Suuns

Suuns

Hold/Still, the third studio album from Suuns, is an enigmatic thing: an eerily beautiful, meticulously played suite of music that embraces opposites and makes a virtue of cognitive dissonance. It is a record that does not give up its secrets easily. The 11 songs within are simultaneously psychedelic, but austere; sensual, but cold; organic, but electronic; tense sometimes to the brink of mania, but always retaining perfect poise and control. “There’s an element of this album that resists you as a listener, and I think that’s because of these constantly opposing forces,” says drummer Liam O’Neill. “Listen to the song ‘Brainwash’, for instance, “It’s a very soft, lyrical guitar song, existing alongside extremely aggressive and sparse drum textures. It inhabits these two worlds at the same time.”

From the beginning, Suuns (you pronounce it “soons”, and it translates as “zeroes” in Thai) have sought to do things differently. They formed in Montreal 2007, when singer/guitarist Ben Shemie and guitarist Joe Yarmush got together to work on some demos, soon to be joined by Liam, Ben’s old schoolfriend, on drums and Max Henry on synth. Their group’s first two records, 2010’s Zeroes QC and 2012’s Polaris Prize-nominated Images Du Futur – both released on Secretly Canadian – were immediate critical hits, and Suuns soon found themselves part of a late ‘00s musical renaissance in the city, alongside fellow groups like The Besnard Lakes, Islands and Land Of Talk. Still, at the same time, Suuns feel remote from the big, baroque ensembles and apocalyptic orchestras that typify the Montreal scene. “We write quite minimal music,” thinks Ben. “They’re not traditional song forms, sometimes they don’t really go anywhere – but they have their own kind of logic.” Or as Joe puts it: “It’s pop music, but sitting in this evil space.”

After two records produced by their friend Jace Lasek of The Besnard Lakes at his Montreal studio Breakglass, Suuns decided Hold/Still demanded a different approach. In May 2015, they decamped to Dallas, Texas to work with Grammy-winning producer John Congleton (St Vincent, The War On Drugs, Sleater-Kinney). For three intense weeks, the four recorded in Congleton’s studio by day, the producer driving them to capture perfect live takes with virtually no overdubbing. At night, they returned to their cramped apartment and stewed. “Recording in Montreal, it’s more of a party atmosphere,” says Joe. “Here it felt like we were on a mission. We were looking for something to take us out of our element, or that might seep into our music.” Luckily, the effect was galvanizing. Under Congleton’s instruction, ‘Translate’ and ‘Infinity’, songs the group had been reworking for years, suddenly found their form.

The result is undoubtedly Suuns’ most focused album to date, the sound of a band working in mental lockstep, crafting a guitar music that feels unbeholden to clear traditions or genre brackets. From the haunted electronic blues of ‘Nobody Can Save Me Now’ to throbbing seven-minute centrepiece ‘Careful’, Hold/Still foregrounds the work of Max, a synthesizer obsessive who builds his own patches and confesses to using cranky or budget equipment as well as top-of-the-range kit because “[good gear] does all the work for you, and that’s not always fun”. Certainly, this is a band as inspired by the dark groove textures of Andy Stott, the flourishing arpeggios of James Holden or the serrated productions of Death Grips as anything familiarly rock. “Things don’t feel right until they’ve been touched or cast over in an electronic light,” elaborates Liam. “It’s rare that acoustic drum kit, guitar, and bass comprise a finished product for us. For a song to be Suuns, it has to be coloured by electronics”.

Certainly this remains a band in love with the aesthetic of obscurity. The album cover is an image of Ben’s former workmate Nahka, who was captured by photographer Caroline Desilets using a pinhole camera with a four-minute exposure time – Hold/Still, indeed.

