Montréal-based psych rock outfit Population II — Pierre-Luc Gratton (vocals, drums), Tristan Lacombe (guitar, keys) and Sébastien Provençal (bass) — can trace their origin back a long way and are inextricably linked to their teenage memories. After years of jamming to the point of developing a unique sense of telepathy, the trio began recording independently released material that caught the attention of Castle Face Records head and The Oh Sees‘ frontman John Dwyer, who released the band’s full-length debut, 2020’s À la Ô Terre, an album that saw the band displaying their mastery of improvised and sophisticated composition.
This past winter, Population II signed with Bonsound‘s label, booking and publishing arms. The taste making Montréal-based label will be releasing the Canadian trio’s highly anticipated Emmanuel Èthier-produced sophomore album Èlectrons libres du québec. Slated for an Friday release, Population II’s sophomore effort is reportedly much more straightforward than its predecessor, and sees the trio crafting heavy psych rock infused with feverish punk rhythms, a burst of early punk energy, a hint of jazz philosophy and a love of minor scales that channel the early roots of heavy metal. The album’s material also sees the trio continuing to showcase their deft musicianship and expertise of their instruments with the material effortlessly balancing between challenging compositions and memorable melodies.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I’ve managed to write about two of its singles:
“Beau baptême,” a song built around a fairly traditional and recognizable song structure — verse, chorus, verse, bridge, coda — that’s roomy enough for buying power chord-driven riffs and mind-melting grooves paired with Gratton’s ethereal crooning. The song sees the trio deftly balancing jazz-inspired improvisational sensibilities with the tight restraint of a deliberately crafted composition.
The song explores the psychological journey around inspiration and focuses on the very genesis of ideas — namely how ideas are actually born and the opinions they generate. Throughout the song, the band’s Pierre-Luc Gratton sings about how writing can sometimes happen with ease and spontaneity and sometimes requires deep, long reflection. Fittingly, the song is rooted in a lived-in specificity.
“C.T.Q.S,” a song that begins with a driving rhythm, dissonant 70s jazz fusion/prog rock organ with a slightly menacing, off-kilter vibe and a relentless punk rock-like urgency before veering into a krautrock-meets-psych ripper around the song’s halfway point. Featuring tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the band’s Gratton taunts those who are too passive and have surrendered in the face of the world’s current, turbulent state.
“‘C.T.Q.S’. is the manifestation of the tribulations of the past among today’s youth,” the Montréal-based trio explain. “It’s the calm after the storm, the law of suburbia, the boomer’s victory lap. It’s searching the ‘Local business” category on Amazon.”
Èlectrons libres du québec‘s third and latest single “Pourquoi qu’on dort pas” features Caribou‘s and Born Ruffians‘ Colin Fisher contributing forceful saxophone lines, which manage to add soulful harmony and chaotic dissonance to the affair. The trio manage to quickly lock into a scuzzy and forceful Stooges-like groove with dreamy and campy bursts of organ paired with Gratton’s dreamy falsetto. The song manages to evoke the fuzziness brain fog and detachment of insomnia.
With a title that translates into English as “Why Aren’t We Sleeping,” “Pourquoi qu’on dort pas” can trace its origins to a number of late-night strolls through the streets of Montréal’s Ahuntsic neighborhood. “During the time we wrote that song, Pierre-Luc (singer/drummer) used to go running at night when he couldn’t sleep, explains the trio. As the flora and fauna of Ahuntsic is very diverse, he often came across geese.” Fittingly, the song thematically explores birds as symbolic figures.
21/10/2023 – Saint-Hyacinthe, QC – Le Zaricot °
° Double bill with Yoo Doo Right