The Faps are weird. And not in that sort-of-genericized Weird Canada or post-Animal Collective, hey-we’ve-got-16-delay-pedals-and-can-yelp-in-unison kind of way. That stuff is all well and good (and now popular enough to be chided, right?), but The Faps are weird in that old-school, small town, what the heck are those f*****s up to kind of way. Meaning, they are two sweet skids who kind of just do whatever they like, whether it fits a scene or not. And Friends With Benefits epitomizes that perfectly.
Live and on record, The Faps are two piece garage-punk maelstrom of swinging limbs, and yell-sung vocals. But for this “Remix and Covers Journey”, the duo gave their friends free rein to do whatever they please with their songs. The end result is the furthest thing from a generic toss-a-beat-under-it-and-reverse-the-vocal-hook remix you could get. Song parts are mixed and matched and layered over completely new ideas to create a wonderfully claustrophobic mix of ambient drone, free noise, Beastie Boys-esque punk ragers, and 90’s dance-indebted sounds, all put together like a seriously f’ed up cut-and-paste-style continuous sound mix.
The weirdest thing about this whole shebang is that it works. Featuring remixes, re-creations, and covers by some of Saskatoon’s finest, including respectfulchild, Shirley & the Pyramids, Myles and the Blanks, as well as Calgary’s If I Look Strong, You Look Strong, Friends With Benefits could be the best way to shock yourself into consciousness next time you have to wake yourself up at 4am to drag yourself to a pre-dawn shift at that job you love to hate, or the best soundtrack to pummel your senses with while aimlessly wandering your city’s most picturesque back alleys. It’s a journey, but one that might be secretly waiting to sucker punch you when you least expect it.- TM
Natural Sympathies – “Space Invaders”
Opening with a blast of gleeful electro energy comes “Space Invaders”, the latest single in advance of the Strange Heavens EP from Regina’s Natural Sympathies. Despite the rigidity of the beats and the driving handclaps, “Space Invaders” still feels highly fluid, with light atmospheres shifting between sparseness, crystalline synth-lines and a varied vocal delivery that ranges between chorus-fiery and woozy disorientation. – CM
Me the Guts – self-titled
Combining explosive, complex melodic punk songwriting with pummeling rhythms that rattle at breakneck speeds and shake the floor a la a runaway locomotive, Me the Guts represent something of a throwback. Rooted in the melodic hardcore of the 2000s, the trio’s parts all fit extremely well: guitar wizardry that alternates effortlessly between rhythm and blistering leads; the little drop points perfect for high kicks; and a constant inkling that the vocals are hitting upon something deeply personal and, dare I say, emotional. Considering the technical prowess, it’s all the more impressive that the live delivery of the vocals are perfectly rendered as they are on the album, with singer Derek Kuchirka anchored behind a never-faltering drumkit. – CM
Editor’s note: Not to get bogged down by any confusion, but while this album technically started filtering through the Internet at the end of 2015, the physical release is officially being dropped at the beginning of 2017. So let’s just file it here and not worry about it too much.
Spationauts – Bike Ride To The Doom
Saddled on hypnotic repetition and infinite guitar delay comes the Spationauts, a Regina duo who, according to their bio, take their cues from various psych-rock groups of Saskatoon. While there are a few nods throughout the entirety of the five-song EP, specifically in the duo’s final song, “I’ll Be Your Drone” featuring guest Shooting Gun Christopher Laramee, the majority of the music crosses between the glorious purgatory between garage-y interludes and harsh mellow noise. While there are multiple satisfying pop-hook pay-offs, with meandering noise trails that seemingly wander with mysterious purpose, it’s cool to hear a band create a collection of songs, each having been written and recorded in a single day, that feels like a glimpse into another human’s daily diary. – CM
Herd of Wasters – Total Stinker
A heaping helping of barbed rock mucus, Total Stinker is the latest full-length LP from Saskatoon thud-punk trio Herd of Wasters. Punk played in the spirit of early Screeching Weasel, musically Herd of Wasters is pounding fun with roaring gravel-n-whiskey type vocals and a matching wardrobe to boot. But it’s not just spilled beers and acerbic lyrics about drinking said beers/partying/hating on people who post pictures of fancy breads on the Internet/etc. – there are fleeting hooks throughout the album, with the guitars contributing to a sense of melody amidst all the clobbery mayhem. Weirdly enough, one of the highlights is “Wasting Away”, a hook-laden instrumental piece placed mid-album that’s sort of akin to that fuzzy moment of clarity amidst an evening of drinking and hollering. Contributing 19 songs that clock in at an average of just under two minutes, Total Stinker is the loogie that lingers for those who like their punk rapid-fire and scuzzy as all heck. – CM
Relaxation Company – split
The drone scene in the prairies is maybe the best and most diverse it has ever been. This cassette/digital release is proof, and pairs Private Investigators, an Edmonton duo featuring Saskatoon ex-pat Ian Rowley (Rhythm of Cruelty, Geister, Rapid Loss, Boothman), with The Relaxation Company, the evolutionary descendent of the ever-prolific Chris Laramee’s Wasted Cathedral. While the Private Investigators side is a 30-minute long piece that explores several different sounds, Relaxation Company turns in three songs that keep a fairly meditative sound throughout – lots of near-soothing ambience amidst a steady hum of burnt synapses and delays-set-to-forever. Released on tape label Pseudo Laboratories, this may be the beginning of a beautiful partnership. Hopefully Saskatoon will see these weirdos perform together in 2017. – AS