back beat on a cajon (a Peruvian wooden box-style drum) “you guys like that minimalist stuff!” And they did. At different points both Elsieanne and Stephane spoke about how it had been a long journey in between albums and thanked their fans for their patience. They are back and Stephane said it would not be five years between albums again.
There was certainly an appreciation of the very artistic music that was being played. As soon as they took the stage the crowd pressed forward and were not dancing around (it’s not that type of music) though they were transfixed to what was going on. This is not commercial music in the least, but the duo has certainly found their niche audience who adores what they do.