Published Oct 10, 2014Despite the fact that Michael Jackson, Tupac, Ol' Dirty Bastard and Hatsune Miku are no longer with us (or, in the case of the latter, never were), they've all recently appeared before audiences in hologram form. The latest still-living addition to this somewhat contentious list is Toronto trio Absolutely Free.
While it's doubtful that anyone will raise the sort of stink that, say, a resurrected Dirt Dog created, Absolutely Free's virtual appearance this weekend as part of a Toronto Long Winter event with Hot Docs is still intended to be somewhat provocative. After all, the self-described "holographic laser listening experience" is happening while they're playing a gig down the highway in Hamilton.
In line with the band's prior outside-the-box approaches to record release performances (one at a pool, and another as a multi-venue event featuring a live score to a sci-fi film), they knew going into this listening party that it should be special.
"We wanted to do it at Laser Quest, originally," singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt King tells Exclaim! during a recent pre-practice chat alongside drummer/multi-instrumentalist Moshe Rozenberg and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mike Claxton.
Though cost and logistics prohibited shooting lasers at each other, the band's producer, Fucked Up guitarist Mike Haliechuk, seemed to be on the same psychic wavelength when he emailed out of the blue to suggest a laser-light show listening party at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, which will take Saturday (October 11).
"Classic Haliechuk, his idea got more elaborate and now includes holograms," says Rozenberg.
Originally, the plan was to have a live feed of the band playing in Hamilton projected as a hologram onto the Bloor Cinema stage, while the audience gets a preview taste of their self-titled debut full-length. But as Rosenberg admits, it's "really fucking hard to do," so instead the trio have already filmed a performance at the NFB that will stand in as their virtual selves.
"If it all works out we'll get some hologram us's to hang out with our girlfriends while we're on tour," cracks Claxton.
Touring is certainly on the horizon, considering the fact that Absolutely Free. is coming out on Arts & Crafts, which is likely to draw attention to the band beyond their loyal fan base in Toronto.
"We've never really had too many people outside our small brains helping with the band as a whole," says King. "And the fact that we have someone like Haliechuk suggesting ideas [on the album] and a label making suggestions…"
Adds Claxton, "It's nice to have a team."
It's a well-earned boost for a bunch of dudes who relentlessly pushed musical and performance boundaries as three-fifths of frenetic art-punkers DD/MM/YYYY. And it comes as the band have made their most accomplished and (daresay) listenable offering.
Absolutely Free. takes the Krautrock-inspired grooves of the band's first few singles and tightens the screws on everything — there's an overall polish to the synth-heavy tunes that belies the subtle weirdness of the soundscapes. The interplay of intricate beats and rhythmic bits of noise with King's airy voice allow the band to push and pull the tension. There's great restraint in much of the playing, which makes for a bigger payoff when they ratchet up the intensity.
It's still weird — and Absolutely Free are possibly the weirdest band on Arts & Crafts. But it's the sort of strangeness that creeps up on you. King attributes the more refined sound to "not thinking about the live performance. [That] really informed us as listeners — how it makes us feel, and how to make the music effective as opposed to how to play it effectively."
Or, according to Rozenberg: "Say we're taking people to the moon. We don't want them barfing on their way there. We want to ease them into it."
Laser holograms are always helpful, too.
See Absolutely Free's upcoming tour schedule below and stream their new album [via Stereogum] at the bottom of the page before it officially arrives on Tuesday (October 14) via Arts & Crafts/Lefse.
10/10 London, ON - Call The Office *
10/11 Hamilton, ON - Dundas Valley Montessori School *
10/11 Toronto, ON - Long Winter Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Takeover
10/16 Guelph, ON - Club Vinyl *
10/17 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace *
10/18 Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace *
11/08 Brooklyn, NY - Rough Trade #
11/10 Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle #
11/11 Washington, DC - DC9 #
11/12 Richmond, VA - Strange Matter #
11/13 Durham, NC - Pinhook #
11/14 Charlotte, NC - Neighbourhood #
11/15 Atlanta, GA - Drunken Unicorn #
11/16 Birmingham, AL - Bottle Tree #
11/18 New Orleans, LA - Gasa Gasa #
11/19 Dallas, TX - City Tavern #
11/20 San Antonio, TX - 402 Bar #
11/21 Austin, TX - Holy Mountain #
11/23 Phoenix, AZ - Valley Bar #
11/24 Las Vegas, NV - Bunkhouse Saloon #
11/25 San Diego, CA - Soda Bar #
11/28 Los Angeles, CA - Echo #
11/29 San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop #
12/01 Portland, OR - Doug Fir #
12/02 Seattle, WA - Barboza #
12/03 Vancouver, BC - Biltmore Cabaret #
* with Wooden Sky
# with Alvvays
Read more from our recent interview with Absolutely Free here.