In this post-modern life, so much is derivative. Just like the globe itself, there is little to no territory in the world of music that the map of genres or sub-genres can’t identify. But with their latest LP, the Victoria-born, Montreal-residing Freak Heat Waves stake their flag in a no man’s land of sound. Weaving a rich mixture of synthetic and analog percussion, dial-tone sythwork, droning bass riffs and twisted guitar, Beyond XXXL takes the post-punk identity that the band built with their two previous LPs and warps it until it is altogether a new thing.
“Self Vortex” introduces both the record and its defining features. The track delivers quick punch of sound, saturating an infectious groove in fuzzy tones and a low, garbled vocal effect. Despite sustaining the vocal tone and heavy synthesizers through the entire album, XXXL doesn’t feel repetitive. The snappy beats in instrumental tracks “Prime Time Slime” and “Toxic Talk Show,” song three and ten of the 11-song lineup, balancing the album at both ends with a heightened energy. The record takes ambient detours in “Subliminal Appeal” and “In the Dip of the Night,” adding another dimension to Freak Heat Waves’ sound. These ambient cuts are spacious and littered with delay, Brian Eno-esque oddities echo off the walls of these drawn out moments.
The super-textured instrumentation works alongside the lyrics to express the album’s central theme. Songs on XXXL act as a commentary on the state of things; we hear mumbled words on the clamour of modern life: the gorging of the senses, the excess. Made murky by the vocal effect, the lyrics seldom come clear through the sludge, but when they do, they are cutting and inspired. In “Soothing Limbo,” a confession is groaned from the perspective of the greedy, “I can’t wait to transcend / To your island / I want it all to myself.”
With XXXL, Freak Heat Waves manipulate their twisted sounds into a coherent whole. The result is a record that feels strange, new and important, like an intercepted broadcast from some dystopian future.