In another contradiction, this record finds Ben’s vocals far more enunciated and upfront than before. If there are themes that tie Hold/Still together, says Ben, they might be investigations “about sex… perhaps not the act specifically, just [themes] of a sexual nature. But there’s also a spiritual undertone that points to another kind of searching.” The sexual is illustrated in the dark romance of ‘Careful’, while longing becomes both sexual and spiritual in the thirsty pleas of ‘Instrument’: “I wanna believe/I wanna receive…” The spiritual takes over on the back half of the record. ‘Nobody Can Save Me Now’ evokes artist Tracey Emin’s ghostly invocation For You at the Liverpool Cathedral: “I felt you / and I knew that you loved me”, while B side opener ‘Brainwash’ wonders: “Do you see, all seeing? / Do you know, all knowing?”

In a cultural centre like Montreal, bands can get too comfortable playing to their peers. Suuns, though, feel like a band always looking to the nearest border. They found early audiences in France and in Belgium, where they curated the Sonic City Festival in 2012, booking acts as diverse as Swans, Tim Hecker and Demdike Stare. Meanwhile, the last couple of years have seen them tour as far afield as Mexico, Morocco, Beirut, Taiwan and Istanbul – sometimes with friend Radwan Moumneh of the multimedia project Jerusalem In My Heart, with whom they released a brilliant collaborative record, Suuns And Jerusalem In My Heart last year.

“We tour a lot as a band and we’ve been all over the map at this point,” says Ben. “There is a concerted effort on our part, when the opportunity arises, to do that. It’s like, this time, let’s try to go further east, let’s try to go further south. You find yourself playing in front of people who don’t get bands playing in front of them often, and that can be really fun.” In short, good things happen when you venture outside of your comfort zone – a truth that you could equally apply to Hold/Still itself: an album which derives its eerie power from simmering tensions and strange, stark juxtapositions, and in doing so, directs rock music down a new, unventured path.

January 26, 2016

Suuns announces new album Hold/Still, out April 15, 2016



Hold/Still the third studio album from Suuns, an enigmatic thing : an eerily beautiful, meticulously played suite of music that embraces opposites and makes a virtue of cognitive dissonance. It is a record that does not give up its secrets easily. A natural step on from their two previous albums, 2011’s Zeroes QC & 2013’s Images du Futur, and yet a marked departure, Hold/Still is a cerebral exploration of how to take live and analogue instruments and create a deeply textured “electronic” record. In May 2015, they decamped to Dallas, Texas to work with Grammy-winning producer John Congleton and for three intense weeks they recorded by day and stewed in their cramped apartment by night. “It felt like we were on a mission - looking for something to take us out of our element, or that might seep into our music”, say the band. Hold/Still will be released April 15, 2016 on Secret City Records (in Canada) and Secretly Canadian (Rest of world).

The first single, ‘Translate’, is one of the defining songs of the album - the sound of a band working in mental lockstep, crafting guitar music that feels unbeholden to clear traditions or genre brackets. It is a song that the band have been reworking for years, and was one of the last songs to be finished for the album, and yet, perhaps, defines the record perfectly. The synthesizers are the work of Max Henry, an obsessive who builds his own patches and confesses to using cranky or budget equipment - “[good gear] does all the work for you, and that’s not always fun”.

Accompanying the song is the first of a trilogy of videos for the album (the second and third installments will be launched ahead of the record release). Shot by Charles-André Coderre, a long term collaborator of the band, he says “'Translate', the first music video of a triptych series, is an incandescent vision. It was shot with thermal imagery. The concept was simple: film the band in their rehearsal space and transfigure the footage into something unusual and gorgeous. We experimented the different meanings of the word "translate" and explored a new film language by shooting what the human eye can't see”.

Also released today is the Dark Sky ‘Psych’ remix of ‘Translate’ - the first of a number of remixes that will be launched alongside tracks from the album. This one takes ‘Translate’s repetitive, krautrock-like rhythms and squeezes them into a tighter, mesmeric arrangement. Says Dark Sky “We really liked the psyched out sounds and sonics from the original track which sounded vintage but also forward thinking. We were inspired to build on this vibe.”

Listen to Dark Sky’s remix here

Preorder the new album on iTunes

Suuns will be touring throughout the world on release and are pleased to announce the following tour dates today!

