reviewed by Michael Thomas
The debut album from this sprawling Vancouver group is “dedicated to the sick boss in everyone.” The fun part of trying to decipher what a “sick boss” comes from the multiple meanings of “sick” and “boss,” with colloquial and technical meanings. But if the music of SICK BOSS is anything to go by, it might be the soundtrack of bosses who are on the edge of their sanity.
SICK BOSS is one of the latest albums to come out of Jesse Zubot’s Drip Audio, which has been putting out infinitely creative albums for a long time now. And this group fits the bill well, with a sound influenced by jazz but it is unafraid to grab electronic elements. There’s improvisation, there’s a general sense of dread put forth by the range of instruments, and there’s even the occasional vocals to add a sense of mystery to the proceedings.
The song titles give no more ideas of what to expect than the band name. Take a song like “Bad Buddhist,” one of the album’s best songs. It starts fairly conventionally, with some strummed guitars, but before long some strings and clarinet join the fray, and eventually some organs, guitar and trumpet become so intertwined it’s hard to know which is which. And then the song almost sounds like a country song before fading out into a whirring of electronic sounds. That’s just one song.
Some songs start heavily and never relent. “Bug Ya! (Pt. 1)” is full of bass notes and distorted drum machines. It’s so dense that you can almost feel your headphones getting heavier. This is one of the album’s three songs with Debra-Jean Creelman on vocals, and her nearly indistinguishable words add an extra sense of creepiness. “Bug Ya! (Pt. 2)” ramps its way up to heaviness, getting more and more bonkers as it goes.
Some songs inspire dread with a lighter touch. “They’ve Got Tombstones In Their Eyes” sets a tone with sombre piano and strings, and the rest of the instruments only gradually make their presence known. Though “Ruthless Waltz” starts with a big burst of sound, that slowly makes way for some striking piano, with the occasional creaks and strings worming their way through.
Who is your sick boss and what is this sick boss doing? Maybe you’ll understand how a sick boss thinks after listening to this.
Top Tracks: “Bad Buddhist”; “Bug Ya! (Pt. 1)
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)