I’m not really a fan of epic instrumental jams or those guitar/drum indie bangers that make skinny jeaned kids freak out awkwardly. I tend to get lost in the wash of sounds or bored by the repetitive nature of the artist, despite the constant attempts at sonic drama. As easy as it is to throw on Ratatat when I’m out jogging or Mogwai at the end of a night and zone out, I rarely reach for a record full of beats or a post rock album simply for a casual listen.
That all changes when The Hylozoists come into play.
The six piece instrumental acts from Toronto is back with a new record – a collection of songs inspired by Paul Chaisson’s book The Island Of Seven Cities – and the range of sounds and emotions conveyed are staggering. Led by vibraphone savant and composer Paul Aucoin, the songs on L’Île de Sept Villes find strength, cower in shyness, love, hurt, soar freely and sear with intensity, (all without the benefit of a spoken word) but unlike so instrumental acts trying to convey the same emotions, the catchy melodies The Hylozoists craft infuse playfulness and whimsy to lighten the load. Bubbles & Wheezy starts with an airy melody that the band deftly (and patiently) transforms into a dark storm, but understands the weight of the chaos, and quickly ushers in bluer skies to conclude the track (in a concise 4-minutes, avoiding the trap of building and building until the song’s length outlasts its impact).
Crafting heavy, dark, gloomy instrumentals or dancey-pants beats is one thing, but for an instrumental record to truly inspire and drive the listener forward is another thing altogether. They certainly build some dark tones (The French Settle In), but even on the dark and brooding Bras d’Or Lakes, the eerie violin and vibraphone that haunt the listener at the onset give way as the band infuses life into the notes, transforming the song with a subtle, organic build. Your Band Doesn’t Have The Legs I Thought It Would seems like the theme to some sort of animated short that pits a morose hero against the struggles of another lonely morning ( ican almost picture him covering his eyes to block out the sun and budding flowers), only to see him gain motivation and strength with each step, springing forward with giant leaps.
And it’s that type of vivid imagery that makes L’Île de Sept Villes so rewarding. You can literally pick any song on the record and be amazed by the emotions it uncovers or how it triggers a memory of a personal journey you’ve struggled through, but more importantly one you overcame. The warming fuzz and gentle picked notes of the tender Acadia Acadia sounds like falling in love for the first time. The Island of Seven Cities floats along perfectly, but the band manages to infuse the airy feel with an energy that you probably felt since childhood. Even the perfectly titled Parents Don’t Let Your Children Grow up to Be Compressed - which makes me wonder if Aucoin feels that restricting these songs to tiny speakers and headphones takes away from the vast height the tracks soar to - feels like the gentle touch and wonder you see from new parents who have just been completely floored by the miracle of life.
The Hylozoists convey emotion much more powerful than you could expect from a record with only a few words. The songs come to life as they unfold and even if you disagree with every emotion I described, it’s probably because you have such a detailed picture/memory stuck in your thoughts. I’m not sure if there can be a better reason to listen to this record or bigger compliment you can give to the band. herohill