LES Georges Leningrad performing as part of Vazoween at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (October 29). $7 w/ costume. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Montreal avant-pop provocateurs Les Georges Leningrad have been going through some dramatic changes lately.
No, they haven't given up performing in primitively painted paper bag masks (with matching cave dweller costumes for their recent UK tour), but their powerful new album, Sur Les Traces De Black Eskimo (Alien8), has them attacking with a much more aggressive, dance-oriented sound.
It's a shift that intriguingly coincides with bassist Toundra La Louve's mysterious departure, which has left the flummoxing franglais four to continue as a twisted threesome. A coincidence? Perhaps not. Evidently, La Louve didn't jump - she was pushed.
"Things weren't working with Toundra, so we put her out," explains Bobo Boutin from his Montreal lair. "It was just too mindfucking. She was moving in another direction, so it was better for everyone that we follow different roads.
"Because we were then just three, we got caught up in this new atmosphere where we felt we needed to put more energy into our music, so our playing on the new album is more aggressive, and that's why everything sounds heavier. Our next recording will be even more powerful, because we were only working with the traces of the Black Eskimo this time."
Eventually, Boutin was bound to get around to the whole strange "Black Eskimo" tale that inspired Les Georges Leningrad's elaborately devised concept recording.
Each member of the group has his or her own Rashomon-style version of the story, so we'll let our man Bobo explain how the group's usage of the term "Eskimo" wasn't meant to be pejorative.
"Because I have Inuit friends, I knew that 'Eskimo' is a pejorative term, but we chose to use it in the title to serve the poetic needs of our group in telling this story - however absurd it may seem - about self-destruction."
"It's about a man, John Pond, who is travelling in the north by boat and gets caught in the ice at a place now called Pond Inlet and ends up leaving behind his family and living out the rest of his life there alone.
"Then his mind just snaps and he kills some people and disappears. In life you may think you're strong and a good lover, but in a split second something can change and everything falls apart."
Evidently, the costumes are helpful in presenting the complex narrative at the core of Sur Les Traces De Black Eskimo, but they're not essential to Les Georges Leningrad. They've even performed a few recent shows sans masks.
However, since their upcoming Toronto appearance is part of Will Munro's Vazoween pre-Halloween party at Lee's Palace Friday (October 29), Les Georges have something special planned.
"Sometimes we wear the masks onstage and sometimes we don't. They're not part of our group identity - we're not the Masked Band. We always have new ideas we're trying to incorporate in our performances.
"So maybe you'll see us in our caveman-Eskimo suits in Toronto, or we might turn into sea animals, like manatees. They're so ugly-looking in a primitive way, yet nice and friendly at the same time. I like that kind of contradiction. One thing for sure is that we will be very scary."