Calgary-based post-punk outfit Sunglaciers can trace its origins back to 2017 as a caollaboration between its founding — and core — members: multi-instrumentalist Matthieu Blanchard and lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Evan Resnik. When they started the project, Blanchard had completed his studies in medicine, working in family medicine and addiction and Resnik had returned from a trip hitchhiking through France.
Since the project’s formation, the Calgary-based act has released a couple of EPs and their full-length debut, 2019’s Foreign Bodies. Foreign Bodies saw the Canadian post-punk outfit saw them crafting a maximalist approach that saw them blurring the lines between dazzling indie rock melodicism and icy, post-punk experimentation.
During that same period, the duo have seen a steadily rising profile: They’ve shared stages with the likes of JOVM mainstays Preoccupations, Omni and Daniel Romano while topping the charts of college radio stations across Western Canada.
When the pandemic put their touring plans on a then-indefinite pause, the band quickly shifted their focus to writing material, dedicating 40-plus hour weeks to music during the early months of 2020. Those writing sessions wound up becoming their sophomore album Subterranea, which Montreal-based purveyors of all things psych and trippy, Mothland released today.
Continuing an ongoing collaboration with Chad VanGaalen, who co-produced the album, Subterranea sees the band eschewing the maximalist approach of their previous releases and crafting material with a decided laser focus. The end result is a frenetic, breakneck album of material that never overstays its welcome. “We tried to write vertically instead of horizontally,” Sunglaciers’ Matthieu Blanchard explains. “Our last album Foreign Bodies and the EPs that came before it had lots of long songs with different parts drifting back and forth. For this album, we decided to strip our songs down to two or three minutes with only a few ideas in each of them.”
“The bulk of this album came together during the pandemic and the changing of gears that we had to do,” Sunglaciers’ Evan Resnik says. “I was out of work and Mathieu was working half as much as usual, so we had lots of time on our hands. We flipped a switch and started playing music everyday. It’s a good indicator of how we were writing at the time while we wrapped our heads around some new gear and saw what came out of it. Essentially, we took all of our favourite musical tendencies and put them together. We were listening to a lot of McCartney II at the time and loved how eclectic it was, which led to us mirroring that vibe.”
With an extended timeframe to write and record, the album, which was recorded at Bruce Crews’ voiceover studio On Air Studios allowed Blanchard and Blanchard the opportunity to learn engineering skills and for the opportunity to experiment with swapping the instruments that each member typically played, a strategy that was employed during the writing and recording of Portishead‘s Third and David Bowie‘s “Boys Keep Swinging.”
The album also features contributions from the aforementioned Chad VanGaalen, Hermitess‘ Jennifer Crighton and Roman66′s Louis Cza The Black Greek God. The end result may arguably be Sunglaciers most urgent and cohesive batch of material, an effort that draws from the likes of Deerhunter, Total Control, and BEAK> among others.
In the lead up to the album’s release today, I wrote about two of Subterranea‘s singles:
- “Avoidance,” a woozy and uneasy ripper full of guilt and recriminations delivered with a breakneck freneticism centered around a persistent synth-driven groove. And while sounding a bit like Plague Vendor and Atsuko Chiba, “Avoidance” lyrically touches upon themes of alienation, abandonment and guilt in a way that should feel familiar to most of us during this unusual moment of our lives.
- “Out of My Skull,” another breakneck track full of foreboding, uneasy menace centered around hypnotic, glistening synth arpeggios, a sinuous bass line and propulsive drumming paired with Resnik’s anxious delivery. And as a result, the song evokes a frustrated, restless boredom — and it should feel familiar for most of us, stuck at home with nothing to do, nowhere to really go and no one to see.
“Best Years,” Subterranea‘s latest single features a guest spot from the aforementioned Chad VanGaalen and may be the dreamiest, most Wolf Parade-like song on the entire album with the song featuring wobbling synth arpeggios, a slow-burning grinding groove, glistening guitars and Resik’s plaintive vocals. But underneath, the seemingly placid surface is a gnawing and uneasy dissatisfaction.
“The song is about getting stuck in what comforts you and losing years inside passive contentment,” the band’s Evan Resnik explains. “Time passes, you realize all those plans you had for yourself have charred on the back burner or disappeared completely. You thought you were happy, but it was just the safety of your situation, a relationship or a decent job, that made you feel this way. Suddenly the world is dull and you feel like your time is up. I’m very afraid of that feeling and these days I try my best to avoid it.
The video was made by Calgary-based multimedia artist Ryan Kostel. He reworked old film footage and ran it through different media (weird lenses, old TVs, VCRs, etc.) to create a visual story for the song.”