Fans of modern dub and experimental reggae who have not yet had the good fortune to see Portland, Oregon's Systemwide perform live now can at least get a general idea of what they're missing with this fine live recording made at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in July of 2002. Since even in the studio the band focuses on performing live without using MIDI or sequencing, its cohesion and sense of groove are almost unshakeable; yet interestingly, the group's sound comes across as a bit cooler and more relaxed in this live setting than in the studio. Highlights of Live at the Festival de Jazz de Montreal include a great rendition of "Dub Plate" (originally heard on the Pure and Applied album), which features a sharp aggro groove under a laid-back melodica part, and the exquisite "Réclame," which should be used as a master class in the practice of live dub. It includes tastefully rendered samples of Dennis Brown vocals and some fine French singing by band vocalist Ezra Ereckson. Also worth mentioning is the slow and darkly swinging "Gilgamesh," which closes the program. If you must choose between this album and Systemwide's studio work, the studio material is probably the best place to start. But no fan should hesitate to pick this one up as well.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson