Canada In Space is an EP that sets out a vision of Mars colony populated by a majority of the more northern North Americans. This vision is put across through the medium of creeping and intense indie rock, by ex-Unicorn frontman Alden Penner, who sounds quite frankly spooked. On City Slang, packaged in an extremely direct sleeve.
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- Canada In Space by Alden Penner
7/10 Robin Staff review, 30 June 2015
Alden Penner used to be in charge of the Unicorns, a ramshackle indie rock band who were far weirder than their friends Arcade Fire. Afraid of death and gleeful in life, their anxieties were put on display with ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?’ and then tucked away forever. Penner, though, has kept working through his juxtapositions with Clues and as a solo act. After recent collaborative work with bumbling romcom dude Michael Cera (with whom he recently suffered through the awful vibes of Belgrave Music Hall), he’s made ‘Canada In Space’, a loose concept album that displays Penner’s knack for writing a melody, and his bigger knack for knocking it down.
The five tracks on ‘Canada In Space’ are actually relatively straightforward, but with caveats -- the ominous groove of “Breathe to Burn” is shuffled off centre-stage before Penner can get too deep into his tangential riffing, and seems the most tied to a standard song structure Penner’s been in a while (echoing the repetitive vibes of “Precession”). The shock is that it sounds like Penner’s just spliced two songs together, beginning on dour, sparse picking before splitting down the middle with distortion and kicking into rock action. Penner continues to experiment with where his voice best fits, with aimless laser-pointing synths acting as his backdrop on “Will I” and the almost festive “Candy”, which marries the same bright synths to palm-muted chords.
It’s not Penner’s most exciting work, nor his most maddeningly inventive, but these songs still feel wonderfully self-sabotaged, given the lens of indie rock with which to be strangely configured. “Meditate” uses lovely acoustic riffing before squelching once more with a dance of synth and a gang vocal that diametrically opposes Penner’s high-pitched coo. Penner is still forcing himself to try new things.
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