With a monicker as eye-popping as “Holy Fuck”, you think there would have been more to talk about since the band put out their last album six years ago. Despite the lengthy hiatus between releases, the Toronto-based electronica outfit has returned with another collection of tracks fit for the dancehall. Back again are original members Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh, plus the return of Matt “Punchy” McQuaid and Matt Schulz to round out the lineup that recorded 2010’s Latin.
Since their last foray into the scene, Canadian electronic music has blossomed considerably, with the emergence of artists ranging from Grimes, to BadBadNotGood, to Purity Ring all coming to prominence between Holy Fuck’s last release and now with their newest effort, Congrats. Perhaps as a result of that fact, the new album strikes a careful balance between current trends in house and electronica, and the analogue music making Holy Fuck have become known for. In their love for physical objects over digital equivalents, Congrats emerges as even more lo-fi and distorted than any of Holy Fuck’s prior work, with a sonic quality that rides the line between psychedelic and psychotic on a frequent basis. Where Latin was lean and bouncy, Congrats is a heavy plod, more aggressive and unrefined than anything we’ve heard before. Exceptions exist, but the electropop soundscape of Holy Fuck’s earlier work is frequently replaced with a moodier mélange: low notes rich and resonant, overtones staticky and striking.
Although songs like “Xed Eyes” will no doubt provide a sense familiarity to longtime listeners, Holy Fuck seems intent on steering into unexplored territory. Album opener “Broken Chimes” takes the trippy stylings of bands like Tame Impala and combines them with a raucous drum and bass line. The pulse of dub and calypso music (an increasingly common theme in recent releases from Rihanna, to Bieber, to KYGO) is also a common theme throughout the Torontonians’ newest compilation. Tracks like “Sabbatics” and “Acidic” offer a twisted take on the trend, with tropical beats and bombasts interspersed between Holy Fuck’s trademark instrumental experimentation. The result is still undeniably danceable, but it’s a different type of dance—one that encourages less head-bobbing and more hip-thrusting.
Much like Holy Fuck’s formative work, it’s the distorted accents and the crafty instrumentation that separates them from their purely electronic peers. The DIY feeling that has always characterized the band is still apparent on the new album, and without it, Congrats could easily feel like a derivative approximation of modern house music (thankfully, it doesn’t). While the weird and electric energy of songs like “Lovely Allen” and “Latin America” doesn’t quite come across with the new material, Congrats still works in Holy Fuck’s favour as a welcome return to a changing scene.
by Elijah Teed