Published Sep 01, 2019La Force's Ariel Engle eased festivalgoers into Festival de musique émergente's third night (August 31) with a soft, subtle and beautiful set. Playing with just a guitar, drums and a single backup singer, she delivered a gorgeous, spacious rendition of "You Amaze Me" — just drums and synth swells buoying her crisp, autumnal voice until her backup singer joined and interacted — and "Lucky One," which was slowed down and imbued with even more intention and yearning than on her self-titled debut record. The backup singer's lilting harmonies felt loose and alive, giving the song layers and dynamism. "Can't Take," about postpartum depression ("a good thing to write a song about") was devastating, and on the more upbeat fare, her drummer shone, keeping up a busy shuffle punctuated by tambourine breaks. It was a set so good I couldn't wait to get home and refresh myself on her excellent LP.
I only caught the end of Koriass's set on the main Desjardins stage, but in front of a DJ booth adorned with a cross, he played such an enthusiastic set that he was called back for an encore, where he spat a dense, a cappella verse that referenced Migos' "Versace." In his main set, he dropped plenty of English phrases, and made a reference to Schoolboy Q; he's clearly a student of hip-hop. He wrapped his set with a classic piano-and-drums boom-bap beat and some crowd interaction, as if to confirm his place in their hearts.
Montreal duo Heartstreets performed a classic '90s R&B sound that referenced TLC and Lauryn Hill, all jazzy Rhodes and record scratches courtesy of their backing DJ and jazzy drumbeats courtesy of a live percussionist behind a kit. Their English lyrics, about having a good time and getting tattoos after heartbreak, rang fairly cheesy, but their vocal interactions — one of their voices was a matter-of-fact alto, the other a higher, more peppery alto-soprano — and melodies showed they have plenty of potential. They seemed young, speaking between songs in French but using phrases like "fuckin' sick."
Later, over at the Petit Théâtre de Vieux Noranda, Montreal's Atsuko Chiba started as they meant to go on, with an assured blast of noise and a strong, rhythmic backbone. Their bass-heavy, industrial-flecked groove hit hard in the theatre, and they seemed to know it; their lead guitarist celebrated at the end of their opening salvo with a fist raised in the air. Their mostly instrumental jams tend to favour the slow and long over the frenetic, but they occasionally got math-y, too, making for good, captivating psych.
Concurrently, Fredericton's Motherhood performed their frenetic post-punk over at Cabaret de la Dernière Chance. Their sound bounces and wobbles — sometimes they're screaming, sometimes they're issuing a jaunty melody. Being hard to categorize is a good thing, but even after seeing most of their set, it was hard to discern exactly what the band are about, but a rubbery theatricality cohered their sound somewhat.
Eccentric Hull veterans Fet.Nat (pictured), the last act of the night and without a doubt the best, started with what sounded like drummer Olivier Fairfield warming up, but then, suddenly, the band were in it, too, triggering samples, shouting vocal experiments and blasting on the largest sax you've ever seen. Part jazz, part noise, part disco-punk, the band are dependent on the expert drummer, in the best way — his ecstatic, unpredictable playing keeps the disparate elements tight and he leads the band with mind-blowing precision; his interaction with lead singer JFNO throughout was equal parts charming and impressive, as they continuously turned on a sonic dime together.
Years and years on the scene have made them the tightest a band can be, with a single word from JFNO in turn triggering Fairfield to begin the next insane composition in perfect sync with the remaining two bandmates. It was a beguiling performance, peppered with joyous breakdowns and soprano sax skronks, the best the festival had seen yet.