Album Review – Absolutely Free – Aftertouch

There’s something delightfully indefinable about Toronto four piece Absolutely Free.  They have a fetish for unconventional time signatures that rivals that of King Crimson or Yes, and yet, where some bands love you to know exactly how clever they are by doing so, this lot’s grooves skim along so effortlessly and gracefully you keep forgetting. 

Their songs have a mystical, portentous quality to them and at the same time they’re capable of delivering music that’s so catchy it could be made of Velcro.  Thanks to the often falsetto vocals of frontman Matt King (vocals/multi-instrumentalist), they are packed with emotion, but with a swirling, reverb-laden production by Jorge Elbrecht (No Joy, Gang Gang Dance, Japanese Breakfast) means it feels one step removed, like watching an argument or someone losing their shit from a distance.  This, their second album, starts with a song called  ‘Epilogue (After Touch)’ and ends with one called ‘Morning Sun’.  What more proof do you need?

In plain musical terms, too, they’re hard to pin down –  neither electronic nor indie but resolutely both.  The aforementioned ‘Morning Sun’’, probably the most epic sounding among a tracklisting of epic songs, brings Editors at full pelt to mind, but elsewhere they sound not unlike a more interesting and unconventional Cure (see Michael Claxton’s nicely clonky bass on ‘Still Life’).  Either side of that song, however, you’ve got the ‘Remaining Light’ – somewhere between Steve Reich and Tortoise, with echoes of Pink Floyd pitching in – and the full on 80s synthpop arpeggios of ‘Are They Signs’.

All in all, it’s the kind of bewildering you can really get used to.  Add the intimate and confessional sounding lyrics of King, and you’ve got something that’s as easy to love as it is hard to pigeonhole.  

John Robbins

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