New Video: British Columbia’s Blessed Share Tense and Eerie “Anything”

With the release of 2020’s self-released, full-length debut, the Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada-based art rock/post punk outfit Blessed — Drew Riekman, Reuben Houweling, Jake Holmes and Mitchell Trainor — received attention for crafting a self-assured, fully formed sound and aesthetic informed by their reverence to their community to their small, rural city, located in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley

Last year’s iii EP saw the Abbotsford-based act further expanding upon their sound and approach: The EP’s material featured glitchy electronics, measured drum work and guitar work that frequently shifted from chiming and cheerful to serrated and snarling with a turn of a phrase, paired with Reikman’s tenor vocals. The EP continued the long-held ethos of collaboration and community that’s been at the center of their work. The self-produced EP was recorded at Vancouver-based Rain City Recorders with vocals tracked at friends’ houses across their hometown. They then recruited four different mixers for each EP’s song — Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick, Tortoise’s John McEntire, Holy Fuck‘s Graham Walsh and the band’s own Drew Riekman.

Blessed’s Drew Riekman credits Fraser Valley’s previous generation of DIY artists with fostering a strong sense of local responsibility, pride and solidarity that the band aims to perpetuate and continue for younger generations. In fact, they do so by attending city council meetings, by booking all-ages shows with local acts and by sharing resources with younger artists leaning the ropes of recording, touring and grand application.

iii‘s material as Riekman said at the time, reflected 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,” Riekman said 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. 

Blessed’s sophomore album Circuitous is slated for an October 28, 2022 release through Flemish Eye. “‘Circuitous: Of a route or journey, longer than the most direct way,” Blessed’s Drew Riekman recites. Interestingly enough, the word is a description of a profound and rare way of creating that makes their sophomore album, much like their previous releases, a singular, moving and unsettlingly committed piece of work.

Circuitous reportedly will further cement and expand the band’s status as a band’s band: a patient. eclectic outfit guided by reverence for and an intense pursuit of an internally-dictated creative agenda focused on musicality, songwriting, performance and artistic growth. The album sonically sees them sharpening their strengths and bringing more depth and expansion into their creative process: The end result is a sweeping, industrial art-rock tragedy rooted in walls of noise, tightly controlled drums, meandering ambient and staccato syncopation that was pulled from hours of jam material and hundreds of demos.

While the album’s eight tracks sprawl, thrash, burst and fall, the album’s material thematically touches upon agoraphobia, isolation, grief, the hyper control of capital and the numbness it breeds.

The album’s first single “Anything” is a slow-burning, hypnotic, and brooding track featuring looping and shimmering guitars, bubbling electronics, thunderous drumming, and a propulsive and throbbing bass lines paired with Riekman’s plaintive vocals. But at its core, is a song that incisively ridicules modern life.

“The narrative that you can be anything if you work hard enough is absurd. It ignores so many facets of life, development, geography, class, on and on et al,” Blessed’s Riekman says in press notes. “But it pits people against each other in an effort to become ‘something’, a ‘something’ that is loosely defined and shaped by personality rather than a communal vision. It creates a pedestal to put yourself or others on. You’re never good enough, because there’s always someone above you doing more. We’re reaching for unattainable lifestyles, that we don’t even need, that are hyper individualistic and negate the need for community. When you’re looking at the environment you exist in socially as a pyramid, and there’s people you want to be closer to “at the top”, that’s a net negative for anyone. The more accessible we are, and on the level with each other we are in our immediate places, the more we gain.”

Longtime collaborator and digital artist Nathan Donovan teamed up with Jacob Dutton to art direct and design original art and videos for the album’s songs, centered on a nameless, childlike robot that can make specific, subtle and uncanny expressions. The childlike robot appears on the album’s cover art — and in the accompanying video. Set in an eerie all white factory, the robot comes to life when its OS is inserted into a small disc drive behind its ear. The robot’s quickly seems to gain a sense of consciousness and self in a way that’s eerie, unsettling and all too childlike.