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Freak Heat Waves - "Beyond XXXL" | Album Review


by Torrey Proto (@torreysbrewin)

For their latest undertaking, Montreal by way of Victoria experimentalists Freak Heat Waves pared down to a two piece, with the creative duo of multi-instrumentalists Steven Lind and Thomas di Ninno at the helm. As the band themselves described in a recent interview with Third Outing, their third full length was born out of an isolated two week trip to the California desert in the middle of the summer with nothing but demos for the record, two synths, and a dozen movies. The result, Beyond XXXL, is an equally confounding and catchy breath of fresh air that pushes their sound to previously unexplored heights and finds the band looking upward rather than inward, as its title suggests.

If the album's weed-laced party of a cover is any indication, the listener is in for a warped and psychedelic journey that exists on its own terms. The self-produced, mind bending 11 song LP is packed with slick sounds that are at times unidentifiable. Much like their friends and frequent tour mates Preoccupations did on their latest release, Freak Heat Waves have succeeded in crafting an album in which you can't quite tell what instrument is producing whatever sound happens to be floating from one channel to the other. From the record’s outset, it becomes immediately clear that they’ve channeled a more varied set of influences than anything found on previous efforts to devastating effect. 

Vintage synths and pulsing drum machines churn throughout opener "Self Vortex" before Steven Lind's drawn out baritone deadpan enters the mix, in no hurry to arrive at a destination. His voice could almost lull you to sleep before the adventurous sonic shifts draw you back in. “Follow it down the drain / suck you into outer space” he drones with hypnotic synth washes and a throbbing bass groove backing him up. Although his exact words can get lost in the murk, it’s not difficult to feel the paranoia and disillusion that influence them. “Trust me, you don't even need to try," he chants exhaustedly on the brief but catchy "I Can't Tell." He sounds similarly disenchanted and distant on “Subliminal Appeal” as he chases an elusive pleasure: “mystic misbehavior / the lowest motivator / instantly addicted / living voyeuristic / playing in the deep end / religion on the weekend / sets my pulse in rewind / getting in the way of a good time.” Lines like these may seem abstract, yet they bring to mind subtle and hard-to-place feelings that can plague the psyche and seem to come out of nowhere in a world where confusion and chaos reign supreme. Where words fail, instrumental punk rave-ups like the standout “Toxic Talk Show” allow the band to flex their muscles and prove their dexterity. The track shakes up the haze and serves as a needed shot in the arm before one last exhale ends the affair.

Beyond XXXL showcases a band willing to truly explore the depths of their sound. The meticulously crafted atmosphere of the record will draw listeners in with its attention to detail and endlessly dynamic bevy of sounds that it draws upon. Throughout the album’s 44 minutes, Freak Heat Waves prove to be true record heads, as they build their own worlds of unique sound with the wide array of influences at their disposal. While it would be easy for them to extend themselves too far into self-indulgent territory, the duo never get too bogged down with needless filler and leave us with a well-paced record that consistently delights with its futuristic sounds and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Outer space is a vast place, and Freak Heat Waves seem more than happy to explore its infinite possibilities for the rest of us here on earth.