Reviews:: AA Sound System Laissez-Faire

I guess posting show details for a band I never reviewed is sketch-tastic, so I am rectifying that with a look at AA Sound System's latest release, Laissez-Faire. Like real estate, this band can best be described by the adage, "location, location, location." Ayla Brook and Marek have been friends for 15 years (not to downplay Lane Arndt's contributions to the record), and the song writing reflects not only that kinship, but where they grew up.

Rural towns in Canada are often described as desolate and alienating, but people neglect the camaraderie that results from small town living. Both sides of the equation play a big part in this release. The arrangements are sparse and the melodies tend to explore the country-friendly pop sounds you'd expect from a band that formed in Yellowknife (and draws inspiration from the prairies), but instead of Crazyhorse, whirling guitars and shaking drum kits, Ayla writes the type of songs you can imagine taking shape around a kitchen table with a few friends.

I Don't Get You At All, like Ayla sings on the first line, "started out, so simply." It’s a guitar, some drums and harmonies that floats along like a great AM radio song you'd stumble upon on a drive to nowhere. It's almost comforting and familiar. While this song is enjoyable, it’s the title track where you start to see the difference between AA Sound System and a typical "roots" outfit. The electro back beat forms the structure of the song and it's similar to the style being embraced by a lot of indie acts.

In reality, the majority of the songs rest somewhere between these two styles. Who'd of Thought is another acoustic trip down memory lane, masking the nostalgia with a light melody. The pop continues on the piano-driven hook of Raw Joy. The guitars, hand claps, feedback, and ooohs and aaahs make you think about the natural progression this song must have undergone. You can picture Ayla tinkering with the riff sitting alone on a couch, before playing it for a few friends and hearing the harmonies escape as they learn the tune. The country picked melody of Harmony is a close your eyes sing-along with only the subtlest piano tonk added in the distance. Almost every song seems to have undergone an organic growth or use a simple, natural sound. On Vermillion, the band changes pace again and the computer affects and minimal drumming paint a picture of loneliness. The first seven songs come and go so quickly you barely have time to settle in and I simply left the disc on repeat for most of the afternoon.

It's the last two songs of this record where the band really branches out. Sooner than Later is Lane's song, where he takes lead vocals and song writer credit. It's much more atmospheric, using swirling programming behind the drums, guitars and repeated chorus. The electro-flourishes sound really nice and the tempo shifts nicely throughout the five minutes. The result is a song that you might throw on at the end of the night or as you drive home and just want to zone out with your own thoughts.

Date Palm is as desolate and depressing as you can get on a "pop" record. Ayla uses only a few guitar notes as he sings painfully about watering her plants, waiting for the phone to ring. He's praying for her to come back, even though he knows why she left. It's the type of emotion you expect from Kinsella on an Owen release, but over the course of the 9-minute epic the vocals disappear, Marek adds some gentle cymbal washes and Ayla creates a tapestry of white noise, static pulses and programmed beats. It's a perfect closer to the record.

It's going to be very interesting how they play out live.
MP3:: Raw Joy


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