BROADCAST with MONTAG at Lee's Palace, May 15. Tickets: $15-18. Attendance: 250. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Aabout halfway through Montreal laptop pilot Montag's (aka Antoine Bédard) Thursday-night set at Lee's Palace, I swear I lapsed into a hypnotic trance. It's not that the quiet fellow onstage, who rarely looked up from his keyboard and sampler, was particularly captivating. But his electro-organic soundscapes - pretty, peaceful humming overlaid with shuffly, throbbing beats, chirps and twitches - which evoke pre-millennial Brit chillout music, have the soothing ambience of an announcer's hushed tones on one of those terribly earnest NFB Hinterland Who's Who nature programs.
Combine that with glacially paced video projections that feature pallid fingertips playing a Memory-type matching game, flipping over tiles with images of loops, whorls and spirals, like circuits destined never to be completed, and you've got yourself a multimedia space-age lullaby.
The vibe in the club was decidedly chill, and most folks' eyes were glued to the bizarrely mesmerizing images onscreen. Luckily, Montag was grateful for the low-key response. He'd have to be; his ghostly electronica, with shades of Montreal compatriots Stars - without the vocals, orchestrals or bravado - demands near-silence. His voice barely broke above a whisper when he thanked the audience profusely before hastily exiting the stage.
Birmingham, England, sample-loving analog-synth-pop outfit Broadcast brought the energy up just a notch. The mod-looking five-piece kept the lights low, mirroring the shadowy atmospherics of their capably played icy dream pop. Like Montag, Broadcast attempted to beef up the onstage spectacle with clinical video projections; instead of board games, we watched grainy diagrams of the solar system and bacteria that looked like they'd been swiped from junior high science class filmstrips.
It was nice to have something to capture my interest other than the samey progression of Stereolab-on-Quaaludes ditties. Vocalist Trish Keenan hid her eyes behind a thick fringe of bangs while breathing her smoky little-girl vocals over spacey waltz after spacey waltz. Occasionally, a hit of character would punctuate the monotony - a carnivalesque lilt here, a breakbeat or free-form jazz skronk there - but without any band-audience interaction, the set grew tedious after a while.
Broadcast are great musicians and decent songwriters and the videos are a nice touch, but they lack some sonic gimmick to wow crowds in a live context. Stereolab has the French lyric shtick goin'; similarly-minded late-90s loungey popsters Mono stole quirky snippets from swingin' 60s pop. But Broadcast? Boring.