S. Carey + Gordi + Cedric Noel @ Bar le Ritz PDB – 1st April 2180

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S. Carey Montreal

Bar Le Ritz PDB was one of the first places I was told about when I asked about small music venues upon moving here. New to Montreal and unwilling to go too far out of my Anglophone comfort zone, I didn’t make it out there until 3.5 years later, when S. Carey played last night.

The night began with Cedric Noel, an Ottawa-based singer/songwriter, who will soon be moving back to Montreal. He performed his set, just him and his guitar. His deep, somewhat gruff voice pairs interestingly with his guitar, but it wasn’t entirely unique. His songs were also pretty simplistic. While not unenjoyable, it wasn’t the striking start to the evening that I was hoping for.

Gordi came on next, and she wasn’t exactly what I expected. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Gordi emerged onto the scene with her stunning covers of Bon Iver’s “00000 Million” and Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener.” She released her debut record Reservoir last summer after working with Sean Carey (S. Carey) and his band in Wisconsin.

She has a stunning voice, which she applies to beautifully written songs. The highlights of her set for me were her cover of “Avant Gardener” and her original song “Heaven I Know.” Courtney Barnett has this amazing way of writing songs, complete with sarcasm, extended metaphors, and a stream of conscious. Gordi changes the way you listen to the song, changing the deadpan delivery of the song with her soulful voice, which adds a certain amount of emotion to the song. I hadn’t appreciated the sense of melancholy and hopelessness in the song until I heard Gordi’s version.

“Heaven I Know” is a really beautiful song. In it, she uses a looping pedal to layer her voice and these small, unique sounds that add a distinct character to the song. For the first half of the song, you hear her count “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2.” She layers small noises into the songs before singing the main verse. Performed live, the looping is incredible and her voice is stunning. She also brings in an autotune effect to the song. It added a distinct layer to the loops, but her voice is so beautiful that it seemed a shame to distort it.

Gordi then introduced S. Carey and his band, who she’d be playing with. They began with “Rose Petals,” the first track of their most recent record Hundred Acres. It has all the elements that I loved about S. Carey when I first heard him, his soothing voice, quiet yet complex instrumentals. He started with songs off of his new album. The drums of “Yellowstone” and “True North” could be felt in your soul. They take a backseat on the record but live, due to the small venue, you can feel the vibrations from the drums change the rhythm at which your heart is beating. However, they don’t distract you away from other elements of the songs.

The quieter songs, like “Emery” and “Chrysalis” provided an entirely different experience. The soundscapes weren’t more complicated, but you got to hear different subtleties from them. Gordi’s voice in the background was a great addition, and when they played her song “I’m Done,” which features S. Carey on the record, she figuratively came out of the unfortunate pocket of darkness that she’d been standing in, due to the terrible lighting of the stage.

They were constantly switching instruments, trading with each other. And by the end of the night, it felt as though Sean Carey had played every instrument on the stage. Between each song, they had this way of filling up the room with these beautiful sounds that complemented the tuning of a guitar or adjustment of the drums. There were a lot of unique ways that they had adapted their acoustic beginnings to fit with the electronic age that we’re living in, including having a drum pad within their drum kit.

The show ended up being quite long, leading me to wonder after if two openers was really necessary. But during the show, I didn’t notice the length, having even the time in between songs filled with beautiful and unique sounds. While not the conventional way to spend Easter, it was as beautiful a way to welcome spring as any.

Review – Rhodes Ford

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