May 2011 / Hamilton

‘La Caverne’

Looking back on it, there could not have been a better place for Malajube to perform songs from their new record, La Caverne. We were in a bit of a cavern ourselves, a near empty relic of a half-remembered 1970s dream of what Hamilton could have been. Stretched out over and across the busiest part of King Street West, is an elevated, window-paned walkway, connecting Hamilton Place to the Sheraton Hotel. Even though the walkway straddles a main street, glass gleaming and glinting as you pass from any angle, no one uses it. Inside, the walls are lined with empty display cases.

From the moment Malajube began to file in, they were hugging their instruments. Singer Julien Mineau, and cousin Francis (usually on drums, but on guitar with ease for this performance) never stopped playing, noodling nearly perfectly the entire time. They love to play, and they’re good at it. It’s no wonder Malajube have been as prolific as they have, releasing four, critically acclaimed, full-length albums in seven years; two of which were short-listed for the coveted Polaris music prize—La Caverne may be no different.

After the first performance, we paraded into the hotel, to a similarly cavernous hall and an unappreciated piano. They began playing immediately. We didn’t have much time, or permission. Waiting around the corner, I was approached by a member of the hotel staff, wearing an ill-fitting formal uniform, as unhappy to be worn as the wearer was to wear it. He looked down until it was absolutely necessary to make eye contact, and said, “You have permission, right?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Oh yeah.”

The empty halls reflected Julien’s effortlessly breathy, far-from-a-whisper vocals, adding a natural reverb that rivals that of the record. Julien, Francis, bassist Mathieu Cournoyer, and keyboardist Thomas Augustin, only spoke English when necessary, which makes an important point. You won’t find one word of English on La Caverne, or any of their previous albums. English isn’t necessary to enjoy the music of Malajube, or music of any kind. In fact, it makes for a more immersive experience, where you have free reign to make your own meaning, like a foreign-language love story where you write your own subtitles. Je’ t’aime.

— John Acres

Videos by Mitch Fillion