Acclaimed Toronto-based psych pop act Absolutely Free — multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matt King, Michael Claxton (bass, synths) and Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg (drums, synths) — is an offshoot of experimental rock outfit DD/MM/YYYY, an act whose multi-rhythmic, boundary pushing raison d’être provided a springboard for Absolutely Free’s sound and approach. The Canadian psych trio’s full-length debut, 2014’s Absolutely Free. received a Polaris Prize nomination and received widespread critical applause from the likes of Pitchfork, The FADER, Stereogum, BrooklynVegan,Exclaim!, Under the Radar, PopMatters, AllMusic and countless others.
During the past decade, the members of the Absolutely Free have cultivated and developed a long-held reputation for an unorthodox approach to both conceiving and performing music: Since the release of Absolutely Free., the Toronto-based psych pop act have released an array of multimedia projects and releases including 2019’s Geneva Freeport EP, which features U.S. Girls‘ Meg Remy. And adding to a growing profile the’ve toured alongside the likes of Alvvays, Youth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations and shared bills with Beak>, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, U.S. Girls and Fucked Up.
Absolutely Free’s highly-anticipated Jorge Elbrecht-produced sophomore album Aftertouch is slated for a September 24, 2021 release through Boiled Records. Deriving its name from a the name of a synthesizer function, the album is fueled by the trio’s desire to “. . . to create an album that wasn’t bound by a physical ability to perform it live, to not only expand our palette, but also to consider the live performance as something completely separate.” Culling from myriad of influences including krautrock, New Wave, early electronic dance music, and an array of international psych and funk complications, the album sonically and aesthetically finds the trio shifting in, around and between analog and digital sounds, and real and fabricated images while simultaneously reveling in and refuting the loss of tactility. Thematically, the album explores narratives of hegemony, grief and exploitation in the present while sustaining curiosity for the unknown post-everything future.
Last month, I wrote about Aftertouch album single “Interface,” a dreamily maximalist song featuring glistening synth arpeggios, percussive and angular guitar blasts, a chugging bass line and an insistent rhythm paired with plaintive vocals that reminded me of Amoral-era Violens — in particular, “Trance Like Turn.” The album’s latest single “Remaining Light” is a sprawling track with two distinct parts — a cinematic and atmospheric instrumental introduction featuring twinkling keys, glistening synths and clinking marimba. At around the 2:20 mark, the song slowly morphs into a slow-burning and brooding bit of pop featuring King’s plaintive, reverb drenched vocals ethereally floating over the mix.
Continuing a run of expansive and mind-bending material, “Remaining Light” was originally written in 2016 and was informed by the disturbing trend of rising gun violence against marginalized populations at the time of its creation. The song thematically tackles the weighty issues of structural racism, poverty and injustice that are embedded into society’s often corrupt and exploitive systems — all while sounding like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens.
“‘Remaining Light’ expresses the frustration felt towards invincible and corrupt institutions that uphold structural inequities, including police brutality and manufactured poverty experienced primarily by racialized communities,” the members of Absolutely Free explain. “Written during a heat wave in the summer of 2016, the song dishearteningly remains as relevant as ever today.”