“This record is definitely looser than our last one,” says Suuns singer/guitarist Ben Shemie. “It’s not as clinical. There’s more swagger.”
You can hear this freedom flowing through the 11 tracks on Felt, from Look No Further’s dramatically loping, surrender-to-the-soil skeletal rock – “Our minimalist overture,” notes Shemie – to the climactic bleep ’n’ bliss-out of pocket symphony Materials, which finds his vocoder-treated voice floating deliriously amid cavernous inner space. It’s both a continuation and rebirth, the Montreal quartet returning to beloved local facility Breakglass Studios (where they cut their first two albums with Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes) but this time recording themselves at their own pace, over five fertile sessions spanning several months. A simultaneous stretching out and honing in, mixed to audiophile perfection by St Vincent producer John Congleton (helmer of Suuns’ previous full-length Hold/Still), who flew up especially from Dallas to deploy his award-winning skills in situ.
While maintaining a pleasing economy – the closest thing to a ‘jam’ here is an otherworldly two-minute instrumental, aptly titled Moonbeams – the informality of self-production has enabled Suuns to explore bright new vistas. “It was different and exciting,” declares drummer Liam O’Neill. “In the past there was a more concerted effort on my part to drum in a controlled and genre-specific way. Self-consciously approaching things stylistically. Us doing it ourselves, that process was like a very receptive, limitless workshop to just try out ideas.”
Hence the hypnotic future-pop percolations of X-ALT, where guitarist Joseph Yarmush’s delicate precision is engulfed by squalls of giddy saxophone. Or the way Watch You, Watch Me’s organic/synthetic rush builds and and builds atop O’Neill’s elevatory rhythm and the ecstatic, Harmonia-meets-Game Boy patterns unleashed by electronics mastermind Max Henry. As befits a band who cite Andy Stott and My Bloody Valentine as touchstones yet don’t sound like either, Suuns have always seamlessly blended the programmed and played. Never mere fusionists, it’s now pointless trying to decode their sonic signature as ‘dance music that rocks’ or vice versa.