Sound Advice: I by Fresh Snow
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Sound Advice: I by Fresh Snow

A noisy, gloriously anaesthetic debut from some Toronto-based rockers.


Anaesthetics and painkillers are so omnipresent in modern medicine that it’s easy to forget how important they’ve been to the advancement of surgical science. It’s hard for any of us to appreciate how borderline miraculous it is that a dentist can give an easy injection and then drill into a rotten tooth or live nerve while a patient barely feels a thing. Intentionally or not, Toronto-based instrumental band Fresh Snow has created a stunning exploration of the sensory landscape of anaesthetics with its debut LP, I. Released on August 13 by Reel Cod Records, I is a steamy, eerie, and often razor-sharp combination of noise, ambience, and anaesthesia.

Fusing seething, sci-fi-inspired electronics with urgent krautrock and wildly unpredictable noise rock, I plays with the listener’s expectations and perceptions. During the opening of lead track “French Horse Hall of Fame” (which is available exclusively online or on the cassette edition of the album), the smooth orchestral harmony quickly fractures and frays. Fresh Snow expertly plays with musical textures, especially when it comes to feedback and degradation. The guitar tone runs the gamut from wet wool to buzz saw and barbed wire.

A deep, soothing, wonderfully organic groove anchors the tracks, providing a core for the group’s experiments with feedback and layers of sound. The production is dense and complex, incorporating sheets of clarity and juxtaposing them against murk, smoke, and fuzz. The textures and tones are often pitted against each other, with some elements standing out in sharp, almost crystalline relief, while others become muddied, stretched, and dulled to vagueness. But for all the sharp, cogent songwriting, it’s the squalling noisiness of the record—from the wailing trumpet and blistering breakdown of “BMX Based Tactics” to the unbearable tension in “Your Thirst For Magic Has Been Quenched By Death!”—that ends up being its greatest strength. (You can listen to another track from the album, “Helix Pass,” by clicking on the sample above.) Composed of bristling, feral soundscapes that swing wildly from the strangely comforting to the actively hostile, Fresh Snow’s I is both narcotic and revelatory.

Fresh Snow is scheduled to play a show on August 28 at The Piston (937 Bloor Street West). Doors open at 9 p.m., and the cover is $6. Zones, Bad Channels, and Our Founders will also perform.