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Molasses: "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." So reads the quote in the Molasses press pack, attributed to an anonymous Canadian playwright. This neo-Beat characterization is so evocative, it's impossible to resist the temptation to reprint it here.

But don't get the idea that Molasses is all about the noisy Bukowskian tumult and jazzy disorder the quote suggests. Confusion and din are a big part of Molasses's approach, but at heart the group is an austere modern folk ensemble built around the wavery, stunningly lyrical vocal ruminations of singer/songwriter and bandleader Scott Chernoff. The bleak, baleful sounds which surround his melancholy crooning are marked by the dissonant string drone of a violin and cello, the lonesome keen of a saw, and the harsh clatter of metal percussion, as well as miscellaneous organs, electronics, and other more or less conventional instruments.

Think of Molasses, perhaps, as a marriage of the aesthetics of Songs: Ohia and Canadian compatriots Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and you get somewhere near the group's core. As a matter of fact, Molasses shares members (as well as a practice and performance space) with Godspeed.

The graceful chaos and measured beauty of Molasses's music is reflected in the stunningly elaborate, handcrafted packaging of their two albums, You'll Never Be Well No More (1999) and Trilogie: Toil & Peaceful Life (2000), each of which come in gorgeous paper sleeves with hand-lettered lyric sheets inside custom envelopes featuring stamps and embossed writing. Talk about the compact disc as a work of art. The two albums, each comprised of just a handful of lengthy songs (most clock in at seven minutes-plus, and "Sleeping Pill Blues," the astonishingly stark post-folk epic which concludes You'll Never Be Well No More, is a half-hour long), are both conceived (at least partly) as emblems of the dilapidated beauty and experimental ethos of Montreal, the city in which they were constructed.