After the decline predicted and lamented by Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor in the 2000s, the Canadian band Doomsquad provide a ritualistic dance party for the new world.
Doomsquad provide a new skin for the old ceremony in the form of technological shamanism, where shakers and bone rattles meet Moogs and psych-out guitars in a forest clearing.
The main challenge confronting a band that combines multiple genres is that their music inherit the strengths and weaknesses of each, similar to crossbreeding in Nature. Doomsquad’s latest record, Kalaboogie, may be judged by the standards of modern day dance music as well psychedelic and epic indie rock, and they risk losing the listener at every turn. The good news is that, rather than succumbing to the weaknesses, like some poor, mangy rabid mutt, Doomsquad have contributed something to each genre they work in. Kalaboogie, may be made of pre-existing parts — trance music, triumphant indie rock, industrialized dance music and doomy, decadent mid-tempo disco — but it is its own beast, its own spirit, inhabiting its own world.
In terms of dance music, their bass and drums are superb, world-class, and on par with recent noteworthy additions from Forest Swords or Emptyset, while their psych is equally impressive. Probably my favorite thing about Kalaboogie is how Doomsquad have managed to weave together plastic, lo-fi garage guitars – all melted and warped with phaser and flange, with colossal techno productions. They also give a nod of the fedora to the recent resurgence of interest in hardware, the rebirth of midi, and the resurrection of sequencers and drum machines, like with the pulsing machine bass of “Eternal Return”, giving a sense of the real to the normally harsh, hermetically sealed world of techno. The last, and greatest triumph of Kalaboogie, is a reassessment of triumphant, guitar-centric indie rock, like on the storming “Head Spirit (For Our Mechanical Times)” or the tight-‘n-jittery post-punk of “Waka Waka”. There is something communal and uplifting in the stomping boom-bap of disco beats that makes you think of hundreds of clapping hands and stomping feet — a kind of concrete floor gospel. Too many bands have abused this power, while pretending to be epic, threatening to burn out this pleasure sensor, and nullify the sugar rush of coming together; Doomsquad, however, are a real ritual, a gathering, a raising of power.
The production on this record is insane, and is a large part of its successful evocation: all cavernous reverbs, and tight, thunderous bottom end. Say what you want about modern recording trends, we do reverb and bass like nobody’s business, in 2014. And Doomsquad do it better than most. The ambient wash paints Kalaboogie with a gaussian, impressionistic blur, turns the vocals into murmuring incantations, the guitars into choirs of sunset angels. It turns the drums into distant basalt monoliths, for which the guitars and vocals to dart and weave around. What I’m getting at is this record is not meant to be taken literally. Instead, Kalaboogie goes out like an encapsulated trance state, from their altar to yours. Ritual has always been about reflecting and invoking, honoring the seasons and ancestors that have passed, while summoning a brighter tomorrow. Perhaps this is where the feeling of triumphant optimism comes in. We must never forget that all music is inherently a constructive act — an attempt to turn this world into something meaningful. It’s just a matter of what you are inspired by. While it may have seemed, in the early 2000s, that we were marching through fields of rust and ash, these volcanic fields are becoming fertile grounds, for tiny flowers and ferns to thrive. Doomsquad give me hope; hope that there may be new things to say, and new ways to say them, after all.
Doomsquad – Kalaboogie Full Album Stream