words by trevor elkin
photo by jaimi wainright
We’ve been a little in the thrall of Canadian music quite recently and while, technically, this is not new new it’s too good to miss. Vancouver’s Blessed describe themselves as a democratic collective of individuals brought together from other projects, driven by a strong work ethic and a desire to “create music with no boundaries in its creative process, and tour as relentlessly as they pleased”. Second EP, ‘II’, out since April, is perhaps an ideal dropping off point for this band’s angular, mathy (but not posturing) divergence from post-punk.
You’ll find plenty of bands comfortably noodling around in the overlap where post-punk & art-rock meets, religiously and predictably swapping out key and tempo changes in a self-satisfied heartbeat. The trouble is it can all get a bit too cosy and refined, perfectionism masquerading as chaos. Blessed don’t just kick the tyres here, they stab them with a screwdriver, leaving a puncture so deep that you have no choice but to hitch a ride with them. Opener ‘Phase’ holds enough of the intricate guitar and drum work together to keep things moving on, but it’s the side-steps into more traditional, melodic spaces along the way that really add to Blessed’s approach. It’s an experience rather like switching between radio stations that all play your favourite songs.
Blessed throw in punk, classic rock, pop, thrash, maybe even prog into a centrifuge that spins around their common vision and powered by what appears to be a hive mind. ‘Headache’ is like Devo spliced onto Marquee Moon, cut and diced and reassembled into something even greater – diabolically wrong, but so good. Drew Riekman’s voice punctuates the flow, veering between clipped, seemingly random phrases, hellish screams and more melodious singing. The vocal is confident, but is treated as another instrument. ‘Body’ demonstrates an apparently inexhaustible range of sounds possible by human and guitar, layer on layer of patterns and counterpoints it’s hard to take in in one sitting. Finally, ‘Endure’ picks up where ‘Phase’ started and goes in reverse, back through a musical maze of false starts, undermining riffs and a hypnotic, discordant lead out that ends as abruptly as it began.
If you’re looking for an adventure, a genuine trail through the seamier side streets of a familiar place, hook up with Blessed; the album is streaming in full below.
‘II’ is out now on Kingfisher Bluez