QR5 Pharmakon

There’s a quaint peacefulness that runs throughout Pharmakon, the latest, folk-infused album by Toronto four-piece QR5. It’s the feeling conveyed by the tempered vocals of singer Matthew Maaskant as his words float over the band’s multilayered arrangements that, while finding their roots in a folk tradition, are enriched by myriad sonic sources and influences. There are touches of reggae bass and guitar exchanges on both the skankin’ "Revisited Gone” and on album opener "Living Large,” where the reggae vibe is awash in a combination of restrained horn stabs, mandolin plucking, faint accordion chords and, eventually, a wave of stings. QR5 fight the urge to rock out on hiccup-y "Storyteller,” maintaining their reserved composure through brief moments of heightened energy and guitar distortion over a beat that refuses to hold still. While the number of sound ideas poured into each track is commendable, the similarity between many of the cuts may be the album’s one true drawback, a fact even further exposed by the album’s relatively brief 40-minute runtime. That said, it’s a sound that doesn’t wear thin, keeping things fresh throughout. (Les Disques Musicor)