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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
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Marvellous Mashup

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday June 11, 05:44 pm
This unique collaboration has worked out wonderfully

 SUUNS AND JERUSALEM IN MY HEART

Saturday 20

Amigos

Montréal’s dark, electro art-rock band Suuns and electronic sound artist Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, also known as Jerusalem in my Heart, started working together after Moumneh did live sound for Suuns on a lot of their European tours. They had a mutual respect for what each other did, so when the opportunity to grab some studio time together came up, they started collaborating on rough sketches for songs.

We just thought it would be a cool idea to try and make some music together,” says Ben Shemie, singer and guitarist for Suuns, of the alliance. “There wasn’t really an intention, certainly at the beginning, to make an album or anything like that. We thought we’d record some songs, maybe we’d do a show. We’ll see where it goes. We didn’t have high expectations for the project.”

It took several years to bring the album Suuns and Jerusalem in my Heart to fruition, mostly because both acts were busy with their own schedules. The result is an excellently conceived cross between what each brings to the table, not at all feeling like the elements are shoehorned in. There’s the motorik, kosmische krautrock vibe that Suuns sometimes carries, meshing with Moumneh’s Middle Eastern sounds, but all well-placed within spacey movements that help with transitions. It sounds as spontaneous as a bunch of guys screwing around in a studio, but also refined, as if a lot of thought has been put into its construction.

A lot of the Arabic singing and poetry that Radwan brought to it has pushed us in a different direction,” says Shemie. “And we learned a lot from that. [Radwan is] someone who doesn’t really work in a band setting; he’s kind of a solo artist. This project has allowed him to play in a group where he can have a much bigger sound and maybe a little rock ‘n’ roll thing that he wouldn’t normally do. So, for both of us, it’s been a really great learning experience, and because we get along so well, it’s really been a pleasure to do the whole thing.”

I ask Shemie why they chose to call themselves Suuns and Jerusalem in my Heart, rather than using a new name.

That’s a good question,” he says. “We thought about doing that because it would be easier from a booking point of view. Less conflict. We thought about it for a minute, but it just didn’t make any sense. It didn’t seem… right. Because it doesn’t feel like a new band, that we started a new band, that it happens to be all of us plus this other guy. It feels like us playing with Radwan and Radwan playing with us. You know what I mean? It’s a collaboration, not a new project.”

The live show will be especially fascinating, because they have to find a balance between playing the songs as they appear on the album and improvising. Not only is there a lot of room in the songs to stretch their legs, but there are also sections where there’s not a lot of defined endings to certain parts, so they have to play it by feel on stage. Add to that the fussy nature of some of the equipment they’re using.

A lot of it’s analogue instruments doing that sort of synthesized basslines and stuff,” Shemie says, “which is its own finicky world, and that occasionally dictates a lot of what we’re playing because it’s out of control or not working very well. So we’re trying to play to the machine, in some ways, which is actually sort of fun. It makes it different every night.”

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