Three great sets on the final night of Tone Festival
July 6, The Baby G
BY MILES FORRESTER
The tall man with turned-up pants and an alto saxophone takes care, adjusting the neck and reed of his instrument. Its open case was tucked under a table arrayed with pedals, samplers, and a tambourine angled on another module. There's one projector and eight hexagonal lights made of every primary colour. Two drum kits sit behind and beside him, and one open can of a session IPA at his feet. His name is Jeremy Dennis. His bandmate Cyril Penney joins him. They're SurrealSurreal, from Toronto, playing their first gig as a duo. We're at the Baby G, and this is the last night of the TONE Festival's first year returning from the pandemic.
The still life I described earlier encapsulates the entire show. As with most noise shows, every band's instrument is just there. When SurrealSurreal takes the stage, Penny gets behind his electronics, and Dennis picks up some drumsticks. An old sci-fi film sample pipes in from somewhere, and they build a bed of churning organ drones under very insistent drumming. Dennis plays a kind of oompah polyrhythm, and when he drops a stick, he hits the hi-hat more intently in his recovery. And they switch. Penney takes the kit, playing with a more liquid delivery while Dennis improvises on his effect-pedalled-Saxophone. It's an excellent debut for this duo, and I'd be excited to see them again.
Next, jamie branch and Jason Nazary of Anteloper take the stage next. They're the headliners, playing partly to promote their new album, Pink Dolphins, available on Bandcamp. branch makes loops with vocal coos, and Nazary plays the drums conversationally, ever present, ever complimentary to the aqueous rhythms inherent in sampling. They're the ones that the projector's for, and there's something new for the whole hour: 70's carpet patterns, an ibex, a kiwi-bird, and a tortoise in tie dye. Anteloper themselves are silhouettes; we only see the shadow of branch's trumpet bell as it envelops the microphone.
branch plays the trumpet in various ways: hard bop flourishes, fusion-era Miles Davis explorations, staccato jabs which she samples and stretches as she modulates the playback; the music feels densely populated. Their extensive synth palette splashes organ patches against Sonic the Hedgehog's power-ups that cascade and cascade till we're in the middle of the kind of climax one finds in minimalism. That
climax is a whorl of an angular arpeggio surrounding a spoken sample: "I really don't know if there's time to do what we need to do, I mean it's possible…"
As the last act of the trio, Chiquita Magic's music gets a lot of drama from a simple setup, two small synths turned all the way up and an ancient Casio Latin-rhythm with which she conducts the crowd masterfully by dialling up and drawing back the tempo. Still, we're all so happy we keep a sure footing as her soprano voice explores the boundaries of some lovely, crunchy jazz changes. Wrapping up a set that closed the night and the festival, she chuckles, "this is the TONE Fest afterparty." The organiser, Karen Ng, dances triumphantly in the centre, and everyone joins in. "This is a Cumbia," she acquiesces when the audience demands an encore, and we keep dancing for the first time in a while.