Tag: Flemish Eye

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 and praised for crafting a self-assured, fully formed sound and aesthetic informed by their reverence for 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 within a turn of a phrase, paired with Riekman’s expressive vocals.

The EP also 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. 

iii‘s material reflected Riekman’s own experiences and struggles with anxiety, which at its worse 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, for the band, 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 upon 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. 

In the lead-up to the album’s release later this month, I’ve written about two album singles:

Anything,” 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.”

Redefine,” a slow-burning and patient song centered around dexterous and shimmering acoustic guitar lines and jazz-like percussion paired with Riekman’s achingly plaintive delivery. While sonically “Redefine” may draw comparisons to OK Computer-era Radiohead, the song is rooted in longing for much more than the banality of wake, sleep, eat, work until you die. 

“The idea that we cannot disrupt the status quo only serves someone with power over us,” Blessed’s Riekman says of the new single’s thematic concerns. “It’s easy to feel that you’re never doing enough, that your mere existence in the face of crushing weights of the world isn’t an act of triumph in itself. We’re generally fed a narrative at this juncture that no one works hard enough, and your circumstances are your own fault exclusively. Being told that the only path forward is working 10 hour days, volunteering your labor to companies that make billions, and that you’ll one day be rewarded is a farce.” 

Built around scorching, angular guitar attack, bursts of glistening synths, walls of wailing feedback and distortion, mathematically precise drumming that alternates between thunderous and tightly controlled, a sinuous and propulsive bass line and Riekman’s expressive vocals, Circuitous‘ third and latest single is “Agoraphobia,” evokes a sense of creeping, woozy panic overtaking its narrator. But there’s the tacit understanding that only they are suffering and fearful — alone.

Dealing with moments of panic and crisis is confusing for the people around you,” Blessed’s Riekman explains. “Especially if you’re suffering from something that doesn’t have heft in the common day to day world. Wide open spaces and being far from home is generally exciting for most, and touring was a vehicle for me to feel that same feeling a lot of the time. But with so much home time, I was enveloped again with a sensation that makes little sense to anyone else, and attempted to open the door a little to that isolation.”

New Video: Blessed Shares Brooding “Redefine”

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 for 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 grant application. 

iii‘s material as Riekman said at the time, reflected his own experiences and struggles with anxiety, which at its worse 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. 

Last month, I wrote about album single “Anything,” 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.”

“Redefine,” Circuitous‘ second and latest single is slow-burning and patient song centered around dexterous and shimmering acoustic guitar lines and jazz-like percussion paired with Riekman’s achingly plaintive delivery. While sonically “Redefine” may draw comparisons to OK Computer-era Radiohead., the song is rooted longing for much more than the banality of wake, sleep, eat, work until you die.

“The idea that we cannot disrupt the status quo only serves someone with power over us,” Blessed’s Riekman says of the new single’s thematic concerns. “It’s easy to feel that you’re never doing enough, that your mere existence in the face of crushing weights of the world isn’t an act of triumph in itself. We’re generally fed a narrative at this juncture that no one works hard enough, and your circumstances are your own fault exclusively. Being told that the only path forward is working 10 hour days, volunteering your labor to companies that make billions, and that you’ll one day be rewarded is a farce.” 

Continuing their ongoing collaboration with visual artists Nathan Donovan and Jacob Dutton, the artists and the band have begun to tease out a unique visual universe through a series of stills, images and video shorts.  The duo’s latest video for “Redefine” is the second part of an animated diptych that features the android protagonist of the AI-inspired video for “Anything” in the same claustrophobic maze of corridors and doors. But the video tells a different side of the story: This time, the story unfolds through the perspective of security cameras and computers in an eerily, nondescript office, complete with a coffee mug right in the corner, and some Post-It notes.

Brooding and uneasy suspense are created through long, lingering shots that capture the monotony and banality of modern life. Without being given a clue to whether the viewer is seeing from the perspective of another observer or if they’re a fly on the wall, the viewer is forced to contemplate their complicity and role in the story.  

