A celebrated Canadian playwright, expatriate of Michigan’s 1960s art underground, wrote upon hearing Molasses for the first time, “…art from the heart…freight trains derailing in the back of somebody’s head while bones rain down from the overpass and cats tied to tin cans tumble over the grating.” That description, with allusions to movement, confusion and din, is an apt introduction to the music that comprises the second Molasses release, Trilogie: Toil & Peaceful Life on Fancy. Following Molasses’ acclaimed debut, You’ll Never Be Well No More, these recordings are lush proof of the band’s unique vision, bruises and all. More bleak, beautiful music: the strange signature marriage of folk-noir with order and disorder, improv and noise; mystery and minimalism with enormous orchestral violence; acoustic and electric instruments creating movements that tie the organic to the experimental; vocal drone and broken poetry which answer Chopin’s adage that “nothing is more odious than music without hidden meaning.”
Trilogie: Toil & Peaceful Life takes the first half of its name from the French word for “trilogy” as a tribute to Montréal, the city in which it was made. The second half is an expression coined by fiercely religious Russian peasants known as Old Believers – or Doukhobors – who were ancestors of Molasses songwriter, Scott Chernoff, and whose belief in salvation through suffering shrouds each of Trilogie’s songs.
With the addition of a new violin player, Molasses’ six original members present three epic-length pieces, with found sounds capturing the spirit and setting the music was conceived in: “Saint Catherine” begins by conjuring the rats of a Montréal morning and ends with a recording of trains in theMont-Royal subway station that bears the city’s name; Lisa’s Waltz (featuring experimental composers Alexandre St-Onge and Martin Arnold on electronics and hurdy-gurdy respectively) chronicles Scott’s emigration from California to Québec and ends with a vintage recording of his great-aunt singing a Russian hymn; and a stunning 14 minute adaptation of Amazing Grace penned by reformed slaver Captain John Newton — continues the theme of the record as a denouncement of history and sin. An untreated recording of the steeple bells at Montréal’s Notre-Dame cathedral acts as a haunting and hypnotic introduction to the trilogy.
The CD and a hand-lettered lyric sheet are packaged in a beautiful forest green triple-gatefold sleeve that is embossed, stickered with Doukhobor portraits and housed in a translucent gold envelope.
Molasses recently returned home from a successful second tour of the United States where it performed with Mick Turner, Pillow, Cerberus Shoal, Shannon Wright and Loren MazzaCane Connors’ Haunted House. The band will begin recording sessions for its next full-length this winter.