Toronto’s Beliefs (Josh Korody and Jesse Crowe) are back and darker than ever before. Habitat comes out on September 22nd via Outside Music/Hand Drawn Dracula, their third full-length record following 2015’s Leaper. As the leaves on the trees fade from bright green to blood red, the nights turn black and cold, and the impending dread of winter creeps into our minds, this album is the perfect accompaniment, loaded with post-punk grooves and existential dread.
Habitat was finished in a grand total of 16 days, with Korody serving as producer and engineer, studio multi-tasker, Leon Taheny (Austra, Death From Above 1979, Owen Pallett) sitting in as drummer. The hauntingly beautiful video for the single ‘1994’, which you can watch below, was directed by (Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse):
Proceeding from this killer song, the atonal droning of second track ‘Retreat’ sets the listener on a ledge of harsh anxiety and anticipation. Korody’s ethereal wailing dances over the distorted noise, which gets progressively louder as the melody spirals out of control. Eventually there is nothing but a siren call and white noise over a dance beat. This is anti-disco at its finest. It reference to the title, the sound does indeed retreat into muffled mechanical beats; it’s like listening to a robotic heart beating through the fluid of an artificial womb, and we are the unknowing unborn.
The feeling of being suspended in primal cosmic fluids continues into next track ‘Divided Youth (only for lovers)’. Suddenly the guitars burst into a grunge-like sludge, the drums become frantic and the symbols crash. Korody’s falsetto cries cut through the wall of sound like a switchblade knife, until eventually the chaos deceases, leaving only this chant of dread and suffering.
By contrast, Korody’s vocals on ‘Half Empty’ are nothing short of spine-tinglingly beautiful. The feminine edge to his tone flows against the bleak verses ‘Don’t pretend I’m pretty when the blood drains out my dead skin’. The melody here has the quality of a gothic folk song; the combinations of the dark, post-punk guitar, and the eerie vocals make for a haunting shanty of self-hatred and melancholy.
‘All Things Considered’ is by contrast a post-punk indie anthem; the sleek rhythms and cold vocals, the flanged guitars meshing with the prominent bass hook, working in perfect tandem to create a tune that won’t exit your cranium for a good long while.
The oddly soul-like vocals on ‘Catholic Guilt’ could certainly come from Depeche Mode’s ‘Playing the Angel’, for tone as well as religious imagery. This southern-gothic track features a strong female vocalist, a breath of fresh air from Korody’s chilling lilt. This track really stood out for me as maybe the black sheep in this farmyard of chaos noise. It is the pivotal point driving into question the title of the album and concept of maintaining in the face of despair. Still, the line ‘Who’s gonna want you/ when you’re already rotting?’ will stay with you.
This album won’t be for everyone; it’s experimental, it’s weird, it’s gloomy. It’s like Aphex Twin and Joy Division conceived a shoegaze goth baby and the universe managed to capture it in the moment of its birth. But there are moments of pure beauty that shine through the noise and panic, and the band’s trials with the wall of sound effect bare promising fruit. This was an album that took a chance and went to all of the far out places that many bands in the genre are scared to go. The gloomy winter of 2017 has found its perfect soundtrack.