The air was charged in the cozy-cool compass of the Media Club for this double-bill of Montreal-based performers playing Vancouver as part of the Olio Festival.
Nicely though perhaps nervously lighting the way for the eventide was Valleys, an airy pubescent three-piece with noisy shoegaze predilections. At best, their set fleetingly captured or strove for Kevin Shields summits, their occasional breathy boy/girl vocals and swirling sounds making like My Bloody Valentine. Alas, their shyness marred their show. With their backs frequently to the crowd and their faces hidden under their hair, it was difficult to be engaged by their facile fooling around.
When Suuns (pronounced “soons”) shirked to the stage it was clear they owned the room. With an undeniable reptilian dazzle, frontman Ben Shemie controlled the crowd amidst heaps of visual flash and sonic flair. A pell mell faux-Krautrock pastiche, Suuns issued abiding evidence of worshipping at the altar of Neu! and Can inside a hypnotic and spacey prog rock stencil.
The slow build up on choice cuts like “Up Past the Nursery” and “Arena” masterfully detailed how the rise and release of tension—via thrown together dissonance, rhythmic changes, echoes and sonic reverberations—can creep feverishly into their songs, haunting them like garish ghosts. Shemie outdid the band’s eeriness, adding a sinister personage as he whispered and cooed into the mic, his languid movements aping insect and sometimes alien theatrics.
Standout songs (and there were many) included detached and anxious anthems “Sweet Nothing” and “Gaze.” It was at peaks such as these where it might be easy, I imagine, for a strange band with an oddly spelled moniker to be too clever for their own good. But there is, however, a fervency and a sexy glow to Suuns’ cleverness and skills—like finding love in the back seat of a souped up and kitted-out T-bird. Suuns sizzle.