The Absolutely Free nucleus of Matt King, Moshe Rozenberg, and Mike Claxton previously played with Toronto contorto-punk outfit DD/MM/YYYY, a band whose unpronounceable name was commonly verbalized as “Day Month Year” but was originally meant to be substituted with the date of whenever they got together to play. The implicit message was that, at a show (particularly those held in the sort of ad-hoc, stage-less venues DD/MM/YYYY frequented) what matters is not so much the name of who’s playing as the commitment and intensity they put into the performance, which should in turn forever burn a memory of a specific time and place into the lucky attendee’s blown mind. And while the music Absolutely Free creates is dramatically different than that of their former incarnation, the underlying principle remains: It’s a band’s ultimate obligation to make their audience feel like they’re part of something special.
Since forming in late 2011 just as DD/MM/YYYY announced its break-up, Absolutely Free have confined their recorded output to a series of limited-run 12-inch releases (issued via Fucked Up guitarist Mike Haliechuk’s One Big Silence imprint) that have packed several album’s worth of ideas into prog-pop mini-suites. And their live performances to date have mostly steered clear of the traditional club circuit in favor of all-out happenings: the band celebrated their debut single “UFO” by leading audiences Pied Piper-style between nearby venues in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood, performing a live soundtrack to The Day the Earth Stood Still and a set of their own material before throwing a video dance party modeled after 1990s-era MuchMusic-hosted high-school shindigs. And while the decision to release follow-up single “On the Beach” last October may have negated any opportunities for a fun-in-the-sun soiree, Absolutely Free did the next best thing: perform a concert during a night-swim session at a local indoor swimming pool.
D. Boon once cheekily described the Minutemen’s herky-jerky poli-punk as “scientist rock,” but Absolutely Free genuinely look and sound like the sort of band concocted in some sort of after-school lab experiment. Their stage set-up resembles a madcap workshop of effects pedals, deconstructed drum kits, melodicas, buzzing analog synths, and the sort of dense entanglement of wires that makes you worry someone’s going to get electrocuted. But the band’s self-titled debut full-length (produced by Haliechuk) bears the fully realized fruits of Absolutely Free’s endless experimentation, yielding a compact 8-song, 42-minute album that retains the band’s sense of intrepidity while travelling a more linear course.
Where the group’s early singles favored extended ambient intros, impulsive structural shifts, and blown-out finales, the songs on Absolutely Free tend to patiently linger on a single idea and see how it naturally evolves. Singing drummer Matt King’s vocals are also less of a driving force here; rather than lead the charge, he seems more willing to let his existential ruminations reverberate out into the cosmos. But while the band have reined in some of the volatility that made those introductory singles so exhilarating, there’s a cool consistency and newfound accessibility to Absolutely Free that makes it an easy, enchanting front-to-back listen, the songs locking together to form a smoothly contoured album arc. Even the most chaotic elements—like the spinning-radio-dial dissonance woven through the opening reverie “Window of Time”—eventually fuse into the album’s steady wavelength. That’s not to suggest Absolutely Free aren’t still shooting for the moon; they’ve simply activated the cruise control so that they can better savor the trip and enjoy the view.
These are the sort of songs that oh-so subtly build a snowball into an icy boulder: the sleigh-belled, drum-thumping pop of “Beneath the Air” and “Striped Light” initially suggest the sequel to Andorra that Caribou never made, before gradually adding layer upon layer of counter-melodies and textural disorder to shatter any ’60s-retro illusions. “Burred Lens” works itself up into a pink-smoked synthphony as engrossing as anything on The Terror; “Earth II”—presumably a nod to the 1971 sci-fi flick, not thenamesake doom-metal masterpiece—is the sort of deep-space kosmiche-rock odyssey that they’ll be blasting on the Orion in 2025 when cruising for other intelligent life in the universe.
However, the closing eight-minute epic “Spiral Jetty” suggests Absolutely Free’s newly holistic aesthetic is already being subjected to a deconstructive rethink, with a jagged drum beat that cuts through the song’s glass-dome synth sheen and seemingly liberates the band from the more conventional song structures they imposed on themselves for much of the record. After all, DD/MM/YYYY decided to break up the moment they felt their unpredictably spastic, instrument-swapping art-core attack was becoming a routine unto itself; don’t be surprised if the greater focus in effect on Absolutely Free is simply a means for the band to identify the peripheries yet to be explored.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1s8ziTA