Saskatchewan – Occasion album review

There are some bands that cement themselves within a clear and defined genre. They play true to their roots, their predecessors, and continue to help perpetuate a sound for those to come as they continually build upon that which has already been clearly established. Then there are bands that like to dabble, pick and choose, and experiment upon various sounds and genres, some of which emerge triumphant in their pioneering quest and unfortunately, some fall short and end up producing a bubbling mess of sound that does not particularly play-out all too well. In this particular case, Saskatchewan are the dabblers and succeed in many ways but also, blur and linger on so many lines that it can become a little confusing but  nonetheless their debut release, Occasion, although it may not be a full-fledged golden triumph, rises up with a mountain of potential and a great sounding list of tracks.

When looking into the Orlando, Florid based group that is weirdly and unflatteringly named after a Canadian province, a certain set of words to describe the group float around; ‘nostalgia’, ‘dream’, ‘chill’, all of which end with a dash followed by either ‘wave’ or ‘pop’. Now, these ‘genres’ can get pretty annoying seeming as though there are literally dozens of bands springing up all using the exact same non-genre adjectives. If you are someone, like I, who is easily annoyed and turned off by such terms, try and let go of those prejudices for Occasion, because although there is certainly a ‘dream-pop’ influence, Saskatchewan have a lot to offer in a quite a unique and, at the very least, interesting regard.

Occasion, for the most part, is very heavily 80’s inspired piece of music. Lots of fluttery, shimmery analog synths play long with grooving bass lines which in turn, compliment rolling, dramatic drum samples all atop an echoing, chamber aesthetic that sounds as though it is being played inside a dark, cave-like atmosphere. Some of the instrumentals, like on ‘Fronting’ or ‘Destroy’, you would be sure Twin Shadow was behind them and that is the sort of sound the album projects; a modern, more glossier take on a pop sound reborn and re-imagined. This is where terms like ‘nostalgia-pop’ come about.

At certain points on Occasion, like on tracks ‘Youth Ministry’, if you are a listener like me and were very attracted to the first few opening songs, you will feel a pang of dread and disappointment as the group seemingly retreats upon an all too familiar and well tread upon sound that is reminiscent of Wild Nothing or Craft Spells and soon that cool, slick yet shadowy and mysterious original sound is replaced with a done-to-death sun-ray drenched, lo-fi sample that fades. Thankfully however, Saskatchewan retains their independent, stand-alone sound throughout the rest of the album, but it’s examples of those, where the group treads and blurs the lines of various genres and non-genres and muddle between a line of explorer and settler, that I am just hoping in the future, they can prove to all of us that they are certainly and unmistakably the former.

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