Topshelf Records/Royal Mountain Records
It’s often hard to be present, either we’re focused on the past or the future rather than the here and now. For Montreal quartet Gulfer, the main focus on their self-titled third record was to represent where they are right now, to free themselves of any pre-conceptions and let things come naturally. Sonically the record veers from dextrous math-rock but through an emo filter, to punk and shoegaze. With the LP’s nimble sonic DNA, thanks to awkward time signatures and complex arrangements, no one song truly sits still, with most starting and ending in totally different ways. With these shifting soundscapes, you’re greeted with pockets of calm introspection, while other parts of ‘Gulfer’ career and swerve with a nervous, pent-up energy. Thematically, the Canadian band’s lyrics often sound ambiguous, as if to fit the listeners mood at any given time. Although, according to the record’s press release the writing process drew inspiration from all things to do with human nature, be it exploring self-doubt, resentment, complex relationships, climate change and the waning of youth.
There’s something ultimately tangible about ‘Gulfer’, while it’s aurally complex and some of the vocals are hard to discern, it feels very fleshy and human. Its intricate rhythms conjure up a blur of dextrous fretwork and complicated drum patterns that could only be created by humans. This human feeling presents itself further via the band’s vocalists/guitarists Vincent Ford and Joe Therriault, as they’re bestowed with vocals that yearn and convey a raw emotion. There are moments where their delivery sways closer to something almost too angsty, but it never makes the full plunge into an OTT emo territory. Notably ‘Symmetry’ and ‘Trips and Falls’ is where these occurrences briefly present themselves. Elsewhere, amongst the agile intricacies, their vocals are closer to that of 90s slacker rock, with ‘Nature Kids’ being a good example of this. Via a carefree haze, the murmured “the sun comes up when you’re around” taps into those themes of waning youth that Gulfer wanted to encapsulate on their latest recorded outing. Self-doubt creeps into the squirming minimal wiggle of ‘Mall Song’ with “I’ve proved that I’ve got nothing” illustrating that point to a tee. With an injection of pace and Julien Daoust’s rapid drumming ‘Letters’ burrows into the notions of escaping your environment “you saying you’re waiting to leave this place” while wanting to stop the old grey matter churning over the same thing “I should have stopped thinking about it”. What’s quite charming is how the LP is presented to the listener too – with an intro, interlude and outro serving to break up the tracklist into different sections, as these little breathers are powered by weird glitchy 8bit-esque noises.
After years of self-doubt, Gulfer can rest easy knowing that their latest album is a true representation of themselves as a band.
Order Gulfer by Gulfer here