Montreal foursome Beast returned to Toronto as the openers on the Canadian tour dates for You Say Party We Say Die. Formed as an experimental project at the beginning of this year, their previous appearance here in June at NXNE won them a glowing review in Chart Magazine.
Playing on a Sunday night in this city is a hard pull off for any band, established or not (with the exception of Madonna of course, but then who GAF). Arriving at Wrongbar around 10pm, the bar had a good size crowd on hand. It was a rather odd mix of local music scenesters, indie kidz, and college heads, so I was curious to see who was there to see who.
Beast took the stage, quickly grabbed everyone by the harmonic juggler, and didn't let go. The two core members Jean-Phi Goncalves and Beatrice (Betty) Bonifassi began this current project as something of an experiment. Goncalves approached Bonifassi after being mesmerized by her ethereal vocals while working with DJ Champion, as well as her contributions to the Oscar winning soundtrack for Les Triplettes de Belleville. They've since added guitarist Serge Nakauchi-Furrier and "keytar" playing bassist Jonathan Dauphinais.
What began with some lyrics about the devil, has now morphed into a full length 10-track CD being released next month. The haunting vocals of Bonifassi resonate on top of the pulsating drum rhythms of drummer, composer and producer Goncalves. Both originally hailing from France, and now calling Montreal home, these two accomplished musicians are not new to the scene.
Chatting beforehand, I had the opportunity to dip inside the minds of the Beast. "From our initial meeting we set the mood to build a full-length album", Bonifassi states. She likes to refer to their sound as "Trip Rock" the phrase invoking the way haunting choirs and glitchy electronic bits run underneath saw-toothed bass and grinding guitars. Think Portishead meets Rage Against the Machine, melding the spirit of rap, rock, and slam poetry with bellowing soul. Goncalves lends his vocals to two tracks, which were recorded with the intention of having someone else replace them later, but Bonifassi dug the contrast and texture and convinced him to record the songs as is. For the most part, Bonifassi wrote the lyrics and Goncalves wrote the music.
They seem to be developing as more of a conceptual project at the moment, with the album and live performances drawing on their appreciation for melancholic verses of singers from the 1920's and 30's. "Visuals are created through the music, much like reading a book", Bonifassi explains. The self-titled CD is a dark mood-obsessed journey that begins with 'Devil' as the opening track, 'Satan' as the closer, and a soundtrack of cinematic imagery developed in between - all performed on stage with finesse.
When Bonifassi finally let go of the audience, her John Coltrane inspired vocals most likely remained in the minds of those who departed before the headliners took the stage.
CD is available on iTunes as of November 4th and in stores on November 18th. Lead single is Mr. Hurricane.
Writing and photography by guest contributor Bryen Dunn.
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