Sunday, 10 February 2013

Fans of the Blend: NOIA at Divan Orange

NOIA at Divan Orange


From a music lover’s perspective, we sure live in an interesting era. It seems like everyone with a laptop wants to be an electronic music producer, and every traditional genre of music is somewhat invaded by that electronic aesthetic. Locally, bands like Duchess Says and Vulgar, You! have proven that playing corrosive sounds with synths suits the punk-rock vibe perfectly, while acts such as We Are Wolves and Beast have shown us that rugged, stout digital-sounding things can fit the rock realm very well. Hell, Misteur Valaire has become one this province’s main pop act with its catchy electro-jazz pieces, and Chromeo has an international reputation thanks to its funky pop songs filled with bubbly synths.

It is thus no surprise that this city’s indie-rock musicians have decided to take the dive as well, especially given the extent to which Montreal is in love with its indie-rock. Quite a few bands with melodic, vocals-centered approaches have opted to infuse their sound with a healthy dose of electro, often with awe-inspiring results. Among the acts that decided to bridge that gap between electronic music and indie, NOIA is certainly one at which it’s worth taking a good hard look. 

Both of its members have been involved in hybrid projects in the past, and so to them, it seems perfectly logical to mix things up. Eduardo Noya Schreus (bass, synths, gadgets) has toyed with noisy electro-punk endeavours in recent years (such as Mazes), and Ashley Long (vocals, trumpet) is a member of tropical, electro-flavoured indiepop act Sex Life. It is thus no surprise that incorporating electronically produced ingredients in their recipe went without saying. “It just came naturally,” explains Schreus, “I guess from my background. I started playing in bands, and I started, as well, doing a lot of electronic music. And when I came here [to Montreal, he’s originally from Peru] I was by myself, I didn’t have any band. So I had to carve more into the knowledge of how to make electronic music, but I always was loved playing my bass; I bought a new bass. So then I started... trying to put everything together.” Long never had a problem swaying between genres, either: “I played in indie-type bands before,” she says, “and also electro acts. I like both worlds, as well.” 

However, it is not merely because it offers that blend that NOIA has a very unique sound. Indeed, the duo also distinguishes itself from the others because of its resolutely dirty, badass vibe. Throughout the majority of their vehemence-filled songs, Long’s sirenic and ethereal vocals are laid on top of bulky, heavy beats and dangerous-sounding bass lines. The contrast is pleasant, to say the least, and is enhanced by thick, wholesome synth melodies. “I always made electronic music,” clarifies Schreus, “but wanted to be sounding like a rock band, in a way.”
At Divan Orange on February 6th, they did just that. After Magmatic’s beautiful soft-sounding harmonies, and joyful watery synth loops, Schreus and Long took hold of the stage, and proceeded to properly rock it out. It was a fun succession of acts, because, as well as showcasing two very good bands, it demonstrated the range of aesthetics that can be forged out of the mixture of electronic music and indie-rock. About NOIA’s position on the “heavy” end of the spectrum, Schreus reveals: “I think that comes from my background. When NOIA was a solo project, it was purely 8-bit. It was very aggressive and high-pitch. I was playing the bass with distortion. I was a fan, at the time, of Lightning Bolt, so I was into noise rock, and there was this electronic element… so I was trying to make super noisy speed music. Now, that I’m with [Long], it’s like I’m in the transition from that world, so there’s still a lot of… punch. And I don't think I would ever want to lose the punch, because that’s something I really like!”

The punch is still undeniably there, fortunately for the listeners. Now, however, it is complemented by the melodious verses of a vocalist. The question that springs to mind is: does that “punch” have any impact on the band’s song lyrics? After all Where I Go deals with obsession, and High School talks of learning how to throw punches at educational institutions. “Yeah, [High School] is our most mature song!” says Long, between two laughs. “I’m just really dramatic!” In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much of a link between words and music. Long explains that she simply writes lyrics on top of Schreus’ already-composed raunchy electro grooves, although they do sometimes combine their efforts to create alongside each other, in the same session. 

Actually, despite the substantial difference between their respective previous projects, the two halves of NOIA say that the idea of being able to collaborate during the creative process is one the reason that brought them together. After they met each other through a cat, that is:

“A cat was found, and then we met each other!” giggles Long. “He met my friend through the cat, and he liked my voice, and contacted me and asked me if I wanted to sing with him. […] I just liked his music, and he liked my voice.”   
“Yes, I heard her voice,” Schreus continues, “I saw her presence, she had a lot of presence. Also, in one song she was playing the piano, in another guitar. So I was like, ‘Oh, she composes! She doesn’t just sing, she’s a musician!’ That’s the person I wanted. Somebody who was going to create with me.”

As I was dancing in front of the stage, warmed up by Schreus’ long jams on his bass guitar and numerous gadgets, transported by Long’s poetic trumpet lines and unearthly vocals, and amazed by the auditory eloquence that characterizes the dynamic duo that they form, I couldn’t help but telling myself: “Man, we ought to thank that cat”.

Below is a video that’ll give you a taste of NOIA’s wonderful badass indie-electro.

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