M for Montreal 2022
Words: John Bownas … Pictures: Sara-Louise Bowrey M for Montreal
How do you choose your favourite bands from such a strong list of performers playing across four days in the heart of this amazing musical city at ‘M for Montreal’?
Well, it’s not easy, but if someone held a really sharp and rusty knife to our thoats and demanded to know who the top acts were, we’d have to say:
Otherwise…well, we managed to see about 35-or-so other acts, and by and large they were all excellent (or bordering on excellent).
So it’s hats off to Canada and M for Montreal for a beautifully curated event!!
Dee Holt has a voice that could light fires.
Right now it’s smouldering, but given some more life experiences to give greater depth to her current lyrics the flames could well ignite. As it stands she does have a few momentary flashes where it’s clear she’s not afraid to challenge her audience, so there is definitely hope that Dee is one to watch out for in the future.
Adele and Nicholas make what they describe from the stage as ‘living room party music’ – whatever that is.
On paper it could translate as ‘coffee table music’ – the audio equivalent of those big glossy hardback books you buy more as ornaments to impress your friends with your cultural credentials, rather than as reading material.
But in reality Bibi Club is quite a clever live experience, with the duo deftly incorporating elements of quirky live percussion into their broadly electronic set to make something that transcends their studio recordings.
Watch them live first to properly understand their songs and how they are made.
If you are a fan of the ‘modern’ flavour of contemporary RnB and soul (as opposed to their original incarnations all those decades ago) then Odreii will definitely be for you.
Canada-born but having lived for many years in London, she has won critical acclaim for her work over recent years and her songs and voice have already taken her to some big stages and major festivals.
It’s always refreshing to see artists of this genre playing ‘in the raw’ so to speak without the safety net of a studio engineer and that seemingly omnipresent (and definitely annoying) vocal effect that dominates the commercial charts these days. And what shone through in the intimate confines of Le Belmont was that Odreii is a genuine talent who delivers the goods without layers of unnecessary production.
There’s a tonne of stuff going on with N Nao. Dreamy finger-picked songs dominate, but there are some huge crashing powerful productions in the background just waiting to push though into the forefront.
We were impressed!
Albert Dalton isn’t an artist who relies on looks over lifestyle…instead he thrives on talent over image. He may be the ‘most least likely’ guy to have escaped his college years and break into the musical mainstream…but trust us, he’s got exactly what it takes to be ‘that guy’.
With Brazilian blood running through their Montreal soul, Fernie creates music that spreads as smooth as maple syrup across a bed of more maple syrup. That’s a really smooth mix…
We’ve been going to End of the Road Festival in the UK every year for a good while now… and frankly we’ve not yet heard another artist who would be such a perfect fit for their audience than Diaphanie in all that time.
This is perfectly blissful and beautiful music that is unadulterated by any sense of commercialism.
With a dozen years of performance, songwriting, and producing under his belt it’s no surprise that Cedric Noel can deliver a set of songs that holds the audience transfixed.
SLOW DOWN MOLASSES
Proper good old school rock’n’roll. Guitars up front and vocals howling at the moon. If you like it loud and lairy you will love Slow Down Molasses.
Here is a band who have formed organically and sing songs that are equally formed from the roots of ancient forests. There’s no plan. There’s no theme. There are just words that draw you in, spit you out, and then gather you up again. It’s Ombiigizi.
There are some big glacier-smooth vibes running though Soran’s music, Carefully produced and sourced beats that deliver a pulsing backdrop to the vocal track once Soran kicks in.
Born to a Japanese mother and a French father, Soran blends genres but inside a package that fans of contemporary pop will still find accessible.
Stood next to us was a veteran NME jornalist with 30+ years experience in spotting great new bands.
Let’s just say Sunglaciers were his pick of M for Montreal 2022. Who are we to argue with that!!
When you hear it live without the annoying studio autotune warble that turns it into generic mush you get it.
Live music DOES NOT NEED AUTOTUNE!!!
Dump your producer Zach Zoya and just trust in your natural voice…
If you are searching out an electronic vibe that is heavy on synths but features French vocals high in the mix then C’est Karma should be your first choice.
Lithe, louche, and a little elastic, C’este Karma will ignite your stage like a small Chemical Brothers hand grenade.
Primeval percussion and shamanic chanting plus some cinematic moments that wouldn’t have gone amiss on the soundtrack to the early parts of 2001: A Space Odyssey are interspersed with semi-shouted, semi-sung volleys of lyrics … and it’s easy to see why Balaklava Blues’ ‘Gimme’ video has just clocked over 1 million YouTube views.
That said, ‘Gimme’ is one of the more understated of Mark and Marichka Marczyk’s tracks, with the majority of the set going large on Ukrainian Polyphonics and pounding beats.
The melding of cultures works on so many levels, and the crowd is both transfixed and energised at the same time – a clever trick if you can pull it off, but Balaklava Blues manage it with effortless ease.
