idée fixe records, 2016


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Bart’s music is simple. At the same time, however, it is also complicated. Most of the songs on this Toronto-based outfit’s full-length debut barely cross the three-minute mark. The band – consisting primarily of duo Christopher Shannon and Nathan Vanderwielen – is also very economical when it comes to instrumentation, which is kept simple. Guitars, bass, and drums make up their songs, which are often pretty stripped-down and in no need of any fancy production effects. This is the simple part of Bart’s music.

Now for the complicated part, which is one of the main reasons why my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Holomew is so outstanding. It would not be completely off base to call this a prog-rock album. The songs have math-rock arrangement style, with complex rhythmic shifts that happen so often that it is amazing that this duo is able to musically execute so much in just a three-minute song without making it sound like utter chaos.

The duo’s singing style is of some uniqueness as well. The vocals are harmonized, and despite the sparse music, are sometimes powerful; they come down every now-and-then like giant overpowering waves with their grand crescendos – see for instance tracks “Yeah” and “Hello.” However, most of the times, the harmonies are mellow and calmer. The vocal harmonies of this duo are beautiful and warm, sounding real and devoid of any reverb effects. As a result, they sound kind of retro, like a cross between a prog-rock and a folk band from the ‘70s.

Bart’s angular rock music can be gritty. However, it can also be utterly melodic and downright pastoral. Most songs have both these dramatically opposite musical dynamics cohabiting side-by-side, and Bart seem to have no problems navigating between these moods. In fact, they do so with total effortlessness. When Bart try to do something totally crazy, like incorporating full-on saxophone solos (on the tracks “On/Off” and “Times Of Gold”), the result does sound as insane as the idea, but it also sounds pretty cool. Bart’s unique and challenging musical style certainly puts them amongst the ranks of avant-garde acts like Deerhoof and Battles. But Bart’s music is also surprisingly quite accessible in comparison, which is another great aspect of Holomew. The songs here are convoluted, without being eccentric.

With just nine tracks, Holomew is a tight album. Every number is a standout, and it is as if Bart has carefully chosen only the best cuts to be included on this album. This debut is not only great, but it is the kind of album that will get one excited about rock music.

Rating: A

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