August 2016

Page 69


Ghostly Hounds

Montreal WitchFolk Quartet Plays Espresso Joya By Kirsti Salmi


hostly Hounds’ music is the equivalent of a chill up your spine when crossing the River Styx, and I mean that as a high compliment. There’s something very spectral and ethereal about this quartet from Montreal. “I’d like to take you inside, show you my light/Of course my darkness as well, it’s where I hide my spells,” vocalist Francesca Daoust croons on “Crone,” oscillating between dramatic sirenhighs and jazz lounge-low growls with dazzling range. “You must swear to the sky once you come inside/You will open to meet me,

and surrender completely.” It’s less a request than a demand—and damned if the audience doesn’t oblige as the Hounds cast their spell over Espresso Joya on July 6. It’s hard to resist when they open with “A Cliff,” an otherworldly, slow-burning exercise in enchantment. There’s a haunted, smoky feel to the Hounds’ blend of jazz and folk. The jazz seems to simultaneously spill from Bourbon Street bars on muggy New Orleans nights, and simmer in Montreal speakeasies in the dead of winter. The folk treads vaudevillian ground while

ambling toward Faustian deals on dusty Southern roads. There’s just no sufficient way to categorize this sound, and that speaks volumes of its stunning originality. But here’s the headline: it’s sultry, it’s fresh, and once it takes hold of you, you’re bound to be hooked. Headed on a cross-country summer tour, Ghostly Hounds played their first Thunder Bay show after recording a segment for LU Radio. Daoust is backed by Matthew Dorfman on double bass, Suzanne Stirling on trumpet and mandolin, and Zafer Zephyr on cello and viola, and they possess

intuition and chemistry that’s been tightly honed in an impressively short period of time: the band only started playing together last autumn. They cranked out an EP with four original tunes, and boast more new material on their tour which we’ll hopefully hear on an upcoming LP. While they provide a few covers to flesh out their setlist—a stunning rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “When I’m Low, I Get High” and bawdy oldie “Come Take a Trip in My Airship”—their originals stand bold and confident, refusing to be overshadowed.

“Feels like you’re seeping into my bones/And I don’t know whether to run or call it home,” Daoust muses as she draws us in. It’s hard to know if she’s speaking to a lover or reading our minds, because it’s hard to shake the Ghostly Hounds spell once it’s in your blood. Luckily, you’ll have another chance to find out for yourself when they stop in Thunder Bay on their way back to Montreal this summer. Be warned: they may just be the ultimate in aural seduction.

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