So, a cult favourite artist from the 1970's goes from town to town, performing with a bunch of musicians he's never worked with before. If that isn't a recipe for disaster, I'm not sure what is.

Fortunately, former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki is a vocal alchemist par excellence, and with three quite different backing units performed a trio of exciting and dynamic sets at the Avant-Garde Bar on October 14th. After chatting with various Can fans, and signing various autographs, Suzuki and co. got down to business in front of an audience, ages ranging from 19 (the legal drinking age in Ontario) to the late 50's.

Although Suzuki's voice is tuneful enough that you can make out what he's saying, even with his native German accent, the effect of word-riffs is to make the ear (or, at least, my ear) listen to it more as music. Sure, you could direct your brain to string the syllables together into words, but the rhythm, the tone, the melody - that's what it really wants to absorb. (His ability to sing for 20 minute stretches without wetting his pipes is remarkable all in itself.)

Suzuki’s first accomplices were Brad Crowe and David Jackson of ambient/IDM duo Kerista (they've also played together in a rockier group called Anorak). While Crowe manipulated analog noise generator, a keyboard and a Danelectro pedal with extreme finishing wear, Jackson gave his Apple laptop intent study.

Suzuki grasped his microphone with both hands, groaning, growling, whispering and singing in a nearly unbroken stream for two songs – 45 minutes in all, as Kerista’s generally low-key sound manipulation filled the space with gentle beeps, scabrous harshness, some heavy groove and vaguely orchestral harmonies. It was all grist for Damo's mill as he switched from a heavy growl to the more melodic vocal riffs familiar to anyone who's bought one of Can's classic albums 'Tago Mago', 'Ege Bamyasi', 'Future Days' or 'Soundtracks'. Like a surfer throwing himself onto the world’s longest wave, he responded to the flow of sound with uncanny fluency.

For his second set he called on Unireverse. The members of Unireverse likes their Moogs, and they like their krautrock (they covered 'Brainticket' on their recently released album, 'Plays The Music, so they might have been the most "appropriate" of the enlisted ensembles). The members of the band boast an extensive history in Ottawa and Montreal industrial, electronic and noise acts: Brian Damage did time in Phycus, Michael Caffery in Daydream Square and Beautifuzz, while Alex Moskos and Joel appeared with Montreal noiseniks Goa! when they played the Avant-Garde this summer.

Being wedged in a corner didn’t seem to impare Joel’s spare, airy percussive style.

Moskos and Caffery switched between digitally delayed and phased guitars and Moog and Korg keyboards as they built a spacey framework for Suzuki’s chants.

A brief break, and group No. 3 was up: Mike Dubue (Hi Lo Trons) on keyboards and extra percussion, Jamie Gullikson of local instrumental quartet the Flaps on drums, Adam Fogo on standup bass, Steve Matylewicz on a hollowbody jazz guitar and Brendan Allistone on Les Paul double cutaway are all men with considerable musical chops and extensive histories with various Ottawa bands (Burti Lasky, Pleather, Wax Mannequin, Gammahoochee). The unit’s second "song" of three with Damo, fuelled by Gullikson's fast and funky drumming was probably the show's highlight, though their jazzy first outing and swaying third were excellent in and of themselves.

A thrilling performance.

















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