After two remarkable solo albums (A Skeleton in 2019 and A Single Point of Light earlier this year), Ben Shemie reunites with his two SUUNS buddies, Joe Yarmush, and Liam O’Neill, to add six new tracks to an already abundant discography. The Montreal-based trio took past recordings and layered them with new ideas for this evermore experimental FICTION EP.
SUUNS announced that FICTION was created during the dissection, reworking, cutting and pasting of old recordings, demos and try-outs. Upcycling old work has turned out to be an interesting exercise in itself. Not so much because SUUNS shows itself from a completely different side, but because it gives a possible glimpse of what the future holds.
We know SUUNS for their dark pop-rock, minimalist but never stingy with cosmic sound discoveries and FICTION is no exception to the rule. The opening track “Look” is black ambience with shades of Bowie’s Black Star. Shemie’s repetitive voice echoes almost religiously to begin the journey and ends with a deep bass drum, thudding like a steady heartbeat. I’m not sure if they intended it to be but it sounds incredibly sexy. Like the captured sound of catching the eye of someone you’re attracted to across a room.
The pace then accelerates on “Breathe” a piece in collaboration with Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (Jerusalem In My Heart), a long-time friend of the group. The two bands had already worked together five years ago on the creation of a joint album (Suuns & Jerusalem In My Heart). Middle Eastern sounds and synthesisers mingle on this instrumental track. It wouldn’t sound out of place in Noah Hawley’s mind-bending show Legion. This mix of genres is very popular at the moment, as shown by the success of groups like Altin Gün or Yin Yin.
Carried by the self-tuned voice of its leader, the EP takes on another dimension with “Pray” and “Fiction”. Taking elements from Shemie’s solo projects further, the three SUUNS release a vaporous noise, free from the usual constraints of a single release. “Pray” borders on new wave mixed with noisy guitars while “Fiction” leans towards trip-hop.
“Death'”s heavy sound evokes the shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine. Amber Webber’s (Lightning Dust) ethereal, hazy lyrics juxtapose with lingering sizzles. Her voice weaves a beautiful pattern in the contrasting electro drone of the music. The solemn atmosphere continues with a strange cover of “Trouble Every Day” by Frank Zappa which closes the EP. From the original song, only the lyrics are preserved. The voice is tampered with, the flow of speech is disturbing and listening to it is quite an uncomfortable experience. Of course I love it. I adored Delerium in the 90s (and now), and this EP reminds me of their sound, but much heavier and psychedelic.
By pushing their boundaries a step further, SUUNS always manage to reinvent themselves. It results in a sound that can be quite an effort to listen to and you do need to be in the mood for it. It’s not depressing; it’s gorgeous but ominous and unnerving at times. I’m not exaggerating when I say that FICTION can have a physical effect on your body; it is best experienced alone where you can take it all in, be at peace and enjoy the trip. You may feel slightly mentally battered afterwards but it’s worth it.