Montreal's Suuns possess a rare trait in rock music: restraint. they use it like an instrument, which makes their debut full-length Zeroes QC as unsettling as it is wonderfully exasperating.
It's immediately apparent in album opener "Armed for Peace," a track that starts off like a robot breaking down in a hot desert; the song's mechanic beat plods like iron-shoed footsteps as the melody of a wheezing synth mirrors, the crackling sound of old transistors and circuitry being cooked in the sun.
It's deceptively lulling, the tension almost unnoticeably wrenching up and up until the track unexpectedly opens into a barrage of nose-diving guitar riffs and crashing drums - yet the band still stays locked on the song's linear, forward-motion direction.
Suuns were born during the summer of 2006 when vocalist/guitarist Ben Shemie and guitarist/bassist Joe Yarmush got together tomake some beats which quickly evolved into a few songs.
The duo were soon joined by drummer Liam O'Neill and bassist/keyboardist Max Henry to complete the line-up.
"I don't think we were really a 'band' for the first year," Ben surmises. It wasn't until a friend helped them procure a spot at Pop Montreal 2007 that he says the group played their first "real gig." Last year, Suuns entered Breakglass Studios with Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes co-producing and engineering, and recorded their first album.
The group wanted to create something that couldn't be pigeonholed as simply indie rock.
"Jace definitely had a huge impact for bringing to life the big sound of the band and being open and willing stretch out any idea we or he had," Ben explains.
The resulting Zeroes QC is a warm yet dark, propulsive collusion of pop, post-punk and experimental rock - one that allows the group to musically shapeshift without losing any of the sense of tension and unease that runs throughout the record.
During tracks like "Gaze," tightly wound guitars and bass ring and buzz atop Liam's metronomic, powerhouse drumming, with Ben's cool, detached vocals acting as a nervy counterweight as he delivers falsely assuring lines like, "Don't you be yourself, you are someone else."Often his close-miced sing/speak is as metronomic as it is melodic; in "Arena" Ben's rhythmic "What-choo, whatchoo"'s are reminiscent of Suicide's Alan Vega as he leads the band's death disco groove into a bloodbath of razor-sharp guitars, while his icy, hushed delivery in "Sweet Nothing" is almost as motorik as the song itself.
Most impressive, though, is how Suuns effortlessly sculptmemorable pop songs fromexperimental building blocks, frequently using noise and space as actual hooks.All of this amounts to a great first album - one that is as timeless as it is thrillingly modern.
SUUNS release their second full-length album, ,Images Du Futur" via Secretly Canadian. After touring North America and Europe extensively throughout 2011, the band spent the winter and spring of 2012 writing & recording in their hometown, Montreal.
Their sessions were concurrent with the Quebec student protests that started in February of 2012 and continued through September of 2012.
Set against a backdrop lead singer Ben Shemie calls "a climate of excitement, hope and frustration," SUUNS aimed for an expansion of the musical ideas on their critically acclaimed first record, "Zeroes, QC".
Lauded especially by Pitchfork and NME, the former saying "few bands this young are operating on quite this scale, and fewer still have the brass-- and the patience-- to pull off a big, glitzy, complex record like Zeroes QC," and the latter declaring them 2011's Best New Band, SUUNS have deepened their approach, using minimalist techniques to create maximalist works.
Produced once again by Jace Lasek from BESNARD LAKES, "Images Du Futur" blasts out of the gate with "Powers of Ten," laying out a sort of manifesto for the record in the very first lines: "Got it together/I read in the paper/all of theses strangers/stranger and stranger.../No, no, no, no, how you try and remember/how all of these pieces/all fit together." Shemie says of the process, "As a band we were trying to look at our music from further and further away, seeing more details in the picture as we expanded the landscape." The first single, "Edie's Dream," starts with a single bass line repeated from which layers build & rise - first drums, then a wash of white noise; echoes of guitar, then chanted vocals.
The song's clever shifts are jazz-touched and delicate, almost subliminal. It all makes for a stark, skeletal boogie - more an astral projection than a song, "Edie's Dream" shows us where SUUNS are headed.
Strict psychedelic jams and a rhythm section squeezed from concentrate are hardly things we’ve come to expect from a release that has Aidan Baker’s name attached to it, but if you’re looking for a way out of his darkened drone tunnel, then Hypnodrone Esemble might just do the job. This release sees the Nadja soundscaper join forces with thisquietarmy’s very own Eric Quach, the duo employing not one, but three drummers, each of whom helps create a hypnotic wall of sound that’s both furiously loud and strictly maintained. Three drummers isn’t quite enough to make a drum circle, but it’s something of a drum triangle, and it totally changes the way these artists’ ambient leanings come across.