Week in Pop: Caicos, Romantic Thriller, YASSOU

Sjimon Gompers

The rise of Brooklyn's Romantic Thriller, oka Rebecca Huston; styled & photographed by Jessica Knight.

Young Galaxy

Forever cosmic with Young Galaxy; press photo courtesy of the duo.

Montreal’s Young Galaxy just released their independently released album Down Time today & the duo of Catherine McCandless & Stephen Ramsay share both a listen accompanied with exclusive insights. The group’s conscious disconnect from the industry machines allowed them the chance to create on their own terms in the result of a full-length that remarks upon the negative trends at work in the world while ascending toward an enlightened place of peace & care. Catherine & Stephen offer the world a much needed respite that stays focused on the issues that affect us all while creatively building a safe place of inclusive sound where all are welcomed to take refuge.

There is something trancendent & virtually spiritual about Down Time. Through the calamities & chaos of our current era, Young Galaxy navigates through the racket with songs of generous tranquility & chicken soup for the weathered human spirit. The gestures of endearment can be felt on the sublime beauty of “Under My Wing” that percolates gently with a sense of protection & calm, through the light beacons that pierce the darkness on the minimalist “Seeing Eye Dog”, arriving at the sanctuary of humanism on the mesmerizing “Catch Your Breath”. Revelations are exhibited with surveys of the land ahead on “Show You the Valley”, to the international tributary beat-botanicals of “River”, as calls for unity bring the listener to the spirit awakening expanses of “Frontier”. Amid the constant upheavals of changes & struggles, Young Galaxy strives for something permanent & personal on the hand-clasping “Stay For Real”, walking along the nature path of illuminating feels on “Glowworms”, entering the holiest of holies on the mind-flipping “Devotion”, that brings everything to a head on “Elusive Dream” that brings inspired visions to materialized & tangible realities. Down Time is not just a panacea to save us for our times, but a calming dream pop record for all times from now to the hopes of a prosperous & peaceful tomorrow.

The making of Down Time was marked by a massive shift in the band’s way of operating. We said goodbye to two longstanding touring members of the band who also contributed creatively, as well as our record label.

Catherine:

Finding the voice of this record was a challenge at first. We were coming out of a period of many deep identity shifts in the context of social, cultural and political environments that did not feel representative of our own perspectives, experience or values. We were writing in different veins than we had before, connecting with other artists, planning collaborations, releasing music on our own new record label House of Commons. Our private life loomed and our public one was fragmented and all cross-referenced. This felt like an accurate place to live and proceed from, but to write from this perspective and find its voice was challenging. We brought it all back to our studio—the site of all our intersections and communications and emissions—the two of us, our gear. If we felt that only we could represent ourselves then to have agency and make emissions into the world, then we needed to double down on the site of our own creativity.

Stephen:

After five albums, we felt the need to reinvent ourselves yet again as a band. There isn’t a lot of currency for experienced artists in the pop and indie worlds unless they are massively successful and yet here we were, able to make another album and completely on our own terms to boot. Coupled with this reality was the fact that the world had become a much darker place than it was when we started as a band. We knew it would be a challenge to put out music that didn’t reflect the state of the world, as well as the fact that we occupy rare territory as artists—where we can continue to make records without the acceptance and approval of industry gatekeepers. So it became clear that the whole endeavor should be a distillation of this awareness.
We didn’t want the album to sound preachy or pedantic at all though. Our anxieties and vulnerabilities created daily challenges to the process, and we wanted that to be present in the music, to represent real and complex feelings. To this day, we feel alternately proud and terrified. It feels like our career hangs in the balance. It feels like we’ve made our best work.

We returned repeatedly to two credos/ideas throughout the making of Down Time: Turn weakness into strength, and punk spirit. We knew our limitations going into this, working without the double catch net of labels and grants, things the Canadian industry is famous for. We worked exclusively from our little studio and a limited palette of gear and instruments. There are maybe four pieces of gear on this record that make up the majority of the recordings. For me, that’s punk rock. And the idea of limitation, so often considered a weakness, was extremely appealing to us given the circumstances. It seemed like a tangible manifestation of our situation as a band and I wanted to do a deep dive into this, to stare it down.

As a result, the album is murky and submerged. A night album. We listened to a lot of Burial, Gas, minimal techno and drum & bass. We took perverse delight in willfully turning away from the pressures of conforming to poptimism, which are real and insidious for any band making music that could be remotely considered pop nowadays. The songs are long, looping and hopefully full of hypnotic doubt.

Young Galaxy’s anticipated new album Down Time is available now.

Cover art for Young Galaxy’s new album Down Time.

Catch Young Galaxy on the following tour dates:

April
07 San Francisco, CA at Rickshaw Stop
09 Los Angeles, CA at The Echo
12 Washington, DC at DC9
13 Brooklyn, NY at Knitting Factory
19 Hamilton, ON at The Casbah
20 Toronto, ON at Velvet Underground
21 Montreal, QC at PHI Centre

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