The release of SUUNS’ fifth full-length album, The Witness, is uncanny in its timing.
The Montreal-based rock band self-recorded and self-produced the album over 2020, one of the strangest, most isolating and revelatory years globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The resulting anxiety, solitude and fear are still in process. Some spaces feel safer than they did but it remains difficult to return to ways of being pre- March 2020. And perhaps there will never be a return to the way things once were.
Enter the strangely appropriate album The Witness, with a sound so specific it feels like listening to a genre from another planet.
The sound palette is composed of the familiar and the strange. The album opens — and closes — with the sound of cicadas followed by a resonant eerie bass drone and then, finally, the listener is met with something familiar, guitar and percussion. The vocals both soothe and disturb, with singer Ben Shemie’s voice distorted yet sweet.
Shemie himself admits the band’s intention to never “commit to a certain kind of tonality.”
“Whether it’d be major or minor, there’s always a certain kind of evading of what your expectation is,” he said in a statement.
He also made explicit the corresponding significance of the album’s title and lyrics.
“There’s something interesting about the idea a collective witness, being a witness to the time we’re living in now, and the connectedness of what we all have in common.”
Expectations are inherent in the reintegration of socializing after a year of lockdowns and isolation. Social expectations in normal circumstances are seldom met. The heightened expectations of social situations presently are consistent and profound disappointments. This sonar evasion from SUUNS feels appropriate and somehow comforting in the strangeness of reality.
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