Personnel: David West (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion); Cohen Bourgault (violin).
Photographers: Hannah Lew; Louis Hooper; Chris Onton.
It's almost impossible to pin David West down musically. He's played in punk bands and post-punk bands, was in the indie electronic-leaning Lace Curtains and the quite brilliant Total Control with his mate Mikey Young, made rousing guitar pop with Rat Columns, and in early 2016, debuted his synth pop project Liberation. Apart from a cassette that compiled a decade's worth of lo-fi bedroom experiments, Peace or Love is the first real record to come out under his own name. Culled from new sessions and old tapes, the album is all over the place and really hard, unsurprisingly, to pin down. It is easy to enjoy, especially if you've been following his various bands. The album almost plays like a musical résumé as West veers from blown-out lo-fi tracks like "Do You Miss Me Around" to ambient noise sound sculptures ("At Peace"), rollicking indie pop ("Darkness in My Heart"), and skittering breakbeat with violins ("Darkness in My Heart 3"). All very impressive and anchored by West's plaintive vocals, his fiery guitar work, and his knack for knowing the exact right way to put tracks together. The core of the album is a handful of tracks that show off this skill, while also covering some new musical ground, namely disco. "Dream on Dreamer" has a propulsive beat and some '70s flutes, and features seductive vocal stylings and a guitar solo ripped right off an old Taste of Honey LP; "Happiest Man in the Room" is a quick-tempoed groover that sounds like a weird mix of Arthur Russell and a one-hit wonder disco band, and "Au Contraire" rides a funky groove, shimmering old synths, and West's best David Byrne impression straight to the heart of the dancefloor. Separated from the rest of the album, these songs are the poppiest, frothiest things West has done yet, super enjoyable and fun. Mixed in with the arty experiments, lo-fi blasts, and nervous energy rockers, it makes for a head-spinning listen that takes the listener for a thrill ride. West may be in another five bands by the time Peace or Love comes out, but this first album under his own name shapes up to be the best thing he's done yet, barring the Total Control album. ~ Tim Sendra