There was a decided chill in the air as Toronto's Wintary blew into the Rancho Relaxo for an evening of minor-key soundscapes.
With the band's unique drummer-less lineup, it was Anthony Lorusso's keyboard that served as the pacer for the performance. His varied array of bloops, bleeps and vocal samples blanketed the set, along with a strong beat and an ever-present tape hiss that might've been intentional or might've been a screw-up from the Rancho's soundman. We'll never know.
Lead singer Serge Slipache's voice was, dare I say, cherubic, and his constant lilt contrasted nicely against the band's otherwise plodding chug. Fellow axeman Peter Denes provided additional muscle to the attack with some foamy guitar work that only added to Wintary's dense sonic stew.
To draw parallels to a band like Wintary is tough. There are elements of the Boards of Canada in there but they're way more guitar-based. There are elements of Mogwai and Tortoise too, but Wintary don't even have a freakin' drummer. The fact that these guys can construct these dramatic, quasi-demonic symphonies without so much as a fill or snare is impressive. Again, I think they were hampered by bad sound this evening, but that was really beyond their control.
Surprisingly, it was the band's more polished moments that really stood out. When they tore into "Commonman" mid-set, it was the first real evidence of anything resembling a pop core in the band's sound, although it's still miles from anything you'd ever hear on commercial radio. Likewise, set closer "Narrows" was perhaps the most orchestral piece of the evening and slowly inched the band closer into Cocteau Twins/Slowdive fuzzcore territory. A well-placed cover of Sonic Youth's "Mildred Pierce" gave further evidence of where these guys were coming from, a place where guitars and keyboards happily copulate and the need for outdated rock 'n' roll conventions is seriously challenged. The laws have changed. Wintary is definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Local singer/songwriter Abigail Lapell warmed up for Wintary, and her sparse folk-based renderings really didn't go over that well, in large part due to the extremely chatty Friday-night crowd. Her voice seemed to waiver between that of Cat Power's Chan Marshall and Natalie Merchant, sometimes in mid-song depending on her needs and wants. Accompanied by some basic but charming chord progressions, her slow, sad waltzes obviously came from the heart, and she gave it the old "college try" in spite of her less-than-sympathetic audience. She might be better suited to the coffee-house circuit, but she earned "mad props" by keeping her composure and putting in a solid set.
Writer: Cameron Gordon