On October 18, I arrived out of breath, out of sorts, at the Ecclessiax Church, home of Gallery Recording Studio in the Glebe for Saturnfly’s release of their forthcoming album Cyborg’s Lament. It had been a long, chilly Saturday reminding me of what awaits. All anyone could hope for is to feel warm and taken away on a journey.
Entering the foyer the building was awash in the reverberation of the electro-ambient guitar of Shane Whitbread, the evening’s opening set. A cool calmness began to spread over as the atmospheric tones crept from the shadows of the dark hallway leading to the studio. I gathered myself and ventured forth, greeted by Lou Le Blanc, master of the Moog Bass for Saturnfly, gently ushering me to my seat next to a little green alien. The venue was cozy, what I can best describe as my 8th Grade music class, with a capacity that could not reach triple digits. We were seated in rows gathered around the main stage with couches resting against the wall. The room had a feel of familiarity and the small, confined space sent splendours of sound bouncing off the walls.
Across the room in the deep corner Shane Whitbread wielded a guitar with a pedal board creating progressive ambient sounds layered on top of another, with no pause, no break, like a fog it enveloped everyone with a steady stream of echoing through like a mantra. My grip on reality started to fade, taken to another world away from the small room in the Glebe through the trembling sounds of a spaceship rumbling above. On this evening Shane’s ruminating guitar prepared us for our descent to a post-apocalyptic world of a Cyborg’s Lament.
Shortly after intermission Saturnfly, composed of Stefan Arthur Kiss on Guitar and vocals, Mea Arthur Kiss, cellist and vocals, Lou Le Blanc on the Moog syntheziser and Mina Messiha on Drums, were joined on the stage by Dorianne Emmerton, author of a novella inspired by the album of the same title, Cyborg’s Lament. The show was a multidisciplinary display of art, literary elements amplified by emotive post-rock shrouded in sparkling of green and red fog emanating from jars. The set was accompanied by Dorianne reading three excerpts of her novella to set the tone.
The performance was deeply inspired and executed flawlessly. The room was alive, the emotionally-charged space froze everyone in the moment, strapped into Saturnfly and Dorianne Emmerton’s journey of sorrow and space travel. As Dorianne painted literary picture, Saturnfly made it come alive portraying the actions and emotions of Samza, the protagonist in Dorianne’s novella, rising and falling with bridges converting despair to rage and back to sadness. The band provided complex layers as an allegory to Samza’s emotional state dragging the audience along with moments of calmness shattered by headstrong pulsing bass lines sliced through by the sharp sounds of the cello before coming to rest once more. Each song possessed its own micro-arc, supplementing the entire arc of the performance.
In combining the reading and tracks from the forthcoming album, Saturnfly was able to take the audience to a desolate future. The first two tracks, “Cyborg’s Lament” and “Down Slow,” set the mood as we plunged deeper with the raw visceral emotion felt on tracks such as “Breaking New Ground” and “Caves” — trapped in the mind of Samza only to be released by the fervent applause that preceded each performance.
Each song rips from its primordial ooze, changing from an atavistic form to rise full and complex. Cyborg’s Lament is a patterned spiral displaying the doom of hopelessness and the rage it incites until we are guided out through rocky journey with the band’s last song. After following the perils of Samza, the outro set everyone’s mind and body at ease transitioning out of the darkness of lament into the guiding light of hope.
At its conclusion, the audience was not ready to end their evening. The applause would not cease until the band provided an encore, “Secret to Saturn,” a 2013 special release; the predecessor to the awing experience. Stefan and Mea thanked all those in attendance and showered praise on those who had made the show possible. Side by side, Stefan and Mea once more exhibited the strong interplay capping a transcendental experience with her rich vocals as Stefan strummed along to the end.
Saturnfly’s Cyborg’s Lament is scheduled to be released on October 31st.