I pay attention when I hear murmurs of a band made up of voice, electric guitar, drums and French horn. There’s something strapping in a lineup like this; the ability for spareness, noise, and melody. The Luyas launched their first album a couple of weeks ago and I was there in the room. Fronted by Jessie Stein – who plays in the live incarnation of last week’s profilees, Miracle Fortress , – The Luyas consist of Stein, drummer Stefan Schneider (Bell Orchestre), and hornman Pietro Amato (Bell Orchestre, Torngat, Arcade Fire). Stein’s vocals fall somewhere between the hush of Julie Doiron and the squeak of Joanna Newsom or Christine Fellows – but everything’s cast a little darker, more sylvan, by the washes and crashes of her accompanists. It’s a combination of singer-songwriter tropes and avant-garde flourishes that most strongly recalls Les Mouches, the violin-acoustic guitar-drums band where Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett got his start. Like Les Mouches, The Luyas move easily from sweetness into noise – pretty songs that tremble with a kind of mortality.
In some ways they epitomize the strengths of Montreal’s current indie scene. Stein’s hesitant pop songs gain an enormous depth from Amato and Schneider’s experiences with instrumental music. The drums shatter, skitter and bang; while sometimes the French horn follows the vocals, elsewhere it charges in other directions or swells to abrupt crescendo. All of this helps to paint the emotional life resident in Stein’s words: confused, fierce, full-feeling.
“Flickering Lights (Will Likely Fail You)” makes Stein’s pessimism pretty clear, but it’s filled as well with a messy, playful spirit. “I don’t know just how it is wrong / but I know it’s wrong!” she announces. There are stop-start drums and forward-pressing brass, and then the sudden boom-bam-CRASH of band at full steam. They go away, then they come back, and make mouth sounds like rockets flying.
“Dumb Blood”, meanwhile, is the sound of a girl who’s sad and a little lonely – this even though she knows “[she’s] fine”. And beside her cymbals crash, horns hope, and she moves – gradually, tentatively, – towards the place where she moves on, scampering into dawn.
AjiSignal is a magazine
about new music in cities.