It’s very safe to say that this was a highlight moment of this year’s festival for anyone who was lucky enough to be there.
This is our second dose of Merthyr Tydfil’s Kizzy Crawford, who we also caught performing in a small bar last night – but were impressed enough to get up in time to see her open the Focus Wales showcase session at the excellent Cafe Campus venue.
Focus Wales is an established festival with similar aims to M for Montreal in terms of promoting local, and often bilingual, artists to a wider audience.
This is the first year that the two have officially partnered up to exchange talent, and Kizzy was one of three acts chosen by the Welsh promoters to be flown to Canada to play in front of a wide-ranging group of music professionals from around the world.
Kizzy has been honing her one-woman show for ten years now and has fully mastered the art of the loop station at the same time as developing a range of songwriting and singing styles that deliver English and Welsh lyrics in dreamy and soulful or uniquely hip-hop formats.
She’s definitely a star due to rise and we’d be baffled if we didn’t see her on some fairly major festival line-ups over the next year or two.
Performing on the PEI showcase stage in the ‘Petit Campus’ room is Nadia, a talented singer songwriter who favours a mellow RnB vibe.
Check out her video for ‘On the Low’ here…
Teddy Hunter is representing Cardiff to the Canadian and international industry audience at M for Montreal and has come a long way (very literally) in the five years since her first Sofar Sounds gig back in 2017.
Since then she’s played a good handful of support shows and her own dates alongside a nice batch of festivals, including SWN, Green Man Rising, and of course Focus Wales – the event that has chosen her to be part of their Canadian showcase session.
You can’t help but include the word ‘dreamy’ in any description of Teddy’s music – it’s all in the audio equivalent of the sort of soft camera focus that epitomises traditional wedding photography, and once you’ve dived in you simply drift around in a gently enveloping warm sea of acoustic bliss.
Pearly Gates are a newish band formed by a partnership of seasoned musicians who have come together on Canada’s Prince Edward Island to write some really quite interesting mellow 60s pop/rock.
‘I want to broaden your appetite And satisfy it with every bite And if we balloon to ghastly sights I would quiet the diet culture we abhor…’ is just one example of a lyric from their currently small selection of tunes, this taken from ‘Measures of Safety’.
We like good lyrics A LOT!
Their closing track today is an upbeat and suny take on the old story of broken hearts and broken relationships… ‘There’s a black hole where your heart should be’ is sung in such a cheerful way it’s easy to miss the pain in the storyline.
Pearly Gates are from PEI’s capital, Charlottetown and are Mark Palmer (vocals and guitar), Colin Buchanan (guitar and backing vocals), Roger Carter (drums) and Chris Francis (bass).
L E M F R E C K
Taking Montreal by storm, Newport-based Welsh rapper L E M F R E C K comes out of the Noctown creative collective https://noctown.com/.
Check out his video for ‘Red Hot’ here:
In the Campus Cafe venue where Focus Wales have pinned one third of their hopes on this rising star, L E M F R E C K shows that his live show is more than just an MC/PA affair, as he prowls the stage in front of a classic rock’n’roll guitar/bass/drums backing band, who segue perfectly with a recorded track of beats that fills the room on all frequencies.
Moving from the stage to the floor, he deftly slides from person to person, making eye contact and engaging the whole audience without being in any way threatening.
Tomorrow night he’s playing in another of the smaller festival venues to a general crowd who we are certain will warm to his show, and in a day or so he’ll be down in New York doing a show that will coincide with the start of the World Cup.
There’s pretty much zero chance that if you are out on the festival circuit over the next few years you won’t see L E M F R E C K on several bills. He’s been shortlisted for the Welsh Music Prize, and we can see why.
THE BURNING HELL
Bring it on!
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is definitely punching above its weight with this deliciously different and fun-filled three-piece band.
The territory is small (by Canadian standards) and its 2,000 square miles forms only 0.1% of the landmass of the whole country.
However The Burning Hell would appear to make up a significantly higher proportion of the Canadian GCP – a term I’ve just created standing for ‘Gross Creative Product’. GCP is measured by multiplying measures of Imagination and Inventiveness (formula Im x In=GCP), and by this score I’d say The Burning Hell contributes approximately 27.3% to the national total.
Every song is awash with cultural references, anecdotes, and observations on life that hit so many nails on the head in such a short space of time that it’s a bit like watching a competition carpenter on a world record attempt.
“I wish I could hear the B52s for the very first time again”
“The search for more and better gives us worse and less options”
Or from their lockdown period:
“You don’t need wisdom like Gandalf or smarts like Sauron To know that social distance is an oxymoron”
What The Burning Hell proves without a shadow of a doubt is that music can be fun – indeed it has to be fun. Otherwise what’s the point?
Summary: every song sung with a smile…
Pop over to their YouTube playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/@BurningHellOfficial
But more importantly buy their music and see them live – you will be a better person for it.