Ben Shemie, guitarist and vocalist best known as a key member of Montreal’s art-rock clan Suuns, has strong classical roots, and his influence on Suuns makes this serious wisdom apparent. Desiderata is a solo album, at least as the sole sound creator on display, in which he further explores the textural capabilities of digital manipulations made of fracturing, stretching, saturation and slicing. He also adds pages written for a string quartet, in this case the more than excellent Molinari. We particularly like the passages where the latter becomes the Greek chorus of a drama of increased dimensions. Elsewhere, the Molinari serves as a cushioned support for Shemie’s exploratory digital asperities, or it comments on and even ventures into the terrain of controlled discursive chaos. Shemie paints a panorama of strangeness and entropy, the latter restrained in their unyielding disordered thrust by the structuring force of a precise narrative vision. One imagines oneself on Dune or in Tron, but seen through a series of cracked and distorted mirrors where a soundtrack played on a failing cassette player would cry out some homage to No Wave or to ambient Krautrock. Of course, we’re never far from Suuns either.
That said, and despite the notable presence of Molinari, I would have appreciated it if Shemie had dared even more with them. These musicians are among the best in the world. You have to challenge them, they can take it! But then again, maybe I’m greedy, and who knows, maybe Shemie will want to grant them the honour of being the sole dedicatees and performers of a future composition? We hope so. In any case, here is an open door to a potentially refreshing world of so-called contemporary music, a world where we will finally forget that for too long we have erected alienating barriers between genres called on the one hand ‘scholarly’ and on the other ‘rock’, or ‘electro’.
About Ben Shemie, elsewhere in Pan M 360: