Kristian North Grapples with Reality on 'Pseudoscience Fiction'

BY Stephan BoissonneaultPublished May 15, 2023

The latest from Montreal's Kristian North, Pseudoscience Fiction, sees the artist at his most maximalist; a wild composer who seems able to conjure orchestral disco funk and contemporary ballads in droves — every synth patch and rolling drum gels perfectly with his crooning baritone, each detail perfected. 

There's no way to talk about Pseudoscience Fiction without bringing up the pandemic — and that's kind of the point. Though he's not the only artist to write about it, North holds fast to the belief that the COVID's world-halting power is meant to be discussed and dissected rather than forgotten. 

He saw, like many of us, society come to a halt and in some places, crumble. But even before the pandemic, the world was on the decline, becoming more and more like a version of 1984 or a JG Ballard novel, so North created the world of Pseudoscience Fiction as a way to reconcile with it all. And with such a flurry of rich instrumentation — synths, keyboard, saxophone, a slew of braggadocious (but loving) guitar solos, Chic-esque bass lines, neo-romantic strings, backup vocals, and, at one point, banjo — it's an alternate world that's easy to get lost in.

For the lyrics of Pseudoscience Fiction, North went all out, switching styles from the avant-garde philosopher on "Role of the Dice" to the neurotic fly-on-the-wall of "Fear Factor." The duality of a song like "The Masked Singer" — an account of looking inward and discovering the two halves of yourself, one perhaps more sinister than the other — feels like the sonic equivalent of looking in a mirror after a crazy night out. We've all done it, spotting a distorted reflection of ourselves who looks like a stranger; that's "The Masked Singer," who now has its own dizzying funk theme. 

Everyone was forced to look inward during our months of isolation, deciding if our current trajectory was the right one to pursue — once we were able to venture out however, the world was monumentally stranger. The title track is about that very real world, and the confusing reality we are all now facing. Objectively the most grooving song on the album, North's utilization of vocoder when he sings "pseudoscience fiction" like some harbinger predicting the end, will stay wrapped around your memory for months to come.

The final song, "Cancel Your Plans," is easily the most on-the-nose pandemic-themed track, but the instrumentation is anything but obvious, starting off as a synth led ballad before morphing into romantic '70s soul à la Al Green. The track morphs into a sort of love song for the bittersweet benefit of so much time spent alone — without any external care, you're left to focus on what makes you, you. 

Pseudoscience Fiction is a rare sort of album; a historical document for a time forever lodged in our memory banks. Though North will undoubtedly keep mutating his sound into the future, it's one that should be held in high esteem in his growing repertoire. 

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