Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Electronic, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Experimental Ambient, Experimental Electronic, Modern Composition, Electro-Acoustic, Sound Art
Judging from their respective recorded output to date, Suuns and Jerusalem in My Heart don’t seem to share anything beyond Montreal postal codes. The former is an archetypal indie rock band—four white guys in standard guitar/bass/synth/drums formation, belonging to a distinctly Western tradition of dystopian art-punk. The latter is the multimedia recording project of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, a producer of Lebanese descent refracting traditional Middle Eastern music through a modernist, avant-garde lens (right down to the numerically dense song titles that reflect Arabic text-speak for sounds not represented by English characters).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The Canadian East Coast's aptitude for experimentalism continues to enjoy its renaissance in this collaboration between Montreal psych-rockers Suuns and Radwan Moumneh's art project, Jerusalem In My Heart. The concept for the piece was to hire a Montreal studio and leave seven days later, and they've emerged with a two-headed beast of instinct and consequence.
Suuns are a four-piece that combine the prickly art of post-punk with a proto-electro keyboard swirl, giving them a vibe that shoots in two (or more) historical directions; Jerusalem in My Heart is even harder to define. Radwan Moumneh, also a respected producer and sound engineer in Montreal's Hotel2Tango scene, combines a deep appreciation and knowledge of Arabic folk, modal and poetry traditions with an eye to the future via keyboard drones and electronic experiments. The results of their collaborative 2012 recording sessions, later smoothed and tweaked, suggest broadcasts from some Middle Eastern outpost where mashups of Joy Division, Killing Joke, Brian Eno, Fairuz and ambient Aphex Twin are the daily bread.
Canadian indie electronic quartet Suuns first teamed up with friend Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, who had done like-minded electronic sound art under the name Jerusalem in My Heart, in late 2012. The longtime friends and collaborators got together with no definitive plan, hoping to maximize time together in a rented studio and come away with a wealth of new music. While the original sessions resulted in a plethora of new sketches heavy on mystical sequenced analog synth riffs and moody Kraut-punk rhythms, the recordings would go unchecked for over a year as both parties got caught up in their respective projects.
Although both hail from Montreal, a collaboration between Suuns and Jerusalem In My Heart isn’t one that many would have predicted at the start of the year. Since emerging in 2010, Suuns have impressed with their taut, channelled synth-bolstered rock, culminating in second album Images du Futur being nominated for the 2013 Polaris Prize. Radwan Ghazi Moumneh meanwhile, under his Jerusalem In My Heart guise, has pursued a far more abstract and unusual path, mixing traditional Middle Eastern music with esoteric drones and avant-rock.
While there’s a lot of space in Suuns’ music, they’ve never struck me as the sort of band that would particularly want to share it. And so while Jerusalem In My Heart’s stuttering, swirling experimentalism can be pegged as an obvious peer to Suuns’ minimalist approach to tension creation, it’s still a bit surprising that to see these artists making a collaborative album. The main reason that it’s happened is that they’re just really good mates.
Pretty portents of sorrow fill “Kathryn Calder,” the self-titled album by the singer who is best known as the modest team player supplying harmony vocals in the New Pornographers. Her own albums — this is the third and most transparent — reveal grander structures and a singular perspective ….
Suuns' last release, Images Du Futur, was, for me at least, a classic example of an album that slowly invades the brain's pleasure centres rather than immediately overwhelming the heart. The first couple of listens were oddly alienating, the band's rarefied take on alt psych proving difficult to get a handle on beyond their sometimes uncanny resemblance to Clinic. But then it began to work some kind of creeping magic, its stark grooves, sense of tension and sudden changes in atmosphere revealing a group that was fully in control of its aesthetic.