Let Yourself Be Seen is the 3rd album of electronic weirdness from Canadian “art collective” Doomsquad, and it’s out now on Bella Union. Previous releases have seen brightly coloured strangeness with a techno backing, and usually a general ambience of unease. This one is billed as a clearer message, the band say “What we always knew but put at the forefront of this record is that DOOMSQUAD is a project of protest, catharsis and emotional and spiritual reconnection through music”. So it’s more direct, the message more immediate, but would the strangeness (or worse, the fun) be lost…
And the opener (after a short interlude), “General Hum” sets out their manifesto. A David Byrne style monologue over a driving beat illustrates what we consider background noise – trying to stay human through normalising the day to day terrors of the modern world because there’s no other option.
“You think I’m Aimless, but my aim is on you” is the cry of Aimless, my highlight of the album, a shuffling beat gradually increasing in urgency while this track’s vocals get angrier, leaving you with a belief we can rise up from our collective ennui purely through an electro-funk swaggering groove.
Let it go – is another call to arms, this track gradually throwing more and more at you, like the theme to a video game where smashing the system is the final level boss. Then a change of pace, the band also wanted to reference various historical figures on this album, and so the track “Emma” remembers anarchist Emma Goldman. Maybe if Ari Up had ever moved further into techno, it might have sounded a little like this smoky dub?
Dorian’s Closet is one track already revealed, this time the tribute is to New York Drag Queen Dorian Corey. The disco hooks with dark edges and references to “put the monster back in the closet” give an upbeat track with a melancholic edge even before you know the controversial history.
There has been a lot of electronica relating to apocalypse in the last few years, and the track “The Last Two Palm Trees in LA” is Doomsquad’s effort, and it’s more ambitious than most. Many of the tracks here are a call to arms, but this is the lament to what we lose if we don’t. The track could be about ageing and loss, or climate change enabled destruction. Ambient touches and what sound like antique synths complete a cobbled-together Mad Max of electronica – probably with a Night of the Comet-esque deserted LA in the video.
So to close, last track “Weather Patterns” has to give us hope back, and it does this over a building squelchy bass and under a “Don’t try to bring me down” refrain, while the spoken vocals from the opening track return. This time though, they aren’t the bored monologue of before, it’s closer to a preacher mirroring the Mister Fingers classic and closing the sermon that was Let Yourself Be Seen.
Despite so many micro-themes and messages, it stands together as a focused effort because of the genuine passion and anger coming through the tracks. It consistently tries to tackle the themes of modern day loneliness, hopelessness and isolation, by asking us to stand together for what we believe in, no-matter how different we each appear. You also feel that the irony of electronic music taking on the electronic influences on life today is not lost on this band. Despite many of the immediate musical references being from the 1980s and 90s (Talking Heads fans in particular will spot a few hooks), it’s intelligent, quirky, relevant, and encapsulates 2019.