QUESTION. Do you love yourself a bit of itchy, broken, nay, fractured and exploded, electronic beat? If someone says words like Aphex and Squarepusher to you, do your eyes light up at the thought of the polyrhythmically torn and juddering, throwing your limbs into new twists?
Reckon you’re gonna have room in your life for Album then, to be honest. Come see if I’m right.
A tricksily generic name, conceptually following in the footsteps of the Chain Reaction glitchtronicist Various Artists in the late Nineties (yep, there is an artist actually called Various Artists), the name belies some full-on technicolour convulsiveness.
It’s the adopted name of Québécois pair Olivier Fairfield, of leftfield punk-funk collective FET.NAT, and Simon Provencher, of fellow dance-punk roadmen Victime – and whose last outing was a world away in cello and guitar improvisation (see our coverage of “Choix Multiples”, here).
Their debuting on the scene is short, perhaps, but indelibly sweet if the glitch be your thing; it’s called “New And Annoying”, is correct in the first sense and really wrong in the second, and it comes with an excellent video from Katerine Dennie-Marcoux which wends between vocal cut-up, Berlin grain, a smattering of hardcore breakdown and teeth-baring bass, and still clocks in at less than three minutes. Mmmmm …
Olivier and Simon began work on what would become Album’s debut … album by holding a a series of freeform jams late on in 2019. Simon, the guitarist by trade, added fretless bass and heavily processed vocals to these improvisations, and drummer Olivier brought the vintage sci-fi sounds to the party with his DX7. They then distilled out the most exciting passages, resampled them and began to quilt together the tracks.
“It’s hard to tell what’s computer music and what’s actually played,” says Olivier. ”There were some elements left to chance and instances where we would throw ourselves in blind, then choose to use it.
“Instead of saying ‘Ehhh, let’s not work with this’ our instinct was to say ‘this makes absolutely no sense, but let’s make it work’.
“By keeping our foundation simple, the hybrid sound of what was played and what was created electronically started to mesh together.”
Canadian musical cognoscenti have already cited the aforementioned Squarepusher, alongside Seefeel and Roni Size; Simon isn’t so sure of such direct referencing.
“We thought of the ’90s as a reference point, but not any specific artists,” he shrugs.
Of that first single drop, they say: “‘New and Annoying’ opens in a nervous but danceable haze of nimble drumming and digitally enhanced basslines. Grainy, mangled vocal samples pair up with the instantly recognizable ‘most annoying sound in the world’, to complete the nervous A-section of the song.
“Full-frequency DX7 pads break up the song’s momentum, making for a welcome rhythmic pause as the vocals and assorted samples continue to garble on into a complete textural meltdown. That is, until the track whips back into shape for a second groovy offering.”
The duo decided upon that name after including it on an early draft of the cover art with ‘Album’ written as a placeholder. Song titles like “Google Rap Hommage” or “New And Annoying” are intended to bewilder; others, such as “108 Percussion Hits (Au Moins)” settles into a propulsive tranquility. “When I hear that song I feel like I walk into a room that’s somewhat normal and can hang out there for a while,” Olivier laughs.
And no backing and forthing of remote sound files for them; having shared stages in their respective other bands for more than half a decade, the pair developed the chemistry that comes from playing together in the same room, recording those initial sessions like a jazz album with only a few microphones.
“That kind of sound is hard to manufacture,” Olivier concludes. “If we recorded guitars with amps and drums in a huge room it would be hard to distill it into what it is now. Our approach was very dry, soft playing. Everything is in the details as opposed to the girth.”
Album’s album, Album (can you see what they did there?) will be released digitally and on extremely limited (200 only) vinly on July 9th; you can order your copy at their Bandcamp page, here.