AUTRE NE VEUT at Tattoo, Wednesday, June 18. Rating: NNNN
"Can we get these lights to be more frenetic?" Autre Ne Veut's Arthur Ashin asked an invisible crew at Tattoo. "I just want there to be lots of movement." After a minor lighting adjustment, the weighty bass kicked in, and like clockwork: amorous couples started slow-grinding. That's the effect of Autre Ne Veut. It's sexy and jarring at the same time.
Unlike his last Toronto show, when it was just the singer and his laptop, Ashin was backed on Wednesday by a live drummer and a female vocalist. Still, his voice was always the focal point. His falsetto throbs intensely, and Ashin hangs out in his highest register before tumbling dramatically down into a deep moan. This climbing and crashing is similar to Montreal's Majical Cloudz - both of their live shows are almost gospel-like. Hunched over the microphone, strangling it with his two hands, Ashin looked like he was summoning a sermon from somewhere deep inside.
Even at his most dissonant, driving pop melodies continued to emerge, coercing me to sway in tempo with the grinding couple next to me who were, at that point, fully making out.
All of Autre Ne Veut's potential descriptors - R&B, electronic, avant-garde, pop, performance art - are apt, but they don't really do his sound justice. Best to experience the sermon live. Dare you not to be converted.