As a drummer, I have a great deal of respect for jazz. Not just for the astounding time signature work, but for one of the genre’s key components: Improvisation. Improvising in jazz music requires a great deal of chemistry between musicians, knowing where an intended part is to end up and playing off of each other while making everything as fluid as possible. Montreal’s Lawful Citizen are masters of this school of improv, blending jazz influences with hints of drone and doom metal, which makes more sense than you’d think.
The band’s self-titled release is peppered with spurts of manic sax solos tied in with fluid bass work, slick drum fills and subtle guitar effects that provide a sense of space and structure in an otherwise chaotic journey. Opener “Suppression” keeps this groove front and center, allowing the tenor sax skills of one Evan Shay to take center stage. The solos on this record are all over the place, but never lose their sense of playfulness or intensity. Imagine a world where Shay and Colin Stetson join forces: now that’s what I call sax-y.
“Step Down” has mirroring tom rolls that gradually build, allowing the bass to intercut with small riffs, flowing much like waves rolling into and out of the coast. The syncopation between Shay’s sax and Kyle Hutchins’ drumming is the ultimate display of how locked in Lawful Citizen are; just simple snare hits but it works wonders. The buzzing, droning effects used toward the end are both dissonant and oddly soothing, given the band’s tendency to fuse traditional jazz leanings with a more experimental approach to phrasing and tone.
And in case you need any more reason to take note of the drums, the fantastic drum solo towards the end of “The Day After” might just melt your brain. The way Hutchins’ playing goes from a subtle backing beat to filled with double-strokes, rolls and everything in between is a marvel. Combine that with the track’s transition between late-night lounge ballad and a dark, foreboding midnight walk and you’ve got a recipe for success. What BadBadNotGood do with hip-hop, Lawful Citizen do with the avant-garde. The band does a marvellous job putting their own stamp on jazz by adding hints of a dark, metallic edge.