By Matt Hume, December 5 2017 —
Torontonian quartet Casper Skulls caught nation-wide attention with their 2016 Lips & Skull EP. Only one year later, the group has delivered a synthesis of postpunk and dream-pop that’s nothing short of a masterpiece in their debut LP, Mercy Works. Recorded with co-producing engineer Josh Korody — known for work with the likes of Fucked Up and Weaves — and mixed by the seasoned Alex Newport, the album is tight, clean and fully realized.
Brief opening track “Mercy Works” sounds like a swelling collection of instruments and effects à la My Bloody Valentine, tuning like an orchestra before a concert. It sets an underlying tone for the 44 minutes to come while being a great foil for the post-punk grooves that immediately follow. “You Call Me Allocator” starts as a no-frills beat with lazy guitar licks and grows into densely layered sounds.
Dual-vocalists Melanie St. Pierre and Neil Bednis successfully compliment each other regardless of whether the track calls for harmony or distinct juxtaposition. As the album continues, the toe-tapping rhythms, lazy grooves, carefree angst and distorted chords counterpoint beautifully with well-timed dynamic changes and diverse instrumentation. “Primeval” displays the band’s skill with a perfectly disjointed melody that would make David Byrne dance behind Bednis’ spoken-word nonchalance and St. Pierre’s full-bar chorus notes.
“Colour of the Outside” is a standout. Two guitars play off each other in reverb heaven, with well-timed bends and unexpected fills. Occasional half-step chord changes make for ominous moments within an otherwise relaxing melody. Mercy Works has no apparent lowpoints. The album’s quality is consistent and keeps a coherent sound without falling into repetition or bleeding tracks together. The meticulous care and precision of its composition sits humbly behind lackadaisical vocals, washy reverb and pitch-bending, making the album enjoyable no matter how much attention you offer it.
The album concludes in strong form with “Faded Sound,” showing off many of the group’s strengths and removing the surface indifference, revealing genuine emotional passion in vocals and sound.
Mercy Works is a can’t-miss addition to Canadian music in 2017. Its variation bridges the gap between quiet introspection and noisy adventure. For any full-lengths to come, the bar sits deservedly high.