The brains behind the long running New Music Festival and its indie-laden component, Pop Nuit, have set the bar high. Royal Canoe’s Matt Shellenberg and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Alexander Mickelthwate, armed with keyboards and baton, deliver a line up that will cause even the most apathetic to suit up, brave the cold and enjoy the experimental pop majesty that awaits.
Winnipeg’s veterans of the musical vanguard, Venetian Snares and Mahogany Frog, lead the Pop Nuit pack with a January 25 set at Union Sound Hall, followed by two beasts of musical innovation - Colin Stetson, armed with an array of saxophones, and Hannah Epperson, wielding a violin and loop pedal, at the Millennium Centre on January 31.
“I’m hoping people make it the party to go to that night in Winnipeg,” Shellenberg says. “It’s definitely something that pushes at your ears.”
Stetson’s goal is not to cut you down with his sax. “I don’t go into a concert trying to reinvent anything,” the Michigan-born Quebec resident says. “I’m performing the music that I’ve written, in the way I perform it. I approach every show as a pretty serious endeavour. I think it’s unhealthy to look at things and go out in front of particular audiences and try to prove something.
“I’m thinking about embodying a bunch of different sounds, but I wouldn’t use the term orchestrally, I hate to give a false impression of mimicry. I am thinking about it in terms of multiplicity of sound.”
The Polaris Music Prize nominee says he uses every sound at his disposal.
“All the bits of sounds in the classical world, where people are often trying to mute those sounds, get rid of those extraneous noise, reduce it to pure tone, I decided to focus on that minutiae and enhance it.”
Epperson agrees with and expands upon her showmate’s philosophies.
“A repeated phrase is like a repeated theme in your life, whenever it comes back around, you’re engaging with repetition in a different way, there’s so much human error that gets locked in a loop,” the Vancouverite says. “You have to yield to your own imperfections.”
She trained in classical Suzuki violin theory until she met folk musician Meghan Merker who taught her to play by ear. Finding an unused BOSS RC20XL loop pedal catapulted her into the ranks of Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett.
“My network of colleagues ranges from bluegrass masters to hip hop music producers. The compositions I compose are a true expression of this diversity,” she says. “Purely on a compositional level I’m ready to move onto a new piece of technology. Boundaries are so important for creativity. In that way, the pedal I use has given me such rigid boundaries, I’ve been able to experience this flourishing of creativity I might not be able to with more complex options.”
To the dear people of Winnipeg awaiting these towering saviours, the only blemishes in the tones of Stetson and Epperson are swatches of blood from eardrums that burst as they filled with dreams.
Published in Volume 68, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 22, 2014)