Say Psych: Album Review: Suuns – Felt

Suuns (pronounced soons, which translates as zeroes in Thai!) release their latest album, Felt, today on Secretly Canadian. They formed in Montreal in 2007, when singer/guitarist Ben Shemie and guitarist Joe Yarmush got together to work on some demos, soon to be joined by Liam, Ben’s old schoolfriend, on drums and Max Henry on synth. Their group’s first two records, 2010’s Zeroes QC and 2012’s Du Futur were immediate critical hits.

Still, at the same time, Suuns feel remote from the big, baroque ensembles and apocalyptic orchestras that typify the Montreal scene. “We write quite minimal music,” thinks Ben. “They’re not traditional song forms, sometimes they don’t really go anywhere – but they have their own kind of logic.” Or as Joe puts it: “It’s pop music, but sitting in this evil space.”

The only member not to be formally schooled in jazz, guitarist Yarmush studied photography and utilized his visual training to help realize Shemie’s novel concept for the eye-catching album artwork. When asked he explained “I was at a barbecue last summer and there were balloons everywhere,” recalls Shemie. “I love this idea of compression, like something might pop. So, I had this image of a hand touching a balloon, a bubble gummy kind of vibe. But the challenge was how to depict that in an interesting way. If it’s a real hand it’s too sexual; there’s too much symbolism. So, we made plaster casts of our hands, like statues, and chose the best one. Joseph came up with the color scheme, the sickly green background, and shot the whole cover in an hour.”

Opener ‘Look No Further’ starts with a miscellany of sound, wasting in no time asserting that Suuns do things their own way, the simplicity of the tracks marks it out as different from the norm. ‘X-ALT’ utilises atonal brass juxtaposed against a noise background to create a heady mix of sound. Lead single ‘Watch You, Watch Me’ showcases an synthetic rush which builds on top of an elevator drum rhythm. When asked about the track, drum Liam O’Neill said “it was different and exciting. In the past, there was a more concerted effort on my part to drum in a controlled and genre-specific way. Self-consciously approaching things stylistically. Us doing it ourselves, that process was like a very receptive, limitless workshop to just try out ideas.”

‘Baseline’ lives up to its name with a pulsating bass at its heart whilst ‘After The Fall’ has a much more industrial feel to it, with a fading distorted background that shimmers in and out. ‘Control’ is the sombre track of the album, with evocative lyrics and spoken word samples. ‘Make It Real’ maintains the sombre edge at its centre, but this is matched against a bouncing backbeat combination from the synth and drums. ‘Daydream’ flits between electronic, Gameboy inspired synth beauty and industrial noise, before ‘Peace and Love’ has an easier flow with a more harmonious melody and the instrumental ‘Moonbeams’ rounds off the cleverly combined trio beautifully with its space invoking electronic collaborations of sound. The LP concludes with ‘Materials’, a rising and falling track, with subtle key progressions and an intermittent vocal style.

Suuns have created an album with a flux of variety that will appeal to a wide audience, their unique style shines through from the offset and will please fans and new acquaintances alike.


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