With the release of last year’s self-released full-length debut Salt, the rising Canadian art rock act Blessed — Drew Riekman, Reuben Houweling, Jake Holmes and Mitchell Trainor — received attention for arranging themselves around a fully formed and potent sound and aesthetic informed by a quiet reverence fro their community in Abbotsford, a small rural city in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley.
Slated for a February 19, 2021 release through Flemish Eye Records, Blessed’s forthcoming follow-up to Salt, iii is an EP that reportedly finds the act further expanding upon their sound and approach: cavernous post-punk electronics and measured drum work paired with guitar work that rapidly shifts from chiming and cheerful to serrated and snarling within a turn of a phrase, and Riekman’s tenor vocals adding an extra texture.
Interestingly, the EP also continues the long-held themes of collaboration and community that have defined their work. While the band self-produced the effort at Vancouver-based Rain City Recorders with vocals tracked at friends’ houses across their hometown, the band recruited four different mixers for each song of the EP — Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick, Tortoise’s John McEntire, Holy Fuck‘s Graham Walsh and the band’s own Drew Riekman. The band’s Drew Riekman credits Fraser Valley’s previous generation of DIY artists with fostering a senes of local responsibility and solidarity that the band aims to perpetuate. And they do so by attending city council meetings, by booking all-ages shows with local acts and by sharing resources with younger artists learning the ropes of recording, touring and grant application processes.
Much like the unique EP artwork, defeated by the band’s longtime friend, digital artist Nathan Levasseur, the EP’s material, as Riekman says reflects his own experiences and struggles with anxiety,. which at its worse has confined him to his home for months at a time. “I really struggled with agoraphobia when I was younger, and still do to this day,” he says in press notes. Frequently, collaborating with members of their community helped create a “feeling of the world getting smaller” and served as a salve for anxiety and uncertainty.
Centered around looping guitar arpeggios, a propulsive bass line, mathematically precise, metronome-like drumming, bubbling electronics, twinkling keys, Riekman’s lithe vocals, and some blistering solo work, iii‘s latest single “Structure” evokes a tense and uncertain restraint before a seething coda to close things out. “’Structure’ deals with complacency and failing to explore the depths of your actions compared to the words you espouse and values you proclaim to have,” the members of Blessed explain. “If you can’t acknowledge your imperfection and flaws, you don’t leave room to listen and grow. If you’re always trying to teach, you can’t be taught.”
Directed by Kaayla Whachell, the recently released visual for “Structure” follows a depressed and anxious man as he attempts to steel himself to go out into the world. Driving to a nearby forest, our protagonist seems to have a psychotic break — and after he encounters three veiled women. who surround him and eye him judgmentally. But is it real? Or has been hallucinating?
The cover art for iii depicts a wall of wooden blocks, all different shapes, jumbled messily and precariously high against a softly-coloured background. It’s an image that captures Blessed at their most essential: experimental, asymmetrical, and interdependent, all the more remarkable for their marriage of those three qualitie
Today Canadian art-rock band Blessed – comprised of Drew Riekman, Reuben Houweling, Jake Holmes, and Mitchell Trainor – have announced their forthcoming EP iii, set for release on February 19th, 2021 via Flemish Eye Records. Blessed have previously self-released just one full-length record—their taut, spring-loaded 2019 debut Salt—and yet they’ve arranged themselves around a sound and aesthetic that is fully formed and potent, couched in a quiet reverence for their community in Abbotsford, a small, rural city in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. In line with the themes of collaboration and community that define the band, they also recruited different mixers for each song of the EP – Corin Roddick (Purity Ring), John McEntire (Tortoise), Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck), and the band’s own Drew Riekman. Pre-order iii EP HERE.
Along with the EP announcement and signing to Flemish Eye Records, the band has shared the first single “Structure,” which was mixed by John McEntire (Tortoise) and comes with a video directed by Kaayla Whachell. Stream the track HERE + watch the video HERE.
Riekman says that like the EP’s compositions, the artwork for iii (created by longtime friend and digital artist Nathan Levasseur) reflects his own experience of anxiety, which at its worst has confined him to his home for months at a time. “I really struggled with agoraphobia when I was younger, and still do to this day,” he says. Often, a salve for these experiences is community and collaboration. Riekman says these give a “feeling of the world getting smaller.”