There's Nothing Out of Place on Population II's 'Électrons libres du québec'

BY Stephan BoissonneaultPublished Oct 3, 2023

Almost exactly two years ago, Montreal psychedelic-meets-art-rock-three-piece Population II released their debut album À la Ô Terre. The album was released on John Dwyer's (Osees) Castle Face Records, so fans of the freak-out psych knew it was going to be quality. It fulfilled that promise, but it also set a high standard — this one was gonna be tough to follow. 

Yet, here we are with Électrons libres du québec. The sophomore album from Population II could be called a more straightforward iteration of their mind-bending psych rock. The three-piece picks their fuzzed-out riffs, oscillating synth swells, French vocals screams, ghost note jazz drums fills and thick, black-tar bass plucks with precision and care — never venturing too far from the meat of songs like "Orlando" and "C.T.Q.S."; the latter's King Crimson-esque minor-scale guitar solo is an instant highlight.

This album feels more refined than À la Ô Terre — though psych and prog rock listeners' attention spans for drawn-out songs is larger than your standard music consumer, it's a breath of fresh air when a band doesn't get lost in their own musical sauce, so to speak. The closest the band comes to going astray is during the guitar wankery of "Lune Rouge" — still, the song has legs.

Psych is meant to be subversive music at its core, and Population II understands that — a song like "Tô Kébec" begins as a more Bad Brains punk track before morphing into something that could be found on Hawkwind's Space Ritual. The glue that keeps everything from falling apart during Électrons libres du québec is drummer and vocalist Pierre-Luc Gratton. The vocal acrobatics in songs like "Réservoir" are a marvel, with falsettos reminiscent of Ozzy or even Pentagram's Bobby Liebling. For all its moving parts, it's hard to find anything out of place on Électrons libres du québec.

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