Blessed Lean Further Into Experimentation on 'iii' EP
Published Feb 18, 2021Blessed's edge is defined by energy and experimentation, of exploring new avenues just to see where they'll go. At the heart of the Abbotsford quartet's sprawling artful post-punk is a continuously evolving tension and release. Blessed's vocalist Drew Riekman says the songs on iii, the follow-up EP to the band's dynamic 2019 debut LP, Salt, reflect his experiences with anxiety, which he's often found a salve for in community and collaboration. iii takes anxiety's inborn tensions and remedies them with catharsis, collaboration and continuous change.
Blessed have taken a hip-hop style approach to the EP by having a different collaborator mix each song, including Corin Roddick of Purity Ring ("Sign"), John McEntire of Tortoise ("Structure"), and Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck ("Centre"). "Sign" opens iii with a brief intro of slow percussion, Riekman's airy tenor and a billowing drone. The song moves through crashes of guitar that flow into winding and chiming notes in a hypnotic, overcast sway. "Structure" fuses repetitive motifs with bouts of spiralling notes and jazzy drumming. The band ends the song with their signature serrated riffage and propulsive percussion that in the days of live shows would've had heads bobbing and bodies moving.
"Centre" rips through rugged bass, rapid-fire drums and razor-edged chugging riffs before shifting into electronic percussion and spacey notes. Vocals move from euphonic to chanting; ragged chugging turns into relentless angular tones, taking listeners to the unhinged circus that Blessed are so fond of frequenting. It's the back and forth and interweaving of the dreamy and frenetic, the melodic and noisy, the relaxed and tense, that mirrors anxiety in its not-so-subtle and unpredictable nature. Emotive and searching lyrics that flow like fragmented thoughts also add to this feeling.
But it's the way Blessed meld and play with these elements so seamlessly that makes them stand out. The Riekman-mixed closer "Movement" is the EP's slowest song and stylistic outlier. Its melodic melancholy wrapped in a blanket of buzzing drone, with Riekman's vocals sounding mixed into the atmosphere, as a simple rhythm keeps pace with subdued and sparkling keys and guitars.
With iii, Blessed's strengths in mood, melody, complexity, experimentation and dynamics are complemented by the creative minds of collaborators whose individual styles add a unique flavour to the collection. As their first release for Flemish Eye, where they're labelmates with fellow post-punks Preoccupations, it's no doubt Blessed's controlled chaos and exploratory spirit will catch new ears. iii is a solid label debut from a band that seems intent on strengthening their toolkit while expanding their sonic landscape. (Flemish Eye)