Editor’s note: A couple months ago, we sent Caile to see Clara Engel. Clara’s a local Montreal artist whose talents spread over making documentaries, artwork and music. She’s been gaining a lot of steam in the scene, and we’re not surprised (as you’ll read below). This wonderful artist matches her work with her passions beautifully. Her music is brilliantly composed… and make you beg for more. Haven’t seen her yet? Well, don’t fret… because you can this week.
We know there’s lots going on, and your cousin or mother or lover (or whoever) is in town, and you’ve also become the guide for the “tour de Montreal”, but that’s no excuse. Trust me, I’ve gotten out of those situations, so I know you can too. Anyway, don’t be a junkie (my new slang word for people who just sit around and do nothing/lazy-farters/”too-cool”/hide in their houses doing drugs), and come out Friday to see Clara perform as part of the Infringment Festival, at L’Escalier (522 St-Catherine Street East).
Now, here’s the review…
First of allâ€¦that voice, that voice, that voice.
Clara gets on stage in the dim room and I’m already pretty stoned. She takes the stage with this big blue hollow body guitar obscuring most of her androgynous self, fiddles with a few peddles, then stands and opens her mouth. The room is so silent that even whispering is rude. Clara says, “The last show I played was really talkey, so this is nice.” You couldn’t talk through something like this and get the point.
Her style on the guitar can only be compared to Joni Mitchell, and I’m surprised her fingers weren’t lacerated from playing what she did. It was that haunting. Her minimalist guitar-playing called to mind tragic, possessed forests and nights lost pacing your apartment until sunrise with a messy head. With a voice that snuffed itself out only to rise again into chilling crests of soprano sound, Clara Engel had complete control of her entire set.
At one point, she introduced a song as one she’d never played before, sang a bar, and then interrupted herself. “Hold on,” she said, “I want this to be good.” Not complete control, perhaps. But restarting the song was a good idea; she found the groove and then it was good (there was one song in there that I didn’t care for, which sounded like an 80s hair metal song. It reminded me of Heart, or whatever that ugly band was).
Engel probably could have benefited from a full band behind her, or at least the backbone of some bass and a little percussion. That being said, she really held her own on the guitar. It was obvious she was going for a very stripped down, haunted and whispery sound, and achieved it successfully with heaps of reverb on the vocals, and a shitload of bedeviled guitar sound!
Here’s more of Clara’s for your perusal…
Aaron Mirkin’s Documentary