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Preoccupations Share Brooding and Lysergic Chad VanGaalen-Directed Visual for “Slowly”

Canadian post punk outfit and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations —  Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar) — just released their fourth album Arrangements today.  Longtime label home Flemish Eye will handle the release throughout Canada while the band will self-release the album outside of Canada. 

Initial work on Arrangements began in the fall of 2019, when Flegel and Christiansen met up with Munro at his Montreal-based Studio St. Zo. The trio wrote the album’s material and recorded all of the bed tracks together. Wallace then joined in and recorded his parts. With all of the instrumental parts laid down, the band planned to reconvene in a few months and decided what else the songs needed.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the JOVM mainstays’ plans to reconvene in person were understandably halted. At the time Munro was in Calgary on tour with his partner when the shutdowns began, so he wound up staying with his parents for the next 16 months. He whipped up a make-shift studio in his parents house, and the rest of the record was finished remotely with Munro and Flegel sending tracks back and forth to each other: Munro’s vocal and keyboard parts were completed in that set up while Flegel’s vocal parts were laid down in New York. Holy Fuck‘s Graham Walsh mixed the record and Total Control‘s Mikey Young mastered it. 

Pandemic isolation helped to encourage the band to reconnect with elements of their earlier releases: Munro, holed up in Calgary with endless weed gummies, obsessively doubled keyboards on guitars and vice versa, sampled the recordings using an old Ensoniq keyboard sampler and made new parts out of the samples. While on 2016’s self-titled and 2018’s New Material, Munro was committed to making keyboards the centerpiece, Arrangements sees guitar returning to the spotlight — an instrument that he describes as much more fun and visceral to play. Throughout most of the album, Christiansen employs a unique tuning that sees him blurring and smearing his parts while Munro’s standard-tuned riffs provide melody and clarity. The end result is an album that sonically will see the band weaving their guitar-heavy origins with their more synth-based recent work to create what may arguably be their most intense and playful album to date. 

Much like its predecessor New MaterialArrangements‘ title is simultaneously literal and cheeky — a sharp contrast to their overall aesthetic. Thematically, the album is dark and direct: “The lyrics are pretty conspicuous and self explanatory on this one, but it’s basically about the world blowing up and no one giving a shit,” says Flegel. 

“I’m certain that I’ve been writing about the same bleak things over and over again throughout the lifespan of Preoccupations,” Flegel adds. “This time around the themes of isolation, anxiety, trepidation, imminent self-annihilation, fear of totalitarianism, and general malaise unintentionally all feel a little more relevant than they have in the past. I guess that’s not a great sign, but I think we’ve taken this culmination of dark things, and turned it into something that can happily be listened to loudly, and that is maybe even…fun?”

In the lead-up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two album singles:

  • Ricochet,” a murky and dark churner featuring layers of glistening and distorted guitar slashes, rolling and lashing snares,atmospheric synth arpeggios and a propulsive bass line paired with Flegel’s mournful, embittered delivery and their penchant for rousingly anthemic hooks. And while being a slick and seamless synthesis of their earliest work and their most recent work, “Ricochet” manages to evoke the creeping, existential dread we have all felt lately — and perhaps continue to feel — during one of the most heightened and uncertain periods in recent memory. 
  • Death of Melody,” a brooding and tumbling track centered around textured, reverb-drenched shoegazer-like haze, martial, machine-like rhythms paired with Flegel’s plaintive delivery fed through even more distortion. Sonically “Death of Melody” is a one-half funhouse in hell, one-half vacillating thoughts tumbling about in the mind of an anxious, uncertain person. 

Arrangements‘ third and latest single “Slowly” begins with a murky prog rock-inspired bass and drum driven introduction before quickly ditching it for brooding atmospherics that fit the song’s malaise, self-flagellation and uneasy acceptable of annihilation.

