Review Summary: Music won't save you...
Suuns, a band from Montreal that is signed to the independent record label Secretly Canadian, makes synth-heavy indie rock. Those last four words alone are surely enough for someone to begin imagining how this band might sound, but that person would likely be imagining it all wrong. Suuns don’t write catchy, pop hooks nor do they have huge, anthemic choruses. They differentiate themselves from the large number of indie-rock bands following the trends set by such Canadian counterparts as Arcade Fire, Metric, and Mother Mother. There is a certain edge to Images Du Futur
that is created through the usage of winding guitar passages, pulsating synths, throbbing bass, and mechanical, almost industrial sounding percussion. The vocals are delivered in a sharp, jaded, and almost paranoid tone, which further solidifies the general aesthetic that Suuns aim to create with their music: cold, unsettling, and yet completely mesmerizing.
All of this is not meant to give the impression that this album is somehow inaccessible, like it is too alienating or confusing for someone enjoy. In fact, the opposite is true. The music is immediately rewarding, and first time listeners are sure to be lost in a bass grove, or jamming along to a sharp, catchy guitar riff almost immediately (opener ‘Powers of Ten’ is sure to hook any fan of rock music within the first thirty seconds). There are no giant choruses for their fans to chant, nor are there any catchy one-liners to put quotation marks around, post to facebook, and rake in the likes. Nevertheless, it is almost a guarantee that you will be whistling a certain riff, or having trouble getting a pulsing bass line out of your head the next day after listening to this album. It sticks almost immediately, but still delivers great replay value with each additional listen. Every time I listen to this record, I have a new favourite moment or song – it’s that deep and layered.
While Suuns do the traditional vocals/guitars/drums arrangement quite well, this band is at their best when they diverge from the path most-traveled and explode into hypnotic instrumental jams that extend to sometimes over two minutes. These are often based on a solitary musical idea – like a guitar phrase or a bass tone – but are worked into these complex, enthralling jams where the instruments feed off one another and combine to create a wall of beautiful noise. The rhythm section keeps all this grounded by driving along these instrumental sections with repetitive beats that almost hypnotize the listener. During these jams, it is easy to hear that Suuns have been influenced by the post-punk scene, at least in a broad sense. Their guitar tones, heavy reliance on synths, and general approach to songwriting could draw comparisons to groups like Suicide or Joy Division, or even to modern day revivalists like Interpol or Liars.
Compared to their debut LP, 2010’s Zeroes QC
, it could be said that their sophomore effort is an improved, refined rendition of the sound that they began to craft years ago. Everything on Images Du Futur
feels so polished and tweaked to perfection. Nothing ever sounds out of place, and not a second is wasted. This isn’t to imply that their debut was lacking in focus or direction. However, it was definitely a little rough around the edges in the sense that the music sometimes wandered too far into the abyss without any real purpose. Another notable difference is that the band has clearly become more comfortable with experimentation over the past few years, not to mention more competent. Not only are their instrumental passages more engaging, and more effective in displaying unique, interesting musical ideas, they appear far more often on this album than on the first.
Overall, it would be safe to say this this album is a powerful and engaging listen. The tone it creates is completely unique within today’s music scene. Suuns creates a world of sonic textures to get completely immersed in. The journey that their music takes you on is disorientating, sometimes confusing, but always interesting and rewarding at every turn. Only as the final moments of ‘Music Won’t Save You’ begin to fade – as the rhythmic drums continue to plod along and carry the tune forward, as the sampled audience laughter and applause gets louder and louder relative to the music – only then will the listener snap back to reality and realize that they spent the last 45 minutes completely entranced by the pulsing, droning, and hypnotic sounds of Suuns. The cold aesthetic may deter some, and it definitely would not be out of line for some people to describe this as distant, or as the complete opposite of an engaging listen. However, for some listeners, it definitely has the ability to be a piece of music capable of that sort of power over their listening experience. Albums with that power don’t come along very often, so my advice to anyone that enjoys experimental indie-rock is to find a nice pair of headphones and a comfortable chair, lean back, and let the lush, pulsating tones of Images Du Futur
wash over you.