Published Apr 03, 2018The perpetual weirdos of Freak Heat Waves are getting stranger. Their previous album, 2015's Bonnie's State of Mind, played around with post-punk by inverting the genre's core elements into freakier, jammier songs. Even when Steve Lind and Thomas DiNinno have used familiar touchstones, they've sought to reanimate them with an unpredictable brio.
But the now-Montreal-based duo aren't looking to interpret anything familiar on Beyond XXXL, instead letting their strangeness coagulate into something far less definable. Garbled synths, programmed drums and melodic low-end dominate the album, which proves itself an unpredictable but satisfying reconfiguration of Freak Heat Waves' DNA.
"Self Vortex" opens the album like chrysalis splitting open: Lind manifests hypno-preacher lamentations over waves of mutilated textures, oozing synths and warped guitars. Lyrics, there and elsewhere, focus on transformations or deadpan observations of the way things are, even as the vocals feel more like textures than anchors. Fittingly, Beyond XXXL is best when it digs into a groove: the gunky dub of "Bad Mutation" effectively pivots a bass line through processed drums, while the pop drive of "Pushin' Beyond" rallies around an urgent guitar line and steady heightening of vibe. "Toxic Talk Show," a highlight, finds an Aphex Twin-like dynamic to fuel its extended drum kit'n'glitch freakout.
Not everything takes — "Sell a Line" doesn't manage to have the same stickiness as most of the rest, for one — but still, Freak Heat Waves' determined experimentation proves confidently well-crafted here. Beyond XXXL showcases the band's growing, otherworldly sense of how far to bend a sound before it breaks. (Telephone Explosion)