Tuesday, 1 October 2013

ari swan september 2013

Ari Swan  |  Casa Del Popolo

                         PHOTOS  |  TYR JAMI

September 19, 2013 - Casa is one of those places that immediately feels familiar and comfortable. It has walls lined with posters of shows past and threadbare wooden floors that remind you of your own slanted, haphazard apartment. There are tea lights dotting the room that give everything a softer edge, and people sit curled up and cross-legged on the floor, sipping pints and small glasses of whiskey. Tonight, there are also giant flower crowns dangling in front of the stage, casting large, round shadows into the flickering candlelight. Doesn’t everything just look better in candlelight?

Casa looks good, but it also sounds good. Ohara starts off the evening, complemented by instrumentation from several other musicians and slow moving images that stream onto the wall behind her. Ohara’s music has the beauty of a paradox: it’s both slow and upbeat, both vulnerable and resilient, both gentle and assertive. Images of storefronts and city streets flash across the musicians’ faces as her vocals float out into the room with a tender clarity.

Pietro Amato and Mathieu Charbonneau step onstage next for an instrumental set. French horn and piano stumble together into a beautiful sound. Maybe it’s just something about instrumental music that makes me imagine movie scenes, but this sound is cinematic in a quietly grand way. It evokes the moment when the music starts at the beginning of a movie, before the opening credits have even started rolling, only a split second before the first scene lights up the screen. The two musicians seem to be each in their own world, but together, they make something cohesive.

As the final act – and main act – of the evening, Ari Swan takes the stage. Swan, along with her accompanying musicians, are all wearing flowers in their hair that match the ones dangling from the ceiling. Swan grins. Everyone else onstage is smiling too. She begins to sing, and it’s the sort of sound that makes you feel like you’re getting lost, but not necessarily in a bad way. Her vocals bend and twist and sway gently, enticing the audience into a kaleidoscopic world. The violin sculpts and drives the sound forward, sometimes with long, drawn out notes, and other times with faster, urgent bow strokes; it’s the essence of this act. The show’s visuals echo the songs: an old-fashioned overhead projecter fills the background with swirling, twinkling images.

For Swan, a classically trained violinist, this is one of the first shows in a while playing with other people. Tonight, her solo project’s EP is being released. “I have to be able to do it by myself when I need to… but then, if I’m lucky enough that other people are available, I can have them play with me and it can be more full and more interesting,” Swan says of her music. Though Swan has only lived in Montreal for three years, she is no stranger to playing with Montreal musicians: among many others, she has played with Little Scream, Folly and the Hunter, and Heirloom. “I’ve had really, really good luck playing with bands here,” Swan says, smiling the entire time.  She has only good things to say about the local music scene, declaring that there is a “great niche for anything.”

Swan has good things to say about both the recording process and playing live. Recording, for her, is “like a constant performance where you have to be really, really perfect.” In contrast, playing live is more spontaneous; she loves “playing off” the audience or “feeding off” other musicians onstage with her. This comes across in her set – her accompanying musicians ramp up the sound and give Swan something to play with.

How to describe her sound, something seemingly in its own category? Swan suggests “classical chaotic menagerie,” and it’s fitting. But really, you should hear it for yourself. Check out Symphony Plastique at AriSwan.Bandcamp.com.

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