Final Fantasy at the Forum

Michelle gave me Funeral by The Arcade Fire back when we were studying in Beijing and it’s been one of my favourite records ever since.

Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) was behind the string arrangements on that album and I’ve always associated him closely with the Arcade Fire.

This was probably largely due to the first solo record of his I heard being “This is the Dream of Win and Regine”, referencing Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, the husband and wife couple at the heart of the Arcade Fire. Owen’s lyrics suggest perfectly the challenge of sharing music that draws on the intimacy of their relationship with a wider audience.

“But – what if they like it,
And lock us in a cannery with your accordion
Until we canned our love?
We can get along
We can get along

Montreal might eat it’s young
But Montreal won’t break us down”

Before seeing him at The Forum I had cast Owen as a chronicler of the Arcade Fire,  a window into one of my favourite bands. By the end of his brief hour long set that impression was dismantled.

First and foremost he is a virtuoso musician, constructing his songs live by playing brief phrases on his violin, then looping them on top of each other.  Percussive stabs and plucks provide the rhythm for harmonies to be added a layer at a time. I’ve seen a couple of performers build up tracks in performance like that (the best was Thomas Dolby), but normally the layering and sampling is deliberate and signposted, a lesson in creating a song from components – like watching a great chef host a cooking show. Owen is instead a chef absorbed in his kitchen, focused on the taste not the audience. Instrumental constructed he becomes the consumate performer, carrying the melody with his tenor voice.

As he sings Stephanie Comilang accompanies by projecting shadows of cut out shapes onto the back of the stage. Emulating Owen’s music she manipulates layers of paper cut outs to create haunting scenes – the one in the photo below was a house gradually built on the bodies of those who lived there before.

Here’s a lame crackberry shot from the show:

And a couple of songs:

Final Fantasy – This is the Dream of Win and Regine.mp3
Final Fantasy – Sweet Fantasy (Maria Carey cover).mp3

I’d highly recommend going to see them if you get the chance.


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