Psychedelia has become a predominant genre in pop, from Tame Impala to Animal Collective. The darkness that surrounds Montreal-based Suuns is what sets them apart from the blissed out sounds blasting at Urban Outfitters. With a sensibility more like The Black Angels and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Suuns explore the sombre side of modern psychedelia.
Three weeks baking in the hot Dallas sun recording their new LP seems to have warped the Montreal-based band and their perspective even further. Hold/Still is something unpredictable, but intricately constructed. Compelling and dark, the album is strung together with thumping basslines, synthetic obscurities and bewitching guitars. Masters of the slow-build, the tension created through twitchy twangs and repetitive lyrics make Suuns’ third LP a gripping and troubled album.
Like a siren, the opening track “Fall” channels an urgency that garners attention. Its intensity is foreboding, like preparing for a descent into the bowels of some hedonistic hell-hole. The following track, “Instrumental,” grooves and meanders with much more subtlety. Suuns’ has an ability to explore a plethora of unique sounds yet keep it all held together with carefully layered guitar and synth. Their third track “UN-NO” feels rushed but hesitant. The gradual build and tight drum beat coupled with the lyrics “No, no, no, no” creates the notion of a contradictory mind.
Caution and yearning seem to be a consistent theme. “Resistance” showcases singer Ben Shemie’s skittish vocal tendencies. His constant repetition of words is unnerving and mystifying. He wants something, or someone, but warns the listener of succumbing to such desires. In “Brainwash” he sings, “I just want to touch you, feel you with my hands, give in.”
As the album traipses on, Ben Shemie’s thoughts become more scattered. This might have something to do with the recording process, and the encouragement to stick to only a few takes. Either way, it works in their favour, as Suuns has successfully crafted an album that requires multiple listens, even if it’s just to make sense of it all.