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01 Nov 04

memphis: like stars, except entirely different

friday night was exhausting. the initial plan was to head to toronto at between 5:30 and 6, and then head to the rivoli for the memphis CD release show at around 10 or so. the only problem with the plan was that 4 stops on the way to toronto = a very late arrival, so we didn’t make it to the show until after 10:30.

the first band of the night, torngat, were on stage when we arrived. i’d never heard of them, but they’re a 3 piece with french horn, keys and drums. part of me was optimistic, thinking it was a unique combination, but most of me thought that it could very well turn out badly. thankfully, the optimist in me was right – torngat were very cool, and the drummer/percussionist was pretty amazing. their songs were entirely instrumental, with complex time changes and some interesting experimentation – who knew you could make sounds like that with a french horn and some pedals and switches? i quite like the description on their website: texture based improvisation, melodic composition, simple yet intricate energy music. it’s quite apt.

now, if torngat had led into memphis, it would’ve been a perfect night. unfortunately, chris dumont (of memphis)’s old buddy john hyde also played a set. his music was exactly why i usually don’t like solo guitar players as much as a full band – his songs were essentially all the same, with no complexity or catchiness. by the end of his set i was struggling just to stay awake.

thankfully, memphis brought me back to life. they got off to a bit of a shakey start (in spite of torq’s cryptic yet endearing introduction), with 7 people trying to figure out how to align themselves on stage. apparently they’d had only one rehearsal ahead of time – memphis is officially just torquil campbell (of stars) and chris dumont, but they assembled a group of musicians from toronto, montreal, new york and vancouver to play the show. it turned out quite well in spite of their lack of experience (it was apparently one member’s first time on stage – torq closed the show by telling us this, and stating “she has no idea what she’s doing”).

seeing them live made me appreciate the richness and layeredness of their album even more. a lot of the songs were essentially dense soundscapes, and they even remembered to include the chirping birds from the album. what i hadn’t realized previously was how many of their songs have no drumming at all – i found that interesting, although i did find that john hyde was a far better drummer than he was a solo performer. the banter between songs was also quite funny, with a highlight being the story of how torq stole the suit he was wearing from a store in sweden – just for us. i was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t play the phone call from the good day sailing ep, but i guess that wouldn’t have been quite the same without amy millan – and hey, that’s what stars shows are for anyway. they did break out their pet shop boys cover of love comes quickly, so i guess it all evens out.

all in all, as torq promised, they sent us home with good dreams.

One Response to “memphis: like stars, except entirely different”

  1. 1
    Switching To Glide Says:

    Torquil Campbell’s plot to dominate my stereo

    I have a theory that Torquil Campbell doesn’t want me to listen to any music released by anyone else this month. First he releases I Dreamed We Fell Apart from with Memphis project, in which he’s paired up with his…

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Pronunciation: 'ch&mp
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps blend of chunk and lump
Date: 1883

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