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Blessed 'iii' EP — Sputtering Soundscapes with an Exploratory Spirit

>For this week’s Album Spotlight, we take a look at how the Canadian post-punks Blessed followed up their sprightly 2019 debut with a wall of heavy and nervy soundscapes that emphasize substance over style on their latest offering iii.

Abbotsford-based post-punk quartet Blessed left quite a mark on the world towards the end of last decade. After releasing some sporadic singles, a couple EPs and of course their sprawling and self-released debut LP Salt, the quartet were persistent with listeners, to familiarize themselves with their heady and striking song structures that defy genres. They lived up to their demand, signing to Flemish Eye Records and releasing their new self-produced EP, iii, showcasing the combination of their post-punk sensibilities with a palette of musical styles, with the intent of expanding their sound and leaving room for further experimentation.

In a press release, frontman Drew Riekman described the EP’s cover art, portraying a wall of jumbled wooden blocks, as a reflection of his anxiety, which kept him in his home for months at a time. “I really struggled with agoraphobia when I was younger, and still do to this day,” Riekman said. The four tracks on the new EP expand on Blessed’s already-idiosyncratic vision: eclectic and towering song structures with unexpected turns and jagged edges. Instead of trying to maintain consistency with one uniform mix, the band was inspired by the approach to hip-hop records and pursued different collaborators to mix each song: Corin Roddick of Purity Ring (“Sign”), John McEntire of Tortoise (“Structure”), and Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck (“Centre”) and Riekman himself, on closer “Movement.” The result is four distinct tracks that veer towards more sonic territory, with wonderfully-tight and charging soundscapes and reflective lyrics that flow over the rocky terrain. It’s an intense and highly technical journey, with each track battling each other to bring out the natural colors of the band, that shows them at the top of their game.

The opening track “Sign” begins with an emotionally-charged organ and a stuttering drum machine pattern that builds into a propulsive and snarling swirl of infectious post-punk. Riekman's airy tenor flowing over the opener’s well-controlled passage, ventures into a sort of hypnotic rhythm, representing the calm before the storm. “Structure” heads in a more familiar direction, with its off-kilter time signatures, spiraling riffage and monotone drone—a wandering mixture of angst-ridden post-punk and elliptical math rock.

On the Odyssean stormer “Centre,” the band are at their best with their tightly-wound waves of rapid-fire drumming, buzzing synths and dizzying guitar riffs that are paved under Riekman’s bursts of shouty chants—an unhinged outlier that searches through fragmented thoughts, making this truly a headphones record. Its buildup is reminiscent of the frantic and caffeinated soundscapes of British indie bands like Clor and Bloc Party, a juxtaposition of the previous tracks.

The closer “Movement” is another outcast, with its slow-paced, lo-fi melancholy drone that’s raveled with Riekman’s distant and ghostly vocals, drifting into a void of seclusion from the outside world.

With Blessed once again exploring and expanding upon their sonic complexity, they add another ambitious flavor to their consistent collection, making a solid label debut. At this point, the possibilities are truly endless, making Blessed one of the most exciting bands to watch. <<

iii is available now. Stream the new EP below.

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