The Montreal four-piece’s latest album is abstract art rock playfully painted in pop-art primary colours.
In their first decade as a band, Suuns have been nothing if not consistent. Over the course of three studio albums and their brilliant 2015 collaboration with Jerusalem In My Heart, they have unfailingly defied expectations and forged a singular musical presence. Their canon could well serve as the soundtrack to a multi-part absurdist film adaptation of a lost early 20th century dystopian novel set in Montreal’s Mile End.
Felt furthers Suuns’ cultivated mystique by (once again) destroying any semblance of expectation one could put upon the band. Singer/guitarist Ben Shemie says the record has “swagger,” noting that it’s “looser than our last one” (2015’s Hold/Still). Free to work in the studio as they saw fit, Suuns allowed Felt to formulate over a series of sessions, a marked contrast to the structure and constraints of their other albums. Their unhurried schedule afforded Suuns the space to let ideas percolate, and it has translated into what is effectively the most laid-back of their fractured, futuristic recordings.
This is Suuns we’re talking about mind you, so don’t expect things to be loose and limber right out the gate. Opener “Look No Further” is a tense tightrope walk across minimalist rhythms and Shemie’s deadpan delivery, followed by the frenetic “X-Alt” and the first of Felt‘s idiosyncratic sax breaks. It’s not until after “Watch You, Watch Me” rounds out the album’s opening triptych that Suuns give us the first real sample of their new swagger. “Baseline” is a slow burner stoked by Max Henry’s electronic noodling and anchored by Liam O’Neill’s placid timekeeping. There’s an airiness to the arrangement that’s echoed later on the brilliant slow-jam “Make It Real” and closer “Materials”.
At its core, Felt is still forged in the abstract art rock mould perfected by Suuns, but it’s painted in swaths of pop-art primary colours, eschewing the band’s earnest and exacting precision for a more playful sound. The song “Peace and Love” encapsulates this new aesthetic best: punctuated by yet another silky — dare I say sexy? — sax line, it, like all of Felt, is practically perfect in its peculiarity.