Elephant Stone @ Eglise St-Enfant Jesus – 8th May 2019

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Last night kicked off the 4th year of Distorsion Pych Fest.   Described as “an annual gathering that takes place in a unique setting, including a plethora of artists and local enthusiasts and provides Montreal with a window into the immersive realm of psychedelia.”

This art and music festival spans 4 days featuring musicians, video jockeys, visual artists, filmmakers and designers who come together and celebrate their creativity in the universe of “Mothland.” The central theme being psychedelia.

Psychedelia is the subculture which originated in the 1960s when people began experimenting with psychedelic drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin.  This progressive trend created a whole new groovy generation of fantastic artists who pushed the boundaries on so many levels.

During this phase musicians and engineers began experimenting with elaborate studio effects, such as playing tapes backwards or panning the music from one side to another like on The Beatle’s “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” (Released in 1967, winning 4 Grammys considered as one of the most important works in British psychedelia.)

Psychedelic art and music try to recreate or reflect the experience of altered consciousness. The visual art form uses highly distorted and surreal images, bright colors and animation to evoke and convey to a viewer,  the artist’s experience while using mind-altering drugs.

Psychedelic music uses distorted sounds usually electric guitars, amp techniques, and reverberation.  Along with various electronic studio effects, the use of the sitar is sometimes added, creating that transcendental vibe which makes it even better.

Where else but in the church basement of Eglise St-Enfant Jesus in Montreal’s super diverse plateau area on a Wednesday night could you experience the phenomenon that is psychedelia?

And who better to recreate that unique fusion of eastern and western music where electric guitars and sitars come together to elevate and hypnotize all the lucky listeners present?

Montreal’s very own Elephant Stone made us forget that we were in a church basement, bringing us up to a higher level of consciousness with their hypnotic rhythms.   

Fronted by Rishi Dhir (formerly associated with The High Dials), the band’s style incorporates aspects of traditional Indian music including the sitar, tabla, and dilruba with Western psychedelic rock.  Dhir is one of the most highly sought out sitar players in the international psych scene. He has recorded, performed and toured with Beck, the Black Angels, Brian Jonestown Massacre and many more. Dhir formed Elephant Stone in 2009 after he left The High Dials. The band began to combine Indian classical music and instrumentation with 1960s pop and rock.

Last night before playing “Don’t You Know” Rishi told the audience that they have been performing that song for exactly 10 years as it was released in May 2009.

The band’s debut album, The Seven Seas, was released June 2, 2009, on Dhir’s own Elephants on Parade label. The album was a long-listed nominee for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize on June 15, 2009.

With the Hindu Om symbol painted on his golden Fender, Rishi appeared serene as he floated onto the stage in bare feet and beaded necklace.  It was when he reached for his sitar and perched onto his bench when the crowd felt the shift.

Although it was past 11:00 when they started their set, they brought great energy and transformed the room into a colorful psychedelic love fest.  With their groovy sound and colorful graphics on large screens, I felt like I was inside some type of Beatles animation.

Before the show, I got to enjoy some very thought-provoking artwork from local artists like Heidi Taillefer.  There was a room with a film projector and beanbags on the floor, screening some crazy, surreal visuals.

There were actually four bands performing that night. The first one being Laurence-Anne N Nao, with ethereal vocals and spaceship synthesizer sound effects, they were very trippy.  The second band was Vinyl Williams, an LA-based multimedia artist, and musician who refers to his style as celestial pop. Dummy Mag describes him as a “retro-futurist with a penchant for analogue noise and sonic transcendentalism”.

And the third band Klaus Johann Globe, a Swiss duo with a very 80’s (disco keyboard) and chillwave sound got the crowd dancing.  It was their first time in Montreal.

Whether you partake in cannabis or hallucinogenics, you don’t need to pop any LSD to enjoy the psychedelic artwork and music being celebrated in Montreal this weekend.   If you’re fed up of all the same old scenes hit Distorsion Psych Fest for something a little…different.

Review – Annette Aghazarian
Photos – Kieron Yates

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