Album Reviews: Bombnivores/Mallsex/Common Holly/Hélène Barbier/Usse

Reviews by Mark Anthony Brennan

‘Metamorphonic’  by Bombnivores

(Halifax)bombnivores 4

Halifax is known is a major regional music centre, but one would hardly expect something as coolly modern, slick and groove-based as Bombnivores. Even more impressive is that it all comes from the minds of two individuals: Jamie Larade (drums, samples, bass) & Sheldon Kelly (vocals, keys, bass.)

Kelly’s soft vocals ease into your soul by osmosis, while Larade’s percussion keeps things grounded. Songs like “Watching the Heat Curve” could simply float off into the ether but the nice, fat rhythm section keeps your toes tapping on Earth.

Killer track:  “Sunset Splitter”

‘Live in Reverse’  by Mallsex


Opening track “The Crux” starts in a blaze of distorted, strident guitar. Hellish, you may think. The song then settles into a beat and the vocals come in. Normality? Hardly. This is when the real hell starts.

Mining element of gothic post-punk, this Vancouver trio present a dark offering of synth-washed rock. Vocals are majestic, in a mournful, foreboding way, while the garagey beats get you dancing with the Devil.

Killer track: “Sewer Bells”

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’  by Common Holly


Brigitte Naggar (aka Common Holly) follows up her excellent debut (2017’s ‘Playing House’) with an impressive, more experimental work. Her vocal and lyrical honesty is still on full display but there is an edginess, and perhaps a sense of fear of an ugly world. For example, on “Uuu” her voice is light, whimsical even, but the subject matter is anything but, (“You’re throwing on logs/Trying to silence the ones/The ones that contradict you”).

‘When I say to you Black Lightning’ works on all levels. It varies from folk (“Little Down”) to slinky rock (“Joshua Snakes”) and never lets up on emotional content.

Killer Track:  “Joshua Snakes”

‘Have You Met Elliott?’  by Hélène Barbier


Hélène Barbier is another excellent singer-songwriter who follows her own unique path. Her vocal delivery is sweet and soft, and often deceivingly so. On “Cold” there’s an atonal quality to the music that provides a dark edge, while “Discipline Alley” has an overall nervousness to it.

Although she relies on invoking a sense of unease within her listeners, Barbier herself is comfortable in her own creative skin, slipping from a gentle whisper in your ear to the voice of alarm (such as on “Country Club”).

Killer track:  “She is a Bully”

‘Flowers for S’  by Usse

(Saint John, NB)usse

Usse hail from Saint John, NB, but frankly sound more like an illustrious member of the Montreal post-rock crowd. ‘Flowers for S’ is perhaps the finest example of electronic experimentalism we’ve heard all year.

With a solid foot in free-form jazz, this collective’s music is as much improvised (or more) as it is composed, as evidenced on the 13 minute epic “Imaginative Sympathy / Retreat”. Even the shorter, more concise numbers, such as “Free Speech Apologist Technologies”, have a flowing, unbridled feel, while the politically-charged “Hegemony” stops and starts with hesitancy.

The album is a wonderful example of apparent chaos packaged in aesthetically pleasing chunks.

Killer track:  “Hegemony”