The synthesizer that opens “Armed For Peace,” the first song on Suuns’ debut album Zeroes QC is sloppy and unsettling. It’s dirty and ugly. And before the other instruments kick in, it kind of sounds like a post-punk band attempting to cover Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop.” It’s also, however, temporary. Within 90 seconds, the band’s guitars fire up, drums explode and bass bowl over that introductory sound of malfunctioning gears and electronics, quashing its messy crawl. But the song doesn’t exactly get any brighter. Haunted, chilling atmosphere is Suuns’ specialty, and broken robot keyboards only play a supporting role.
Recorded with Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek engineering and co-producing, Suuns’ Zeroes QC is a heavy and ominous kind of indie rock record. That names like Suicide and Joy Division are often mentioned in write-ups of the band is some indication of their creepy post-punk approach. Yet beneath the jagged guitars and ghostly atmosphere are melodies, and quite good ones at that, revealing a versatile and accessible, if eerie, kind of animal.
The dual aspects of “Armed For Peace” reveal Suuns’ duality splendidly. Where the band sometimes serves to provoke or disturb, at heart they’re monster tunesmiths, and Zeroes QC is littered with them. “Gaze” is a reasonably straightforward Interpol-style nu-gazer track, and one that rocks. But “Arena” offers something different entirely, kicking off with pulsing 303 club beats before transitioning into a melancholy mid-tempo rocker. There’s a throbbing punk rock freakout on “Marauder,” a steady motorik buildup on the lengthy “Sweet Nothing,” and a hand-clapping singalong boogie on “PVC.” And single “Up Past the Nursery” plays out with a minimal throb, which sounds delightfully reminiscent of anything from Clinic’s first two records.
Zeroes QC is a fractured album, a piece of art with very little linear connection throughout. Yet the pervasive sense of darkness and doom that looms large among these ten songs holds them together, creating an eerie sonic adhesive. Though the defiance of cohesiveness is, most likely intentionally, off-putting, the songs are strong enough on their own, contributing to a weirdly satisfying single-artist mixtape.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.