The cover for Loc-Nar's album "HOTTER WATER" (Source: loc-nar.bandcamp.com)
The Montreal-based band Loc-Nar never ceases to amaze with their new releases, and following suite, their release of the six-track album "HOTTER WATER" this past weekend with a duo of shows at Brasserie Beaubien and Poission Noir did not disappoint. While I was unfortunately unable to attend, being bed-ridden with a nasty cold, my roommate so graciously procured a fresh tape for me, and am I ever glad that he did; HOTTER WATER is the perfect fever dream for when you're fading in and out of sleep induced by a healthy cocktail of generic brand cold medicine and Vitamin-C rich fruit juice.
While Loc-Nar is based out of Montreal, their members hail from both Canada and the United States. The majority of members are from Toronto, having met here in Montreal during university. Their tones might resemble bands like American Football or Carissas Weird, but their name comes from the late '80s, R-rated, animated adventure, "Heavy Metal," which gained enough notoriety to warrant a South Park parody episode titled "Major Boobage"-- something I only bring up because of the sheer ridiculous, fun-loving streak that runs through the original film, the parody episode, and now the band. While the original film documented the evil Loc-Nar's sadistic and perverse conquests throughout space, HOTTER WATER does the exact opposite, and shows now how skillfully Loc-Nar can weave together a handful of genres into one beautiful, jet-black tape that, despite being immeasurable amounts of fun, deserves to be taken very, very seriously.
The tape starts off with "Poinsettia Sale" (4:56), a dreamy, droney, deerhunter-esque track that quickly descends into a slow, psychadelic drone, broken up everyone now and then by a dlightfully crisp rake of harmonics. But before it can make too much of an impression on you, Loc-Nar switches it up with with a jump back to some light-hearted, fun and uplifting melodies that are so wholesome I'd feel guilty to call it surf-rock. After a bit of back and forth between the two, the track ends, leaving you already wishing there were more than just five tracks left.
The second track, "Black Salami" (3:51), sports a pretty basic first verse structure, made beautiful by the complimentary harmonies of female and male vocals and easy to follow, catchy chord progression. But Loc-Nar is anything except basic, exemplified by the sudden shift to a free form kind of bridge part that wouldn't sound out of place on Jethro Tull's Aqualung. The verse comes back a second time heavier, before switching back to the bridge. This time there's no return to the melodic verse part, and instead the bridge fades into a very droney and dissonant outro. There's a certain quality to the dissonance, that despite being abrasive, sounds as though anything else would be more out of place.
The third track, "50th State Fair" (3:49), starts with a beautifully slow and blissful melody that sounds like it's congratulating you for making it through the dissonant outro of Black Salami. The soaring guitar melody boasts a hefty amount of fuzz and chorus, giving it a very psychadelic, satisfying thick tone that lulls you into a last-dance sort of comfort. A subtle key change somewhere after the one minute mark gives the song a little bit of flavour before falling back to the familiar guitar melodies. These continue on into the outro, which doesn't take itself seriously at all, refrains of "bud light lime" fading into the polite claps that wrap up the track.
Track number four, "Ode 2 S.H." (4:11), comes like a slap in the face, if you were being slapped underwater in a swimming pool full of molasses. 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the song marks the slow ascent to the surface, and introduces the easy-going outro. The last minute comes like a slow tube-ride down a lazy river, being carried along by a bassline from the same family tree as in The Beatles' "Sun King."
"Castle Ratter" (3:04), the fifth track, begins with some atmospheric fuzz guitar and ominous organ you would expect to hear upon popping in the cartidge for the SNES version of Castlevania. The verse breaks into your ears with a sinister aggression that sounds as if someone took old-school East Coast rap, British punk, and spoken word poetry, and threw it all into a blender, then played it back over a cheesy, organ-heavy dracula theme. At 1:27 a soul-crushingly heavy breakdown occurrs, and the remainder of the track is reminiscient of a mashup between a halloween sound effects tape, and the villain's main musical number from a PG-13, made-for-TV, Halloween special from the early '90s that you love no matter how bad your friends say it is.
The final track, "Wyrm" (6:34), is the hot chocolate and safety blanket after a traumatic experience. It's the voyage home at the end of the journey, a dreamy and bittersweet mixture of joy and sorrow. It features high and faraway treble-heavy guitars whining of their loneliness, which give way to a serene and blissful melody at the instrumental break after the verse. Following this is a wonderful back and forth of two chords, where it becomes hard to distinguish if the melody is being pushed forwards by the chord progression, or pulled towards the vocal melody's promise of resolve at the end. After a return to the instrumental break, a heavily emotional interlude punctuated by Tess Roby's beautiful voice builds towards the outro -- an outro so cathartic that they can get away with playing it for a minute and a half straight and it's still not enough.
All in all, Loc-Nar's HOTTER WATER takes you on a journey through such well-constructed musical soundscapes, that no matter how many times you listen to it, the poignant sense of nostalgia it evokes will never run dry. It's an expertly curated mix of ridiculous fun, droning and depressing lows, and serene and blissful highs. The album is available on Loc-Nar's bandcamp for a flexible price.