Welcome to the first edition of Bucketlist’s Bi-Polar Review series, where we give the same record to two different reviewers; one in the northern hemisphere, one is the southern hemisphere. Through the dark magic of the internet, their separate opinions form like Voltron into a singular, all-powerful MEGA REVIEW.
In this edition, Scott Andrews from Perth, Western Australia and Jesse Gainer from Montreal, Quebec tackle the self-tilted debut EP from Winnipeg’s Sit Calm. Can reviewers separated by nearly 19,000 kilometres create a cohesive review, or is this entire, convoluted concept doomed to failure? Let’s find out!
Genre / Style
Scott: Whilst they call themselves math rock, I tend to associate this genre with less emotive and slightly more abrasive tones. Sit Calm, on the other hand, have a full, atmospheric and very organic sound. I tend to associate them with a post-hardcore aesthetic, ponderous and skillful. Playing Sit Calm on my stereo lends me to a very contemplative frame of mind, an opportunity to reflect but still feel engaged with some very refreshing musicianship.
Jesse: This EP adds weight to my theory about bands from the prairie provinces; that endless flat expanse of uniform terrain and unchanging horizon drives a reactive creative impulse that tends toward the ornate. What makes this self titled EP such an enjoyable listen is that while the music is indeed complex and demonstrates each musician’s sizable chops, Sit Calm understand the importance of proper song craft. This understanding means we get four actual songs as opposed to four demonstrations of, “Look what I can do!” noodle wizardry.
It is also refreshing to hear something that doesn’t fit neatly into one single genre bucket. While Sit Calm seem to draw some influence from early 2000s post-hardcore/emo acts such as Hopesfall and “Full Collapse”-era Thursday, their cleaner tone and more progressive instrumentals bring to mind acts such as Explosions In The Sky and Do Make Say Think. In addition, guitarist Brendyn Funk’s opening riffs on “Wombat” and “Feeble” have a serious Animals as Leaders feel to it.
Musicianship / Songwriting
Scott: Drummer Nick Fondse really drives the songs on this EP giving strong, clear accents and filling the spaces with nifty double-strokes and a lovely continual patter from his kick drum. The bass is very understated on this EP, and bassists of all eras will exhort the achievement of a bassist to get out of the way and play what’s right for the song. Nicholas Gammon has done this and then some. Supporting the down beats, structures and melody, Nicholas’s sound is assured and earthing, giving the songs a clear anchor and that place where one can nod their head.
Jesse: Funk’s guitar work is inventive and enjoyable throughout the four tracks, and the rhythm section understand that the space between notes is just as effective in conveying a musical idea as the notes and beats themselves. The vocal work, lead by Funk, is serviceable, if not a bit simplistic, and the one aspect of the recording that is so clearly informed by the aforementioned post-hardcore/emo aesthetic. While the lyrical sections are indeed short and not the main focus, I think it would serve Sit Calm well to apply their progressive thinking to this aspect of their sound, especially if future releases span more than 4 or 5 songs.
Tone / Recording Quality
Scott: There is not an iota of digital tweakage on their self titled debut; it’s raw and human as can be. The guitar sounds are lush and clearly played through some very responsive pick-ups. Such a detailed guitar sound is rare on debut EPs, but guitarist Brendyn Funk chooses his tones wisely. In my mind I picture him with a Fender Jazzmaster because of the resonant sound he has achieved. My only critique of the guitar sound is that perhaps it’s a tad high in the mix; I tended to feel a slight disconnect between the guitar and drums on first listens of this EP. This effect diminished as I returned to the songs repeatedly though and my ear accepted the mixing as it stands.
Jesse: Too often progressive bands run their stuff through the Pro Tools grinder so thoroughly in an attempt for precision that they end up sucking all the life out of the tunes. This is not so here; the sound on this EP is so raw and organic you could grow GMO-free vegetables in it.
Scott: A quality release from a relatively young band. It’s refreshing to hear such an organic, progressive take on the post-hardcore sub-genre. Score. 7.5
Jesse: This is a strong debut from Sit Calm and I look forward to hearing what they can do with the room of a full length recording. So, I guess it really is possible to start a band in Winnipeg and not sound like Propaghandi! Who knew?! I think I owe someone a Coke. Score: 7.5
Written by Jesse Gainer / Scott Andrews