Secret City/Joyful Noise Recordings
If there’s ever been a time to experiment, it’s now. With musicians, producers, and songwriters off the road and presumably studio-bound for the foreseeable future, records with unique angles or avant-garde production techniques are sure to populate the new release lists for months to come, whether the general public is ready for them or not.
In the spirit of musical eccentricity, Montreal-based Suuns have released their latest studio effort, a six-song EP entitled Fiction. Though undoubtedly experimental, the record is excessively cluttered and trades structure for atmosphere. Despite the occasional worthwhile moment, Fiction lacks coherent melodic appeal and meanders in virtual obscurity for far too long.
At times, Ben Shemie’s glitchy vocals strikingly illuminate barren instrumental landscapes and provide worthwhile direction. Guided by his arpeggiations, any ancillary movement is well-placed and excellently supported. Unfortunately, those instances are few and far between. When that vocal prose is removed, a vortex of chaos becomes the norm, leaving arrangements that are disorienting and unsettlingly difficult to follow.
The record opens rather confoundingly, with the sludgy darkness of “LOOK” segueing into the comfortably rhythmic albeit repetitive “BREATHE,” the latter of which features the stylings of Jerusalem In My Heart’s Radwan Ghazi Moumneh. The third track, the hypnotic and ghostly “PRAY,” is immediately more accessible than its predecessors, with its growing backbeat and shimmering ambience inciting a solid groove in front of an industrial backdrop.
The following track, “FICTION,” brings back structure and is arguably the record’s best song. Sporting a pinging lead guitar and creepily harmonized vocals, it exemplifies the band’s ability to create welcoming sonic discomfort, a trait that was plentiful on their previous effort, 2018’s Felt.
Rounding out the collection are “DEATH”—a fuzzy feedback loop mixed with the ethereal voice of Vancouver’s own Amber Webber—and “TROUBLE EVERY DAY,“ a blunt piece of critical spoken word accompanied by frantic jazzy drums and spacey droning. Though thematically intriguing and sharply written, the record’s final track seems misplaced given its heavy emphasis on lyrics relative to the rest of the album.
To some, Suuns’ unconventional poise is artful and daring, especially in this context and at this moment in time. But, to others, their mischief could easily be nothing more than seemingly random madness. Their crafty experimentation and willingness to be divergent should be applauded, even though their latest effort falls well short of its potential.