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 widespread critical applause from the likes of Pitchfork, The FADER, Stereogum, BrooklynVegan,Exclaim!, Under the Radar, PopMatters, AllMusic and countless others.
Over 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 they’ve toured alongside the likes of Alvvays, Youth Lagoon and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, and they’ve 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 release tomorrow 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 a 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.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two of Aftertouch‘s previously released singles:
- “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.”
- “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. The end result is a song that — to my ears, at least — sounded like a slick synthesis of The Fixx’s “Sign of Fire” and Amoral-era Violens.
Album opening track “Epilogue” is Aftertouch‘s latest single. Beginning with a whirring to life, “Epilogue” is a slow-burning and reflective track that slowly builds into a maximalist crescendo towards its conclusion centered around a lush, New Wave inspired arrangement of glistening synth arpeggios, skittering beats paired with a motorik groove and King’s achingly plaintive vocals ethereally floating over the mix. But underneath the breezy and expansive arrangement, “Epilogue” manages to possess a wistful and melancholy air.
“‘Epilogue (After Touch)’ conjures an existence, where a linear progression of time no longer seems applicable. With reference to cinematic narrative, the lyrics touch upon living in a contemporary culture that seems to be referential and symbolic of what’s already in the past,” the members of Absolutely Free explain in press notes.
Directed by Rachelle Walkers, the recently released video for “Epilogue” is brooding and trippy as it features footage of a rollercoaster rendered through a fuzzy, neon-colored negative with prismatic figures superimposed over the proceedings.