Nadja / Black Walls / thisquietarmy Geary Lane, Toronto ON, December 20

Nadja / Black Walls / thisquietarmy Geary Lane, Toronto ON, December 20
Photo: Rick Clifford
Approaching Geary Lane, a new venue that shares a street with industrial buildings and wholesale exporters, one expects a warehouse show and all the cheerfully courted filth and discomfort that comes along with that. But the space itself is surprisingly lovely, with high ceilings and a massive, projection-friendly screen behind the stage space, lots of seating and plenty of room to move. So, a sophisticated warehouse space, which was eerily appropriate for a drone show that brilliantly balanced the visceral with the intellectual, the mechanical with the emotive.
Solo, experimental drone project thisquietarmy from Montreal, QC started the night off with a thoughtful, surprisingly moving set. The intensely prolific mastermind behind the project, Eric Quach, took the shivering textures of Cascadian black metal and smudged them, making the gentle, dappling effects somehow more harsh and hard-edged. The set seemed to throb and shift through the smoke hanging heavily in the air, striking and withdrawing, and the moment the set ended, an unexpected tension was released like a relieved sigh.
Black Walls, the solo project of singer Kenneth Reaume, performed a set that was less intense and muscular, but more vulnerable and raw. There was something beatific, almost sacred about the way the performing sang, eyes closed and face turned up as if in supplication, often performing on his knees. The loops and layering of his voice were by far and away the most compelling aspect of the sound, both plaintive and powerful by turns, long smooth coils of loveliness occasionally broken by a catch like the edge of a magnificent sob.
Nadja, whose wall-of-sound performances are notoriously overwhelming, did something different again: while the other two performers went right for the heart, the doom duo of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff were interested in going after the rest of their audience's bodies. The undulating, shockingly dense and eerily intelligent wall of noise crawled and reverberated through bone and skin, turning bodies into echo chambers. There is nothing quite like feeling a song shift through a body as it loops through its elliptical narrative, first echoing through your chest before feeling out the resonance in your head, before finally seeming to melt and seep into the floor. It's a deeply tactile experience that is at once transformative and sublime.