There’s a certain middle-finger playfulness in the way Toronto instrumentalists Fresh Snow are sticking with their album nomenclature. (I dare you to try and have a conversation about their two full lengths and EP without asking or being asked, “Wait, which One/Won/I are you talking about?” It’s not going to happen.) Though their album naming process appears stuck in a holding pattern, the music shared on each of Fresh Snow’s releases, including their most recent full-length One, is clearly moving the band beyond the limits (and expectations) of instrumental rock’s cardinal directions.
At its northernmost front, frosty alienation crystallizes quickly on the droney opener “Olinda”. Chiseled out of rocky tundra, a mixture of field recordings, found sound, and low fuzz stretches out for over two minutes before falling off a sheer cliff of jagged guitars into, a bottomless chasm of sound. Heading southward, sultry, steamy new wave synths permeate the atmosphere of “Mass Graves / Dance Caves”. Dressed up like late-model Roxy Music, it’s the most accessible Fresh Snow have ever sounded.
Along the eastern edge of One, the angular krautrock industrial noise of “January Skies” and “I Can’t Die” rises like a monolith, born out of the urban decay and grit. Heading west into the sunset, “I Am Smitten With Your Wrath”, “Flat White” and “Anytime Minutes” highlights Fresh Snow’s cinematic, widescreen influences, while the bubbling synths on “Three-Way Mirror” weaves melody and definitive tunes into the mix of textures and ambient noise.
Peppered with delicate piano passages and a penchant for dancey rhythms, One is a wicked mix, both alienating and accessible. It doesn’t feel as confrontational as their previous work, but it’s far from conventional. The result is an album that grooves, grinds, grimaces and grins. No matter what direction Fresh Snow moves in, One is a fluid, frequently compelling listen. Even when it feels like the compass needle is spinning haywire, pointing in multiple directions at once, Fresh Snow confidently steer the songs into a complete, cohesive whole.
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