Labasheeda emerged out of Amsterdam in 2004, and since then have built up a cult following around Europe and Canada, through relentless touring, and their energetic, intense shows. I saw them away back in 2009 at l’Escogriffe, a hole in the wall on the rue Saint-Denis on the Plateau. It was exactly that, energetic, and intense. I was hooked, and I seem to recall scooping their album, A Few of a Population, on CD, and though I played it a lot, I don’t think I’ve seen it since I left Montreal eight years ago. Sad me. But then, I was lucky to get a copy of their new album, Status Seeking here at Typescript, and all was right with the world again.
Labasheeda is centred around frontwoman, guitarist, violinist, Saskia van der Glessen and guitarist Arne Wolfswinkel. And Status Seeking is their brand new album. On it, they play their familiar hybrid of melodic music interspersed with off-centre guitar and distorted violin. I have to admit it took a bit, and a few emails with Saskia, before I realized I knew this band, and had loved them back in the day. In fact, it was after a discussion with my resident alter-ego and fellow Canadiens de Montréal fan, Karl Rozyn, that it hit me. We were discussing what sounded familiar about them and I was trying to find the words for the sounds I heard, and only after we were done discussing did it hit me, I had seen this band and had one of their albums, once.
Status Seeking kicks off with the guitars of ‘Dark Dream,’ and the song charges forward into the abyss, the guitars dominating the sound, and van der Glessen’s vocals buried deep in the mix, as she sings about the joys and travails of love, and how we disappear into each other, and get defined, re-defined, and re-seen by our partners, for better or ill. The guitar in the left channel, Wolfswinkel’s lead, is not quite dirty, nor is it clean, having descended down the generations from Keith Richards’ best work with the Stones in their early 70s heyday.
‘Reunion’ takes the energy of ‘Dark Dream’ and turns it inwards, the band’s sound filled out by Edwin Slothouber’s thick drumming, and it’s here that van der Glessen’s violin makes its appearance, slinking around, over the bass, and sliding in and around the drums. Wolfswinkel’s chugging bass is a highlight before the song explodes into guitars and a faster tempo.
‘False Flag’ begins with the violin before exploding into a furious punked out track that then breaks down into a bassline over the drums as van der Glessen sings, down in the mix:
She’s one of a kind
There is a pair of us
She’s not easy to find
We’re two, and you are you
The song shifts in tempo twice more before she continues:
Traits do have some elasticity
You do it for the one you’re not meant to be
Her world can come crashing down
On top of you
And then the violin re-appears as Wolswinkel’s guitar gets nasty and the tempo shifts again, to an almost Soundgardenesque noise and violin. I actually lost track of how many tempo changes there are in ‘False Flag,’ which clocks in at just over three minutes, but it makes me miss live music, as this song live, because of those shifts, would be epic.
‘Crossing Lines’ is a bouncier track, with a simple 4/4 beat and van der Glessen’s vocals multi-tracked over top, the guitars in both channels, but Wolfswinkel’s lead in the left one. There are numerous tempo changes, and the guitars are all over the place without getting out of control.
I am especially partial to ‘The Adversary,’ which its dual guitar attack and chugging drums, as the guitars break down into 90s era sounds, covering anything from Nirvana to Sloan. Van der Glessen’s violin adds a depth to the song, the way it saws over the guitars, her vocals coming out of the left channel.
Labasheeda play this tempo-shifting, artsy pop punk, the violin is both clean and distorted. It is hypnotising live, and on album, I appreciate it because I can actually hear the chords, I can hear the progressions, and enjoy the music for itself, rather than the kinetic energy on stage. My only real complaint is that van der Glessen’s vocals are buried too far into the mix. I’d like to hear them more front and centre.