Freak Heat Waves - Mondo Tempo

  • The cult Canadian band lands on Mood Hut for an album of sunburnt pop and freaky disco.
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  • It's difficult to imagine a more topical band name than Freak Heat Waves, though the Canadian duo have been using it for over a decade. A hard-to-pin-down staple of the country's eclectic DIY scene, Steven Lind and Thomas Di Ninno are as Montreal weirdo as they are Vancouver stoner. Their fifth album is their first for Mood Hut, which gives a hint as to where their heads are at these days. Cementing a gradual shift from wiry punk to vintage post-disco, Mondo Tempo finds the duo getting stuck into a style of humid machine funk that pairs samples and sequencers with live drums and distant vocals. It's a clever formula that should prove irresistible to any fan of the smoked-out sound Mood Has cultivated over the past decade, bringing the label's indie rock origins to the fore. If this is your first Freak Heat Waves release, on first listen, opener "The Time Has Come" could come off as Pender Street Steppers pastiche: dusty drums, flamboyant sax sample, semi-ironic disco guitar lick, muttered vocals. But it also sounds unusually lush and open. The reverb on Lind's ultra-baritone voice lends him a dollar-bin Barry White smoothness, and the drums fall into a funky pocket you can't get from a straight-up drum machine. Both of these elements are key to Freak Heat Waves' unusual appeal. On "Endless," Lind stretches out his vowels into hilariously exaggerated syllables—like "helpleeesss." His laconic drawl contrasts the precocious hi-hats and snares, which are panned left and right as if your head was inside the bass drum. The warmed-over quality of Mondo Tempo can might read lo-fi, but the duo create a rich and detailed word within their sepia-toned confines. Starting out sprightly and meandering from there, Mondo Tempo gets slower as it chugs along, with a particularly druggy back half. Highlights like "Off My Mind"—whose meditative beat and wailing diva samples sound like a synth funk band covering 808 State—and "Altered States" make a clear connection between Mood Hut and and the band's DIY punk past. After all, Mood Hut and the Vancouver scene built around it was started by members of rock bands who brought their instrumental chops and pop instincts to chilled-out house music. Freak Heat Waves reverse engineer that from the opposite perspective, making idiosyncratic dance jams out of off-kilter rock music. The title track is a great example, a stark climate change warning disguised as a chill-out room jam. With Lind warning about "One degree / Worldwide / Have we begun to reach the breaking," it would be painfully preachy if it weren't couched in such a seductively lazy beat—encapsulating the mix of paralyzing fear and resignation felt by so many of the world's young people. 
Lind's over-the-top baritone can make Freak Heat Waves feel like a stoner comedy sometimes. But any sense of irony falls away on album highlight "In A Moment Divine," which is the finest song ever released on Mood Hut. A collaboration with Cindy Lee, formerly of Calgary noise rock band Women, "In A Moment Divine" pulls together the band's lo-fi disco, synth pop and even progressive house into a unique torch song with a hint of breakbeat. Strings breathe in and out on the meek verses, while a sequencer somewhere between New Order and Sasha frames the more desperate choruses. When everything drops out to leave just those synths, the result is elegant and beautiful—heartbreak captured in the sputtering notes of a machine. Firing on all cylinders, here Freak Heat Waves reveal themselves as priests of a syncretic religion combining dance music and DIY punk, pointing to a future in both dance and straight-up pop. Which way, Canadian men? The beauty is that Freak Heat Waves don't have to choose, and they never have. Whether Mondo Tempo is a true fork or just a diversion, Lind and Di Ninno continue to go their own way, making a well-worn West Coast sound feel fresh all over again.
  • Lista de títulos
      01. The Time Has Come 02. In A Moment Divine feat. Cindy Lee 03. Endless 04. Music Has An Interesting Power 05. How Do We Come Alive 06. Off My Mind 07. Altered States 08. Mondo Tempo