Those of you who are familiar with films like The Wizard Of Oz and The Prestige might relate: the mechanics behind the magic can be just as compelling as the smoke and mirrors themselves. Just ask Montreal outfit SUUNS. As a band who have been around for thirteen years and toured all corners of the world, there comes a point where the veil needs to be fully lifted. Up till now, the experimental rockers have revelled in mystery like a silhouette disappearing into the mist, putting out albums that rest comfortably in ambiguity, detachment and innuendo. But lately, SUUNS appear to be more comfortable coming clean with their own inner workings. “This is a very geeky thing,” singer/guitarist Ben Shemie delineates. “But we never really commit to a certain kind of tonality. Whether it’d be major or minor, there's always a certain kind of evading of what your own expectation is.”
Nevertheless, SUUNS’ fifth full-length album The Witness – their first for Joyful Noise Recordings – once again marks a shrewdly offbeat left turn. The tried-and-true narrative for a band of this nature is always to ‘move to the deep end’ or ‘out of the comfort zone’. In some ways that rings true on The Witness, though one could say these eight movements actually show SUUNS in their most comfortable, candid state. Self-recorded and self-produced over the majority of 2020 – a year of strife, solitude and reflection –, The Witness finds the band holding a magnifying glass over their own default state of playing and performing. It’s a swift departure from previous album Felt, which exults in harvesting haphazard ideas in their embryonic, demoed versions, as if letting loose a glorious fireworks display into the heavens.
The Witness, meanwhile, pours SUUNS’ music into a more intricate mold, compelling Shemie to unravel himself lyrically in a much more pronounced fashion. “There’s something interesting about the idea of a collective witness, being a witness to the time we’re living in now,” he reflects. “And the connectedness of what we all have in common. But also, literally: bearing witness to all sorts of things and how that desensitizes you. There’s a recurring line that comes back on the record: “I know that you’ve seen it too.” A song like ‘Clarity’ is also about pulling the veil off and seeing things for what they really are. It kind of comes down to being true to yourself and acknowledging what is and isn’t real.”