If you’ve been hankering for your next dissonant, brain-bending escape, Canadian four-piece Suuns have you more than taken care of. Unveiling their fourth studio album in March, Suuns’ Felt is an experimental soundscape offering the listener a topsy-turvy experience throughout the LP’s 46-minute ride.
The opening track, “Look No Further”, acts as a fitting introduction to the album, featuring dissonant guitar lines modulating in and out of an industrial hip-hop beat. “Look No Further”’s melancholy taste and strikingly abrasive tone from the outset firmly raises your eyebrows in interest for the next ten tracks to follow. They rarely budge for the remainder of the record.
Felt’s production focuses primarily on minimalism to drive its point home. A number of the tracks offered make you feel as if the band was intentionally building up to a climax, only to pull the song short and leave you feeling as if you opened a pair of socks out of a giant TV-sized box on Christmas Day. That being said, the third track and lead single off the record, “Watch You, Watch Me”, gives the listener a refreshing break from the overbearing dissonance with a pleasingly melodic instrumental number. Satisfying drum ‘n’ bass electronic percussion fills sit well with the song and lave you wanting more. Disappointingly, the record refuses to capitalise on the energetic tangent that this song provides. For reference, the six-minute track will resonate well with anyone who enjoyed instrumental artist Tycho’s latest album, Epoch in 2016.
“Baseline” is a strong follow-up to the lengthy synth jam, with a driving bassline leading a gloomy verse, partnered by slowly-entering synths providing interesting harmonies. As far as structure goes, this is the most simple track on the album. But that is by no means a bad thing. The album needed to give the listener something to help ground their feet amid the heavily-experimental opening medley to the LP. “Control” is another nice moment for the album. Opening up with effected vocals akin to Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” before layering in samples of thick voices speaking back and forth in different languages, the sixth track on the album is the band’s most psychedelic number.
The record reaches its final high point immediately after, with “Make It Real” and “Peace and Love”, a comparably bright set of tunes next to the moody platter of tracks which laden the album. “Make It Real” is one of those rare songs you’re happy with the drummer flicking off the snare and letting the hollow timbre drive the song, while “Peace and Love” features a catchy staccato guitar line played clean throughout the track before a saxophone cuts through the mix with a searing lick. But as with most albums with just one or two hidden gems, these fleeting moments of brilliance leave you more disappointed than inspired.
The almost infuriatingly distorted “Moonbeams”, while providing an interesting two minutes for the listener to figure out if their record player has hit a snag, serves primarily as an interlude to the final track on the album. “Materials” closes out the piece with a mix of dissonant counter-melodies played over squashed vocals.
As a whole, Suuns’ new offering is something you must listen to back-to-front to properly grasp what it’s trying to do. But sadly for most modern music consumers, new music is more often listened to in playlists. Art projects like the one seen in Felt rarely find a place in the average music listeners’ palette, but solid singles in “Control” and “Watch You, Watch Me” give ordinary music fans an opportunity to delve into something unique. That being said, Felt is not something you’d throw on while you’re with your mum or someone you’re trying to impress.
While their attempt at shaking things up with a bold record deserves credit, you can’t help but feel slightly disappointed in Suuns’ latest effort. Their blend of industrial sounding synths, heavily tampered guitars and emphasis on minimalism will remind a lot of listeners of the first time they experienced Radiohead and Alt-J. But as much as Felt tries to be an experimental masterpiece, it just can’t scrape it.