• suuns Felt (CD, £10.50)

    label: secretly canadian

    Singer/guitarist Ben Shemie says, “This record is definitely looser than our last one [2016’s ‘Hold/Still’]. It’s not as clinical. There’s more swagger.” You can hear this freedom flowing through the 11 tracks on ‘Felt’. It’s both a continuation and rebirth, the Montreal quartet returning to beloved local facility Breakglass Studios (where they cut their first two albums - ‘Zeroes QC’ and ‘Images Du Futur’ - 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 ‘Hold/Still’), who flew up especially from Dallas to deploy his award-winning skills in situ.  Complementing Shemie and drummer Liam O’Neill are the ecstatic, Harmonia-meetsGame Boy patterns unleashed by electronics mastermind Max Henry. Eschewing presets, Henry devised fresh sounds for each song on ‘Felt’ while also becoming a default musical director, orchestrating patches and oscillations. Quietly enthusing about ‘freaky post-techno’ and Frank Ocean’s use of space, he’s among your more modest studio desk jockeys: “Yeah, I sat in the control room while the others played - hitting ‘record’ and ‘stop’. It also gave me the flexibility to move parts around and play with effects. I do have a sweet tooth for pop music.”  Suuns are proud of their roots in Canada’s most socialist province, while sonically standing apart from Quebec’s string-swept, accordion-driven, choral chamber indie scene. Quebecois natives Shemie and Joseph Yarmush founded the group just over a decade ago, the latter having moved to Montreal from a nearby village. The only member not to be formally schooled in jazz, guitarist Yarmush studied photography and utilized his visual training to help realize Shemie’s novel concept for the eyecatching album artwork. “I was at a barbecue last summer and there were balloons everywhere,” recalls the singer. “I like this idea of pressure, resistance, and pushing against something just before it breaks. And there is something strangely subversive about a finger pushing into a balloon. It seemed to fit the vibe of the record we were making. We made plaster casts of our hands, going for a non-denominational statue vibe. Joe came up with the colour scheme, the sickly green background, and shot the whole cover in an hour.”  It’s a suitably outré image for ‘Felt’, which breaks with Suuns’ earlier darkness for a more optimistic ambience. The record’s playful atmosphere is echoed by its double meaning title. “Some people might think of the material,” muses Ben. “I like that that could be misconstrued. Also it’s to have felt and not to feel - a little introspective, but that feeling’s in the past.”

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