When I think of Montreal, Canada, I often conjure images of warm and cozy homes with central heating and the usual Canadian wholesome politeness.hearing littleuniverses’s self titled album opened my eyes for a different picture of Montreal altogether.
Littleuniverses is the moniker for a Montreal based art rock outfit. Their latest release, a self titled LP, is a whole world removed from what I always had in mind when it came to Canadian music. Guilty for stereotyping as is, littleuniverses album is menacing, at times horrific, and all the while dark, for a final products that’s as musically rewarding as it is foreboding and frightening. In the forefront of this release’s aesthetic is the vocal timbre and choice of eccentric, exotic sounding melodies that give these songs an incredibly alien and hypnotizing sound.
The album kicks off with the dark wisteria of Magic. A song with decided and prominent melancholia. The vocal acrobatics, sounding warm and inviting, but ultimately laden with danger and darkness are perfectly complemented by the slow burning arrangement of lulling fingerpicked arpeggios and distant, reverb-drenched distorted electric guitar that play hard hitting deep lines. The changes in harmony, when they come, are terrifying and dramatic, and the keyboard sounds angelic and serene, like an inviting light at the end of a tunnel. But don’t approach it, because in such a bleak atmosphere, it’s difficult to imagine something being safe or comfortable. The haunting Magic is followed by Woman. Leaning heavily on the ‘horror’ side of things, Woman makes use of more simplistic, arpeggiated acoustic guitar chords, but this time the progressions are venomous and laden with dissonance. A bellowing bass and a vast, distorted electric guitar perfectly engulf the song with dread in a bone chilling mid section that leaves you weary and exhausted. Forever To Never Again makes use of a chilling church organ that’s as commandeering as the word sounds, along with a syncopated synth in a duet of hypnotizing darkness that gives way to light in short sections of heavenly strings and soaring pads, clean electric guitars, and vocal wizardry, for an end result that’s one of the most memorable and alluring throughout the album.
Will I Be A Mother is a vast and expansive introspective piece, with intimate, easy-to-follow vocals and songwriting. The general atmosphere is afloat in mid-space with massive, airy synths, and walls of tasty reverb covering everything and providing much needed coldness that propels the aesthetic of the songs and help the music develop a truly unique identity. Sword is the lead single of this album. With a prominent chord progression that descends, the tight drums and busy, buzzing atmospheres, the intensely distorted guitars, Sword is the scariest sounding song on the release, it is also the most dynamic, rocking, and accessible song on the album. The last three offerings from this album are 3 vastly varied sonic experiments. Your Lake is an unexpected freak folk-funk crossover that I never knew I needed. A generally inviting atmosphere with moving, funky guitar riffs, a relatively bright chord progression, melodic bass lines, and gentle percussion make this song a warm and surprising, but ultimately a very welcomed left turn on the album. 8 is massive with walls of synths and a reverb that threatens to swallow the whole earth. It is the only song on the album that utilizes a far too obvious trick for this aesthetic, drones. A lengthy segment of the song is a deeply hypnotic drone with a throbbing bass, rhythmic grand piano strikes, and a lot of lyric-less vocal panache that toys with vocal processing with colored delays and reverbs. For such a dark album, this song’s hammering drones are positively the album’s most menacing and desperate segments. It’s a demanding listen. The album closes with the intimate and melancholic Send It Away. An acoustic ballad full of mystique and drama. An appropriately inviting send away after the soul piercing eeriness of the previous 8.
Littleuniverses’s later set album is an incredibly cohesive work of art. Complete and surprisingly restrained. The fantastic and rich production from Randall Dunn (Myrkur & Anna von Hausswolf) certainly is the icing on the cake, creating mixes that are flawless and in perfect tune with the artist’s vision. This challenging and draining listen certainly reaps its rewards. A piece of art that should be thoroughly contemplated.