Much like the swimsuit, I’ve always been drawn to two-piece musical acts, especially those of the heavy persuasion. From POWERCUP and PLF to Mares of Thrace and DFA 1979, it is an impressive feat to witness a band comprised of only two musicians generate a sound that’s raw and stripped down without feeling the least bit incomplete. So you can imagine I was reasonably stoked to hit up Montreal’s Turbo Haus last week for the Le Kraken, Greber, and They Grieve gig, which featured a pair of two-person operations.
Opening the evening was They Grieve, the first of the two bi-membered bands. One of the great challenges for bands on the lower end of the personnel scale is generating a robust sound with limited instrumentation. As most of these acts are normally comprised of a drummer and either a bassist or guitarist, sustain and body is usually achieved by running the guitar through a well-stocked pedal board that’s plugged into multiple amps and speakers. While this accurately describes They Grieve guitarist Gary Thibert’s set up, drummer Deniz Guvenc’s kick drum-mounted keyboard added an additional layer of ominous sonic textures to the Ottawa drone act’s gloomy dirge. Playing tracks from their debut EP I Made My Sacrifice Accordingly, the band’s sound shifts between a mournful, caustic sludge that brings to mind Cult Leader‘s slower jams and atmospheric, minimalist drone. While comparisons to Aaron Turner‘s collective body of wo
Speaking of musicians involved in other/multiple gigs, Cambridge, Ontario’s eardrum-damaging pummel-fest Greber features two dudes with pretty gnarly musical resumes. Bassist Mark Bourgon also handles low-end duties for Canadian grindcore legends Fuck the Facts, and Steve Vargas is best known as the drummer for Montreal sludge mongers The Great Sabatini. The pair began their set with “Fredericton,” a driving, ugly bit of d-beat from the band’s latest LP Kiln Hardened Psalms. In contrast to They Grieve’s synth-infused, multi-layered gloom, the fullness of Greber’s sound that evening was achieved through sheer brute force. Vargas’ concussive drumming style filled every space with dizzying blast beats, driving d-beat, and groovy, glacial sludge grooves, while Bourgon’s rumbling, serpentine riffs and low-end bellow violently vibrated the organs of the enthusiastic crowd. I also want to extend a hearty thanks to Mark for being so gracious when I accosted him at the merch table after the show to buy some Greber swag while blubbering about how much I dug his band.
Closing out the evening were Montreal’s Le Kraken. On top of being the sole local band on the bill, Le Kraken was also the only band to feature more than two members (there were four.) At the request of the band, the house lights were turned off, with a single overhead light left on to dimly illuminate the stage. This created a foreboding claustrophobia that paired nicely with Le Kraken’s melancholic, down-tempo post-metal. Lead singer and bassist Guillaume Chamberland’s tortured howl aptly fit the tone of the music, which actually seemed to incorporate a rather wide variety of influences. While Le Kraken are rooted firmly in tremolo-heavy post-metal, many of the band’s tunes that night included elements of shoegaze, post-hardcore, and a healthy dollop of mid-tempo, Tragedy-esque epic crust, all while retaining an odd pop sensibility. While the musical performances across the board were stellar, I found my self wishing for a bit more variation in tempo throughout the set, as it would have provided a touch of contrast that would lend the epic-sounding parts even more gravitas.
At the time of this writing, Donald Trump has won the US presidential election. While this is uniformly awful news that will have repercussions for decades to come, I can at the very least recommend each of these bands as appropriate, angry sonic catharsis.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson