Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche: Zubberdust!

Last Ex: Last Ex

Mix the boisterous live energy of Arcade Fire with the Afro-funk sound of Remain in Light-era Talking Heads, then strip away David Byrne's singing for full-throated wordless chanting, and you might end up with something similar to Zubberdust!, the debut album by Montreal quartet Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche. The references don't stop there: the album also calls Fela and Captain Beefheart to mind at certain moments, as well as the No Wave antics of The Golden Palominos in its earliest incarnation.

Formed in Montreal in 2011 as a trio, Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche now counts guitarists Sébastien Fournier and Éric Gingras, bassist/synth player Jean-Sébastien Truchy, and drummer Samuel Bobony as members, though the oft-raucous recording features former member Nasir Hasan in the drum chair. The idea for the band arose when Truchy, a one-time member of Fly Pan Am (1998-2005), found himself hungry for the kind of taut Afro-styled krautrock specialized in by his former band.

Zubberdust! is distinguished by many things, foremost among them an exhilarating attack, multi-tiered arrangements, and infectious avant-funk grooves. Described in vinyl format terms, each side features a thunderous twenty-minute piece followed by a shorter sound collage-styled cut that effectively functions as both throat-cleanser and breath-catcher. Epic in pitch and delivery, “Face à l'instant” opens side one with hammering salvos of thrashing guitars and pummeling drums before the dial turns and we're transplanted to earthy electro-funk territory. Throughout the heady trip, electronic treatments (courtesy of guests Bruno Julian and Jesse Osborne-Lanthier), spidery guitar lines, and silken synths flicker across the rubbery pulse, while the occasional interjection of wordless vocals adds to the music's already rousing spirit. In similar manner to “Face à l'instant,” the trippy steamroller “Super pastiche fantastique / New Sun” dominates the second side with roiling Afro-funk grooves and a strangulated vocal performance that collapses even more the distance separating Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche and Talking Heads.

If Zubberdust! and its two twenty-minute set-pieces suggest one thing above all else, it's that one would be foolish indeed to pass up a live set by Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche, especially when the intensity with which the album material is delivered would presumably be amped up exponentially in the live presentation.

Constellation's other new release comes from Last Ex, an instrumental rock outfit led by Timber Timbre members Simon Trottier and Olivier Fairfield that came into being when ambient music the parent band had created for an abandoned horror film (titled Last Ex, naturally) went unused in 2012. Recognizing the promise of the soundtrack material, Trottier and Fairfield supplemented the original recordings with new songs and fleshed it out with new instruments, while also indulging their experimental jones for sound collage and tape-based music concrète in the process.

Fairfield (drums, keyboards, sampler, tape manipulations, synthesizers, bass) and Trottier (electric, acoustic, and baritone guitars, bass, lapsteel, pedals, synthesizers) are the primary sound-generators on the forty-minute, eleven-track album, though Timber Timber member Taylor Kirk (electric and baritone guitar, drums) and Mika Posen (strings) also contribute to the project on a number of cuts. If the Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche album invites reference to a host of other artists, Last Ex's suggests that comparisons to the long-time Constellation act Do Make Say Think wouldn't be out of order.

That Last Ex is a different recording from Zubberdust! is made immediately clear when the opening song, “Hotel Blues,” begins with a dusty minute of Spaghetti Western twang and then follows it with a motorik display of krautrock grooves and wiry keyboard figures. The material ranges widely in the subsequent tracks, whether that means flirting with hazy psychedelia during “Flûte magique,” where the slow-motion pulse evokes the brain-addled splendour of a trippy summer afternoon, or spooky sonics within “It's Not Chris,” which features a melody so eerie it veritably cries out to be voiced by theremin. The twanging guitar sound heard at the start of the album re-emerges for “Resurrection Drive Part I,” where guitar stabs are countered by Posen's winsome string melodies, and “Cité d'or,” whose macabre tone evokes the kind of dread oft-associated with the Lynch-Badalamenti world. On an album of dramatic contrasts, the country folk blues of “Nell's Theme” takes things down to a gentler pitch, whereas the horror show atmospherics of “Cape Fear” and “Hotel Blues Returns” hint that they formed part of the original soundtrack material.

Compared to Zubberdust!, Last Ex feels looser and less frenetic, though not displeasingly so. Listening to it proves satisfying for any number of reasons, and it acts as somewhat of a soothing come-down when heard after the set by Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

November 2014