Last week I wrote about the type of band that is great at what they do. This week, as luck would have it, there comes a band who is the second type of good band—a band that makes everything sound fresh and exciting and new.
Like the title of a literary novel, 6 Possible Illusions Prior to Death is the first full-length album from Toronto quartet Formalists. While a six-song recording with only one really long song might be considered an EP, each song has so much meat on its bone that it’s easy to call this an album proper.
Whichever illusion one decides to visit will reveal much. Those looking for a truly disorienting experience can look first at “Thornhill (x18) For Long Life,” a song with more twists and turns than something…with a lot of twists and turns. Over the course of a little over five minutes, the song manages to incorporate gentle guitar picking, an organ interlude, a shift to accordion, a bell (as if a certain musical style’s time was up) and some gloomy guitar to cap it all off. “Fughetta” (which is also one of the best songs on the album) begins with creepy organ notes before erupting into a schizophrenic tirade of loud guitars and screaming. It ends so abruptly you won’t know what’s hitting you.
For something perhaps a bit more meditative, start with “Awakened/Reposed,” which also features plenty of gentle guitars, sweet vocals (with plenty of hearty backup vocals). But oh yeah, there’s an electric guitar interlude that sounds like it could be on a classic rock album from the 70s. “Oko Yono” features plenty of classical guitar playing to start it off—once Joseph Landau’s vocals come in, so do the drums, and so do the hopes of the song being conventional. Before long, heavy electric guitars are wailing away, setting up an interesting contrast between Landau’s gentle vocals and the instrumental assault.
And then there are the other two songs that are truly illusions. Opener “Moist Raisin Body” is another album highlight, with a pseudo-world-music feel to it. There’s some pleasant interplay between the guitar and shakers, and Landau begins singing some simple—yet disturbing—lyrics. Example: “You know that bodies are everything twice/First they are carrots, then they are slime.” Followed by a hearty chorus of “Turn into slime” repeated several times.
And then there’s the 10-minute-long “Go Joseph! Jacob’s Favourite” which may or may not be a satirical comment on Landau’s involvement in a myriad of bands. The song’s narrator laments spending all of his time making CDs, printing t-shirts and writing songs that no one will like. But the chorus says Joseph shouldn’t feel let down and never quit. Of course the extended run-time fits all kind of melodies in, from keyboard-driven stuff to what sounds like a duel between a guitar and a bass.
What you do with the illusions is up to you—just remember that you will eventually turn into slime.
And be sure to check out the CD release show for the record this Saturday, July 26 at Cinecycle in Toronto.
Top Tracks: “Moist Raisin Body”; “Fughetta”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)