You've got to hand it to those French Canadians for their fierce independence. The Quebecoise keep pushing for secession, and the Montrealites keep making confounding music. And the Montrealites in question make Feu Therese a post-rock supergroup of sorts. Take the guitarist from Fly Pan Am and the bassist from Shalabi Effect, add a manic synth player and a drummer from the Nick Mason school, and agitate until frothy. Despite the occasional ambient leanings of the musician denizens of Montreal's prolific Mile-End neighborhood, Feu Therese is an avant-rock powerhouse, rarely drifting along soothingly, more likely tearing the heavens asunder with circular tribal drum patterns, guitars that shimmer like sunspot static, and synthesizers run amok. Probably the most fun thing about the French-Canadian avant-rock pioneers is their sense of absurdity, akin to their French cinematic counterparts, as best evidenced by artists like Fly Pan Am and Et Sans (and as opposed to the unabashed dourness and moribundity of peers like Godspeed You Black Emperor! and A Silver Mt. Zion). Feu Therese begins with a rumble of thunder and a three-and-a-half minute slow-build of careening synth swell which threatens to explode at any moment. Just when the listener begins to think they're in for a "difficult" listen, the track dissolves into a lumbering, organ-driven groove perfect for a backdrop to the go-go dancing scene in an obscure psychedelic movie, until an atonal guitar lick shatters the mood and cheesy '80s Moog-ish keys take the whole scene for a ride on the Disneyland Electric Parade. The second track is a study in dissonance where heavily overdriven guitar and bass manage to simultaneously mesh with and destroy the tom-heavy rhythm, while distorted vocals shriek and grind in the background. As is common with songs like these, at about the four-minute mark, the track abruptly stops and starts all over again, this time with a more martial beat, to slowly disintegrate under its own weight. The third track surprises with a flowing tom pattern, droney bass, and tremoloed guitar accompanied by loungey French vocals and a chorus of cheeky "ooohs" and "aaahs." Again the bliss is shattered midway by a galloping rhythm and splatters of guitar feedback. Track four is a dreamy soundtrack to an imaginary '80s sci-fi flick, again imploding at midpoint into a minimalist sax duet which then takes the rest of the track into spaghetti western territory (bringing to mind fellow Canucks Do Make Say Think). And the last track indulges in 12-plus minutes of chaos, beginning with synth doodles and field recordings of strange squawks that are either the mating calls of demented seagulls or French school children on acid, then taking flight on a propulsive motorik drone-groove that would fit seamlessly on either Pink Floyd'a Ummagumma or Can's Ege Bamyasi. In 50 years or so, music like this will be considered timeless for its perfect amalgamation of the forward-thinking endeavors of many diverse generations, from
'50s John Cage-ian minimalism through '60s Floydian psychedelia, '70s Krautrock, '80s Glenn Branca-esque no wave, the '90s post-rock of their contemporaries, and their own respective outfits, and beyond. And we have Canada to thank for it.