Suuns - Hold/Still
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Following an intriguing collaboration with Lebanese-Canadian experimental project Jerusalem in My Heart, Montreal art rock quartet Suuns ventured to Dallas to record their third proper full-length with producer John Congleton, who is known for his work with artists such as St. Vincent and Swans. As with previous Suuns recordings, Hold/Still features minimal, hypnotic arrangements that are frequently blown out with distortion, but just as often feel spare and spacious. This time out, the group seems to have a bit more of an electronic sheen than on earlier efforts, but it still feels like there's a metronome-like human heart beating inside the machinery. The album's most exhilarating moments are the ones when they bounce from soft to alarmingly loud dynamics. "Brainwash" is the best example of this, as it begins with a minute of pretty guitar strokes and gentle singing before being crushed by a slow, heavy electronic beat reminiscent of the more abrasive moments on PJ Harvey's Is This Desire? Opening track "Fall" has an even more pulverizing rhythm, but it's introduced by tense, feedback-heavy guitar notes that serve as a somewhat fair warning. The group plays with listeners' expectations, pulling its songs sideways and taking them into curious directions. Even if some of the songs have spare, measured rhythms that seem easy enough to follow, the group will make the guitar notes spiral into strange directions or build the feedback up to hair-raising levels. Or, in the other direction, they'll build up slowly, if at all, and leave the listener anticipating a payoff that never really shows up. The album gets particularly plodding during its final half, especially on songs like the seven-minute "Careful." However, the album's brief final track, "Infinity," pulls everything into focus with a revelatory moment of self-realization, beginning with the words "Now I see everything for what it is."