Love Scene ups Toronto’s experimental music scene ante

LoveScene-live-GrexxOne of the highlight evenings this past week was a night of experimental music at the Burdock on Victoria Day.

An eight-man vocal group GREX kicked off the night with a set of acapella medieval folk music, followed by multimedia, experimental prom band, Love Scene.

GREX is led by their founder and artistic director, Alex Samaras, a rising vocalist in the Canadian jazz scene. Samaras takes pride in having worked with American arts icon Meredith Monk and her ensemble. The vocalist has since performed concert versions of several of the icon’s works, including the very haunting and captivating ‘Braid Song’, which GREX performed at the Burdock.

Samaras also did an entertaining hocket with one of the members, a sort of melodic call and response using various notes, pitches, and sounds between them. The group also performed a shape note song where the members have four different parts or notes being sung at once, intentionally creating a chaotic and riveting performance.

Following GREX was Love Scene, a multimedia instrumental band consisting of Joel Schwartz on guitar, Ben Whitely on bass, and Sly Juhas on drums. (Raz Mataz’s introduction to the band can be seen here.)

LoveScene-liveThe group performed an improvised set in front of a 1933 Canadian black and white drama, Damaged Lives. The film is about a couple who contract syphilis and, naturally, one of the themes interweaving through the set evoked this forbidden love kind of feeling, the music drawing heavily from the vintage, rollicking vibes of surf music.

The band made great use of dynamics to make Damaged Lives come alive, slowing it down during the film’s softer moments and then crescendoing, often times into chaos, in any scene where the dreaded syphilis seems to be of topic between characters.

Being that no one in the audience previously saw Damaged Lives, there is a lot left to the listener’s imagination. Thus, there were moments where the music did not seem to correlate or flow well with what was playing out on the screen.

Sometimes characters would seemingly be having a normal conversation, without any kind of body language to suggest otherwise, but there would be fast-paced music on stage making it seem like there was some kind of argument going on or inner turmoil being expressed. Maybe there was, but in these moments it was hard to feel what Love Scene was playing when the visuals was seemingly telling another story.

Overall, the band clearly had a lot of fun celebrating this very terrible Canadian film and with their accompanying vintage, yet edgy, improvised surf-inspired music, this was definitely a fun and unique experience to share with them. With a handful of black and white Canadian films to choose from during that time period, it will be interesting to see what Love Scene does next. For an entertaining evening, they are certainly a group to look out for.

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