Peeling’s debut full-length is not an album that reveals its mysteries easily.

After releasing a couple of promising EPs (2016’s Rats in Paradise and 2017’s 7 Years of Blood), Toronto’s Peeling return to claim their rightful place as one of Canada’s preeminent post-punk outfits. In the three years since their last release, Peeling has undergone a metamorphosis, condensing down from a group — consisting of members of Dilly Dally and Odonis Odonis — down to its nucleus. Peeling’s debut full-length, Worshipper, introduces the band as a solo project led by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anna Timoshenko. She handled the production on the album as well as all performances, aside from being aided and abetted by Michael Wallace (Preoccupations) on drums. 

While it is the spiritual successor to Peelings previous work, Worshipper is also a major breakthrough in craftsmanship. The album finds Timoshenko “peeling” back the layers of her former supergroup’s sound to expose its pulsing, mechanical core and in doing so, finding her footing as a femme fatale.

Worshipper is less an album than a ritual. It is nine incantations set to an icy, post-punk score, with Timshenko crooning confessions of loss, lust, redemption and everything in between. Album opener and lead single “Suck” begins the ceremony with an intoxicating bass and drum groove that lulls you into a false sense of familiarity. Its dynamic, driving rhythm convinces you that you’ve been here before, but don’t be fooled. This is only the first of many tricks to come.

“Cold Hands” feels as though Timoshenko is drawing down the moon and channeling some ethereal force over a hypnotic soundscape. “And you laugh/And you Smile/And you say/Oh, isn’t this nice/And the end/Doesn’t have an end/So you don’t think twice” she sings on “The Dream Is Over”; her plaintive, near spoken vocals skillfully slink above the repetitive rhythm before ascending into a feral scream just as the song reaches its zenith. “Nobody can shame me living on the run/’cause I will only answer to the person I’ve become”, she hums on “Road to Hell,” a song whose gothic, retro-future Americana conjures memories of late-night drives on winding, foggy roads. 

“Dread” is an existential crisis set to music and Worshipper’s  idyllic centerpiece. Its detached vocals perform a tightrope act above the motorik percussion and languid bass. “I am a fire/I get what I want” asserts Timoshenko over the dense, electro-punk instrumental, “Capricorn.” It’s a pulsing dirge that would make Martin Rev proud. As the grinding, ominous tone of “Ego Death” undulates, you can no longer be certain where you end and the music begins. Worshipper is not an album that reveals its mysteries easily. It is an apparition that visits you in a fever-dream. Before you know it, you are under its spell and all you can do is embrace its rapture.

Jesse Harding
Little Death