Review and photos – Bell Orchestre With Certain Breeds at the Cultural Olympiad’s Code Live 1, Feb 18 2010
– review and photos by Kristina Mameli
The sound of a cello filled the chilly room at Great Northern Way Campus. Combined with psychedelic synth, harpsichord-like keys and a drum machine-precise backbone, the cello’s melancholic lament seemed to instantly drop the temperature by several degrees.
Certain Breeds brought a decidedly creepy element to Code Live 1 as the Vancouver quartet left the early arrivals at the Cultural Olympiad showcase feeling a little uneasy, yet somehow mesmerized by the gloomy, almost tortured songs from the band’s debut self-titled. A description on the band’s Myspace page describes the sound perfectly: Bauhaus meets Siouxsie and the Banshees. Read: the Organ, but much moodier.
The frigid, warehouse-type venue, complete with backroom bar/art gallery/meat locker, was well-equipped to house the event. And for $7 per unit, patrons could sip red wine from plastic glasses under a large art installation made entirely from energy efficient light bulbs. The giant globe, which was only half lit, affectionately became known as the “half-baked moon” as the evening progressed.
Brasstronaut threatened to steal the show from the hotly anticipated Bell Orchestre with its beautifully rich and anything-but-invasive sound. The band provided a burst of tempered energy with songs like “Slow Knots” from its debut full length
Mount Chimaera (released that night) and songs that dare to already be called classics such as “Old World Lies”. Edo Van Breeman’s breathy vocals added a somewhat ethereal quality to Bryan Davies‘ brass section, Sam Davidson’s potent clarinet, Tariq Hussain’s lap steel and guitar, Brennan Saul’s percussion and John Wash’s bass.
Despite a multitude of musicians playing multiple instruments, the music had a balance to it, with no one instrument overpowering any other, and all coming together to create something instantly memorable and easily as catchy as any Patrick Watson track.
The local sextet, which embarks on a two-month tour complete with SXSW dates in March, had quite a few dancing anyway. Fitting in with the unpredictable element of their music, the band members left the stage one by one as they wrapped up their set, leaving only Saul to close with a drum solo in what was certainly a dramatic exit.
Seahorses inexplicably danced across a large screen as Bell Orchestre began their set shrouded in darkness. The film detailed the lifecycle of the enigmatic sea creatures as the band re-scored it live.
Thus began the one-off special performance which would see several short science films by Jean Painlévé provided with a unique soundtrack by Canadian indie royalty. Members of the Montreal-based act, including violinist Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire fame, joined forces with auxiliary musicians from the Luyas and Torngat for the special project which even included improvisational pieces. The films moved from seahorses to chickens, pigeons in parks to the lifecycle of snails while the band became lost somewhere between staring at the monitors and the intense and driving music itself.
“Fin” fittingly finished a film chronically the life of an unknown organism.
“Do you want to hear a few songs from our record?” inquired Neufeld to expectant applause. “Well, someone needs to change the DVD first.”
The band then launched into “Stripes” set to a backdrop of colourful lightening storms, ending what was an incredibly unique and extremely Canadian experience.