Published May 23, 2014It's almost impossible to now look back on Kepler without acknowledging the grand exit of Jeremy Gara. His decision to join Arcade Fire as their drummer in 2004 was an understandable decision, but also the unofficial nail in the band's coffin. Still, the Ottawa band closed the book on a high note, releasing what was quite easily the best and most developed of their three albums. Now released on vinyl for the first time ever by German label oscarson, Attic Salt is worth reconsideration, not purely to hear Gara's evolution as a musician, but also to (re)discover one of Canada's best bands at the time.
Just before writing and recording Attic Salt, drummer Mike Sheridan left Kepler, leaving the door wide open for Gara to take more of a role in the writing with founders Samir Khan and Jon Georgekish-Watt. Progression had already been made between their 2000 debut album, Fuck Fight Fail, and 2002's Missionless Days, which saw the band shift from textbook slowcore to country-inflected songs like "Dogs and Madmen."
Again produced by Ottawa staple Dave Draves, Attic Salt pushed Kepler's sound forward, opening up their soft, measured set-up to new horizons. "You Must Admit" boldly added some uncharacteristic bounce and vocal bursts of "woo-hoo!"; "The National Epithet" is practically the band's take on "balls-to-the-wall" rock'n'roll; and Georgekish-Watt proved himself vocally on the quiet-to-loud "Days of Begging," dropping a delightfully eccentric line like "Now I carry a knife or a screwdriver/ 'cause I never know when I'll have to stick a motherfucker." Meanwhile, Khan brought his own surprises, unwinding with a confident turn on the bashfully jaunty "Thoroughbred Gin."
Despite hitting a creative peak, Attic Salt wasn't enough to keep Kepler going. Bringing in Mike Feuerstack, Jordy Walker and Mike Dubue to tour, they gave it a shot, only to pack it in so Khan could pursue poppier terrain with Tusks. Although Attic Salt leaves you wondering about where Kepler could have gone next, it's best enjoyed when you just take it for what it was: the band at their best. (oscarson)