Audio Mixer: Colin Stewart.
Recording information: Hive, Vancouver, BC (2015).
On their early albums and EPs, Odonis Odonis' shape-shifting combinations of sounds meant they could sound like a completely different band from one song to the next. Usually, this was a feature, not a bug: their 2014 album Hard Boiled Soft Boiled, which put its aggressive songs on the first half and gentler ones on the second, earned a Polaris Music Prize nomination. However, their Felte debut Post Plague sounds like the work of just one act -- and a remarkably focused one at that. In keeping with the label's aesthetic, their third album is their darkest and sleekest yet. Instead of continuing the mix of noise, surf, shoegaze, and electronics found on Hollandaze and Hard Boiled Soft Boiled, they deliver ferocious industrial with a hint of dreamy synth pop. The tightly coiled synth arpeggios, serrated guitars, relentless beats, and desperate sarcasm on "Fearless" and "Vanta Black" (possibly the hippest way to describe ultimate darkness in the 2010s) show the band's total commitment to this sound and attitude. While industrial has always been an element of Odonis Odonis' music, Post Plague often has more in common with HEALTH or the Soft Moon than their previous work. In fact, the closest this album comes to the rest of their discography is the way it echoes Hard Boiled Soft Boiled's polarized track list. Post Plague's first half is stark yet raucous, its hard edges offering armor against an increasingly cold and self-obsessed era. On "Needs," a stomping satire of 2010s id, Dean Tzenos' disaffected sneer and wild yelps call to mind Trent Reznor; later, the uneasy groove of "Nervous" is jarred by rapid-fire drums. Stripped of the lo-fi production values of their earlier albums, the way Odonis Odonis' silence and noise punctuate each other is more potent than ever: on "Betrayal," the frantic synths and beats and circling vocals sound like a tripped emotional alarm system. Sometimes Post Plague's onslaughts border on exhausting, but Odonis Odonis know when to bring things back down when they've spent too much time in the red. The album's more melodic back half features some of its best moments, all of which are looking for some kind of connection in a time when love might be too much to ask for. "Pencils," a duet with Hard Boiled collaborator Kathryn Calder, is alternately ominous and alluring; "Game," which fleshes out Post Plague's bones with some synth pop softness, is one of the band's finest pop songs in some time; and "Lust"'s naked lyrics and melody are so timeless that it almost sounds like a cover of a long-forgotten song. While sharp musical contrasts may be nothing new for Odonis Odonis, they've never sounded as meaningful as they do here. Post Plague is some of their most urgent -- and satisfying -- music to date. ~ Heather Phares