Reviews

Hexes and Ohs + Code Pie

Erik Lejion

Sounds from the Montreal Underground: Another wave of Canadians is coming for your throne...

Hexes and Ohs + Code Pie

Hexes and Ohs + Code Pie

City: Montreal
Venue: Main Hall
Date: 2006-01-07

My apologies if the Montreal music scene seems a bit full of itself lately. It's always produced a steady stream of talented bands, but ever since groups like the Arcade Fire, the Stills, and Wolf Parade broke through to international audiences, Montreal acts have become a little dizzy with the attention. They've heard what Spin magazine and the New York Times have to say about the scene, and the words "the new Seattle" - not to mention the "Next Williamsburg" -- have been bandied about an awful lot. Of course, for Montreal bands Code Pie and Hexes and Ohs, it's unlikely the attention has fazed them�yet. Code Pie was the opener on this double bill at the city's Main Hall, a hole-in-the-wall venue located in the Mile End area of the city. The sextet has already been the recipient of a ringing endorsement from CBC radio, which called it the next great Montreal band, implying that it is set to follow in the footsteps of the Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. The group's music doesn't really have much to do with either act, but the line still reads well.


Code Pie
Without hearing the music, the setup at least might remind an audience member of the Arcade Fire -- the group does feature a cellist (Rebecca Lessard) and a trumpet player (Eva Boodman). Their style is off the map, changing from song to song. The principal characteristic of each tune is the interplay between Eva's trumpet -- which is the defining sound of the band -- and singer Enzo Palermo's charismatic vocals. Palermo began the 35-minute set by playing the guitar, but concentrated almost entirely on vocals after the third song -- also stopping at points to play percussion on a bucket. It was without the guitar that his unusual dancing style and theatrical delivery became noticeable. He was a confident performer, but otherwise didn't speak very much to the crowd. The band never took itself too seriously and their music remained fairly accessible. Code Pie's sense of humor and irreverence also showed up in its lyrics, like on their faux-lounge slacker anthem, "Cement Truck": We're the weakest team in town/ and I'm feeling like a crutch/ Got to be in bed before dawn/ 'cause I've got an important lunch. Electro-pop duo Hexes and Ohs -- also a well-known player on the local scene -- was the evening's headliner. They have an album in stores, Goodbye Friend, Welcome Lover, and on this night were premiering their first music video, for a song called "Whadaya Know?". The band cites New Order and the Pet Shop Boys as influences, and the correlation between their music and the electronic music of the '80s is undeniable. The duo -- Heidi Donnelly and Edmund Lam -- are as close to retro as you can get without being a tribute act. Behind their electronic soundboards they were playing their favorite style of music, but with a twist. The video seemed to indicate that their songs would be catchy and danceable, but their material ended up being pretty ambient. The songs' mid-tempo nature made them feel like an electronic Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky. That may be an extreme comparison, but the atmospheric, almost dark, nature of their music came as a bit of a shock. The band's lead vocalist seems to have a fairly weak voice, but such delivery is intentional -- his vocals are meant to remain in the background while the electronic elements take center stage. The act ended its set with "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" by the Pet Shop Boys. One of the group's best qualities is the way that it embraces and utilizes technology to maximize its image and performance. The aforementioned video, directed by Stephane Fournier, looked great, and the band used projections during the live set that captured its dreamy-electro sound perfectly. What's left to be seen is if they capture the world's hearts just as easily. Better watch out New York; they're gonna give it a go.

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