Secretly Canadian has a known track record of putting out solid releases, and Suuns has now issued its debut on the label. This one’s a little warped, a little strange, and intriguing in its meshing of styles. It starts right away with the opener “Armed For Peace,” whose languid and simple electronic beat doesn’t sound too promising. It takes the song half its duration to break into something stirring and alien: falsetto vocals, stuttering drums, and psychedelic guitar riffs converge into a messy but catchy whole. And then it ends.
“Organ Blues” also has a halting percussive rhythm and high, faraway vocals. Eventually the guitar noise intrudes and spreads and fades. It’s minimal, and it’s an odd minimalism that Suuns seems to embrace. Even the more traditionally arranged cut “Sweet Nothing” spends much of its time as drums and keyboards, where the guitar passages come in slowly and fade back again. This isn’t the way bands usually do things, and it’s that upsetting of expectations that keeps you interested: you can’t really ever be sure what is coming next. It’s almost a relief when “Sweet Nothings” turns into a 70s AM-radio track for a minute before it devolves into bent guitar and synth notes competing in the chaos. It’s not Radiohead, but there’s a kind of freedom of expression at work on this album that breaks boundaries like those mid-period Radiohead albums. These cuts may be less coherent in some dimensions, but it’s still a step ahead.
“Arena” can’t quite decide whether it’s a dance number or krautrock or a Deerhunter-inspired post-psychedelic cut, and it doesn’t even matter. “PVC” finally feels like a song whose direction and intent will be predictable. It is, but it’s steadiness and constancy have you waiting for the other shoe to drop: you’re surprised by the lack of surprises.
Suuns have given us an unexpected bit of orchestrated but shambolic rock on this album, and because the band isn’t afraid to try new things and put things together oddly we may be witnessing the birth of something grand. Their form of experimentalism and accessibility has precedents, and sometimes its only in retrospect that we can understand what was really going on with those early experiments — once we acclimate to the strange and it sounds perfectly normal.