March 13 // Azores Island, PT // Tremor Festival
April 7 // Saint-Thérèse QC // Bar Le Cha-Cha
April 9 // Saint-Casimir QC // La Taverne
April 15 // Quebec QC // L'Anti
April 16 // Carleton QC // Le Naufrageur
April 20 // Montreal, QC // La Tulipe
April 21 // Ottawa ON // St Albans Church
April 22 // Toronto ON // Adelaide Hall
May 19 // Berlin DE // Berghain
May 20 // Amsterdam NL // Melkweg
May 21 // Lille FR // Grand Mix
May 22 // Brussels BE // La Nuit De Botanique Festival
May 24 // London, UK // ICA
May 27 // Neustrelitz, DE // Immergut Festival
May 28 // KleinReifling, AT // Seewiesen Festival
May 30 // Paris, FR // TBA
June 1 // Barcelona, ES // Primavera Sound
June 5 // Mannheim, DE // Maifield Derby Festival
June 8 // Rome, IT // Monk
June 9 // Ravenna, IT // Beaches Brew Festival

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December 12, 2014

Suuns and Secret City are Excited to Announce New Upcoming Tour Dates!

Check out the new upcoming tour dates!

October 02, 2014

Les Inrocks - Suuns concert at la Gaite Lyrique



We knew from the first time that they burst onto the scene and blessed us with their albums Zeroes QC and Images du futur that Suuns is without a doubt or exaggerating one of the most important groups of the era.

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October 02, 2014

Les Inrocks - Suuns concert at la Gaîté Lyrique



We knew from the first time that they burst onto the scene and blessed us with their albums Zeroes QC and Images du futur that Suuns is without a doubt or exaggerating one of the most important groups of the era.

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December 08, 2013

Images du Futur in La Presse's best albums of 2013

Sans se péter les bretelles, ce quartette montréalais s'impose parmi les plus intéressants du rock anglo, montréalais, québécois ou canadien. Bien que très rock, la force des concepts l'emporte largement sur celle des muscles. - Alain Brunet

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August 01, 2013

Suuns' 2020 in "Only God Forgives" starring Ryan Gosling



Suuns' latest album Images du futur has been getting attention from new exciting sources. Their epic track "2020" soundtracks the new European trailer for Only God Forgives, from the director of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn. The movie stars Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas and is set in the glittering city of Bangkok. The forboding track with its pulsating bass - what Alternative Press called "a menacing undercurrent" - and a sly sidewinding guitar riff add live wire tension to the trailer.

July 19, 2013

Suuns + La Blogothèque

June 14, 2013

Suuns' "Images du Futur" in the Polaris 2013 Long List




Congratulations to Suuns ! Their last album, Images du Futur is in the 40 albums making the Polaris Music Prize Long List this year.

To read the full long list, click here.
The Short List will be announced on July 16th in Toronto at the Drake Hotel.

May 22, 2013

Brand new video for Suuns - "Sunspot"



Suuns have released a video for “Sunspot", an abstract analog assembly by Montreal artist Malena Szlam.

May 01, 2013

Suuns live at the Montreal Jazz Festival



Suuns will be performing at the Montreal International Jazz Festival this year. They will be closing the Nuits Heineken series at Club Soda on July 7th.
Tickets go on sale Saturday May 4th at noon.

SUUNS @ FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL DE JAZZ DE MONTRÉAL
SUNDAY JULY 7th - 11PM
CLUB SODA - 1225 SAINT-LAURENT
Tickets
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Booking (USA)

Robin Taylor (Inland Empire Touring)

robin@inlandempiretouring.com

Booking Canada

Andre Guerette (United Talent Agency)

Andre.Guerette@unitedtalent.com

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Shaun Bronstein

shaun@danagement.net

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Kim Juneja (Take Aim Media)

kim@takeaimmedia.com

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Magali Ould

magali@secretcityrecords.com

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Lyssa Thompson

lyssa@secretlycanadian.com

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