Abbotsford post-punk foursome Blessed’s latest EP builds on every possible structural footing laid down by their debut, and does so with such unprecedented energy that it’s easy to see why the band has made waves in the past years.
Compared to their first release, ii is starkly more experimental, especially when it comes to rhythm. “Phase,” the album opener, kicks off with a series of jump-starts that introduce us to the latest of Blessed’s achievements. “Phase” manages to throw out one rhythm for another, and one dominant melodic line for another, seemingly at a whim, all without losing track of itself. A blend of bittersweet guitar melodies dots the chorus, building up energy before discarding it and starting anew. With “Phase,” as with ii, Blessed somehow manage to skirt predictability, always shifting, morphing, changing into an entity at once different, yet still made up of the same howls, same anti-melodic shifts from one guitar line to another.
If there’s anything that’s characteristic of the entire record, it’s the sense of urgency which meets the listener at every turn. Not quite dissonant, “Body” drives incessantly on towards an undefined goal while meandering with a bass fill here, or a guitar lick there. What’s evident is that Blessed has honed their energetic playing into what resembles a four-piece orchestral ode to tension, and what a satisfyingly enraging ode it is. At any given point, two equally compelling rhythms pull at our attention, each vying for supremacy. Intense though it may be, both are inevitably cast aside for another, often more ambitious set of intertwining instrumentals.
Noticeable on ii is a more defined vocal track than what appeared on the band’s first release. Drew Riekman’s vocals, surprisingly subdued on “Endure,” ring out much clearer than they did on the band’s previous release. And while it seems that, as Blessed further refines their craft (and they have done just that on ii) they veer further from the straightforwardness of their first release and into new, more intricate and impressive territory.
“Headache,” the most energetic track on the record, encapsulates the drive and resourcefulness of Blessed. Out of the gate at a hundred miles an hour, the five-minute-long track makes a point to explore every possible sonic space allowed to it, proving just how fruitful it can be to stop and smell the roses, even if you’ve got the neuroticism of a pissed-off rattlesnake building up within you.
A burlap sack full of cats intent on making you writhe along to its unknowable beat, Blessed’s second EP compels us to move with it despite (perhaps even because of) its unpredictability.
And I’ll be damned if that’s not the mark of triumph.