Directed by Chad VanGaalen, the lysergic animated visual for “Slowly” fully embraces the song’s dark thematic concerns: The video begins with Picasso meets Dali-like animations that transform from humanoid to other object and back. We see a man turn into a skeleton lying at the bottom of a grave; faces turn into natural flora and fauna and so on.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Preoccupations Share Atmospheric and Brooding “Death of Melody”

Canadian post punk outfit and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations —  Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar) — will be releasing their fourth, full-length album Arrangements on September 9, 2022. Longtime label home Flemish Eye will handle the release throughout Canada while the band will self-release the album outside of Canada. 

Initial work on Arrangements began in the fall of 2019, when Flegel and Christiansen met up with Munro at his Montreal-based Studio St. Zo. The trio wrote the album’s material and recorded all of the bed tracks together. Wallace then joined in and recorded his parts. With all of the instrumental parts laid down, the band planned to reconvene in a few months and decided what else the songs needed.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the JOVM mainstays’ plans to reconvene in person were halted. At the time Munro was in Calgary on tour with his partner when the shutdowns began, so he wound up staying with his parents for the next 16 months. He whipped up a make-shift studio in his parents house, and the rest of the record was finished remotely with Munro and Flegel sending tracks back and forth to each other: Munro’s vocal and keyboard parts were completed in that set up while Flegel’s vocal parts were laid down in New York. Holy Fuck‘s Graham Walsh mixed the record and Total Control‘s Mikey Young mastered it. 

Interestingly, pandemic isolation helped to encourage the band to reconnect with elements of their earlier releases: Munro, holed up in Calgary with endless weed gummies, obsessively doubled keyboards on guitars and vice versa, sampled the recordings using an old Ensoniq keyboard sampler and made new parts out of the samples. While on 2016’s self-titled and 2018’s New Material, Munro was committed to making keyboards the centerpiece, Arrangements sees guitar returning to the spotlight — an instrument that he describes as much more fun and visceral to play. Throughout most of the album, Christiansen employs a unique tuning that sees him blurring and smearing his parts while Munro’s standard-tuned riffs provide melody and clarity. The end result is an album that sonically will see the band weaving their guitar-heavy origins with their more synth-based recent work to create what may arguably be their most intense and playful album to date. 

Much like its predecessor New MaterialArrangements‘ title is simultaneously literal and cheeky — a sharp contrast to their overall aesthetic. Thematically, the album is dark and direct: “The lyrics are pretty conspicuous and self explanatory on this one, but it’s basically about the world blowing up and no one giving a shit,” says Flegel. 

Last month, I wrote about Arrangements‘ first single, ““Ricochet,” a murky and dark churner featuring layers of glistening and distorted guitar slashes, rolling and lashing snares,atmospheric synth arpeggios and a propulsive bass line paired with Flegel’s mournful, embittered delivery and their penchant for rousingly anthemic hooks. And while being a slick and seamless synthesis of their earliest work and their most recent work, “Ricochet” manages to evoke the creeping, existential dread we have all felt lately — and perhaps continue to feel — during one of the most heightened and uncertain periods in recent memory.

“Death of Melody,” Arrangements‘ second and latest single is a brooding and tumbling track centered around textured, reverb-drenched shoegazer-like haze, martial, machine-like rhythms paired with Flegel’s plaintive delivery fed through even more distortion. Sonically “Death of Melody” is a one-half funhouse in hell, one-half vacillating thoughts tumbling about in the mind of an anxious, uncertain person.

“It’s about having a song stuck in your head, and having no idea what it is, and driving yourself to the brink of dementia trying to figure out what it is” Preoccupations’ Flegel explains. “It’s about knowing and forgetting, existing in the middle ground between the permanent and temporary.”

Directed by Yoonha Park, the accompanying visual for “Death of Melody” features a black and white photo of the band that looks as though it were given a kaleidoscopic, funhouse mirror treatment in which makes the band look monstrous.