After seven years, Toronto sound pioneers Absolutely Free are back with a new full length album, Aftertouch. It’s as sci-fi sounding as its title, and its lyrics are a look at the after effects of human cruelty and technological malfeasance, personal responsibility and cultural liability. A lot has happened in seven years, from shootings and police brutality, to privacy breeches and the groundwork for a potential surveillance state. With its krautrock sensibilities and its multi-harmony vocals that recall the amazing Robin Pecknold of the Fleet Foxes, it is an aural onslaught fit for the complex times we’re living in.
In this topsy turvy world, apparently, you can start your album with the epilogue. The first song, “Epilogue (After Touch),” finds us getting “lost in the plot” before we’ve even started the story. It makes sense, however, because Absolutely Free are writing about the times that we’re living in. “If you’re not feeling low, / you’ll never get back up to find / Life is how you frame it / You just sigh, (but) you just have to fail to break it.” In the world we live in, everything is about “spin,” and if we don’t have some sort of humility about us, if we don’t know the failure central to an honest life, we can create the world outside of us in our own perverted image, is how I interpret the words.
The entirety of the album is full of equally as deep poetry. “Remaining Light” which might be a shout out to the Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light,” and which has a bass that is fit to be played by Tina Weymouth, as well as artsy xylophones piling up in the track, is about the refusal of people to deal with the gun problem in North America. “How is there no connection between guns and lost lives… / We need immediate action to dismantle sides.”
It is super satisfying that such a sophisticated sound as this album has such thoughtful lyrics and story telling as well. Open, as good poetry is, to interpretation. My favorite track, though I thoroughly enjoyed the whole album, a visceral experience from start to finish, would probably be “Are They Signs?” With its powerful opening metaphor and its hooky chorus line, “I’ve got enough / I haven’t got enough.”
It takes complex art to mirror, to challenge, the complex times that we’re living in. It must have been an amazing undertaking to compose such lush and innovative music, and after seven years, Absolutely Free come out with an album that you could potentially listen to for the next seven years and still find content and composition to keep you entertained and engaged.
Order Aftertouch By Absolutely Free HERE