Given how saturated Montreal’s sea of top-notch indie acts can be, it’s not really surprising that Suuns were a band I’d always heard a lot about but hadn’t sought out for myself, despite them already being an established Montreal export. That changed on Saturday night at Club Soda, and boy am I glad it did.
Before they’d take the stage, opener Sarah Davachi brought the early birds her noticeably minimalist style of ambient music– a taste you likely would’ve already needed to acquire before watching her. Her set consisted pretty much entirely of one long, droning number that only occasionally saw new notes or changes in arrangement be thrown into the mix. Perhaps not everyone was expecting this going into the show – at least one guy in the crowd cheered and clapped, perhaps sarcastically, while she was still playing – but she was nevertheless well-received by the end of her set; or rather, song.
As the crowd now gets close to capacity, a Bollywood song plays as Suuns take the stage – with their band name in huge, inflatable letters to boot. Running the gamut from Krautrock to post-punk to art-punk and even a ’90s alternative rock edge at times, they made people stand still as if they’re paralyzed and immerse themselves in the music just as easily as they made them sway and groove hypnotically.
Going into this show without much prior knowledge of their sound, the biggest thing standing out to me right off the bat is their penchant for electronic influences. Some guitar licks were reminiscent of synths from acts like Boards of Canada, while other songs had the type of groove and swing you’d expect to hear more often in trip-hop.
Frontman Ben Shemie’s eerily Lou Reed-esque voice shone through even among an array of sometimes dissonant and sometimes hard-nosed guitars, booming bass lines and repetitive drum patterns. The lack of front-facing light during their show would work in their favour as well, accentuating the mysterious and uncompromising nature of their material – which, in retrospect, feels much more lively and intense onstage than on wax.
Although they rarely interacted with the crowd until near the end of their tight-as-a-whistle set, the Secretly Canadian signees still left them utterly mesmerized during their temporary respite from the frigid Montreal weather.