reviewed by Michael Thomas
One of the only things that remains a constant as Valued Customer release more and more recordings is that everything will change. Their previous album, Kalpa, was a monumental undertaking, something completely indefinable and fluid. The band has long hyped the arrival of its next full-length, Hugecup, and I foolishly expected some kind of massive double-album with a five-hour runtime.
Of course, Hugecup is nothing of the sort. It takes all the great ideas of Kalpa, distills them, adds a few new layers and comes out as something extraordinary. The songs are mostly shorter, trumpet adds a layer of intrigue and power, and each song is its own self-contained universe.
Some things have carried over from the previous record, of course—the band’s music is anchored in some kind of strange intersection where hip-hop, jazz and experimentalism meet head on. The band’s fascination with Buddhism and a more general idea of peace is still there too.
The songs of Hugecup also really highlight the contrasting styles of Patrick Power and Justus, but still manage to bring both of them together to make multi-faceted songs. Where Power brings in smooth vocals and intricate guitar, Justus brings a more manic hip-hop flavour that is sometimes calmed down and infused with spiritualism. Justus’ presence always brings intrigue to a song, and his energy really infuses everything with energy—it’s hard to ignore how infectious that in as Justus urges on “verse 2 verse 2” in “Culottes,” for example.
Perhaps the most masterful song on the album is “Awesome Tapes,” which starts with a calm verse in which Justus rhymes an inordinate number of things with “shaman” and backed by electric guitar. As he sings “I got nothin’ on my mind but these awesome tapes,” a swell of trumpets kicks in and Power’s background vocals make the song sound like some kind of religious rock revival. “Godk” is another wonderful piece of work, almost veering into pop territory with its uplifting lyrics and backing trumpet: “I don’t mind, I take it all the time/It’s not too hard to be what you are.”
Things get a little more chill on songs like “Hokum” and “Yr Bud World,” the latter of which is as mellow as its name might suggest. For a full-on freakout, Kalpa-style, explore “501/Ego Death.” As one who has taken Toronto’s 501 streetcar many a time, it’s hard not to get into the full-on experimental deluge of instruments. It’s the perfect instrumental form of resentment people must feel being on it regularly.
Valued Customer’s weird, unpredictable hiphoprockexperiment continues to be fruitful, and whether their next offering is a three-disc rock opera or a surprise mixtape remains to be seen. Could be either, or maybe both.
Top Tracks: “Awesome Tapes”; “Godk”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)