Review: Found / Sounds

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Found / Sounds by House Art Collective (artwork by T. Gallaro)

I’d like to imagine that Found / Sounds was recorded in a cabin on the top of a mountain, where natural laws do not apply. The reality is a little different (an old house in Wyebridge, Ontario, instead of a mountain peak), but the principle still holds true. The members of House Art Collective seem like they live and breathe music and Found / Sounds, their first album, is a testament to that.

The first release from House Art Collective is a whirlwind of styles: strong basslines worthy of DRALMS, Paper Lions’ small-town vibes, Hey Ocean!’s harmonies, and Joy Division’s dark disposition, woven together with the precision and complexity of an Arcade Fire record. It takes the bones of post-punk and covers them with indie folk-rock, avoiding the dangerous pitfalls of both genres (turning the listener into a ball of sadness and being associated with the Lumineers, respectively). The two styles might seem like they’re worlds apart, but Found / Sounds is driven by opposites. It’s the clockwork switches between loud and soft, the sweet lyrics over dark melodies, and the subtle shifts of genres that make it worth replaying.

Putting out the album on Epoch Tapes (a microlabel founded by one of their members) allowed House Art Collective artistic control over the release from start to finish, giving us the unusually expansive intros and outros. For Found / Sounds, each song has its own place and time in which it needs to be heard. The long lead-ups allow every emotion to be meticulously arranged, ensuring that our headspace is right before we listen. It’s an unconventional choice and at times the length is over the top, but the effect is worth the wait. With so many different songwriters, it’s easy for an album like this to tumble into a tug-of-war between writers. Not so for House Art Collective; with the finesse that can only come from musicians on the same wavelength, there are enough common threads worked into the album to tie it all together. The choral work is always strong and always present, a darker lyric is dependably lifted with a brighter melody, and a long-awaited build-up is always well rewarded.

That being said, each songwriter brings his or her own distinct styles into play. Opening track “Spirit Radio” sets an ethereal soundscape before diving into a high-energy swirl of head-bopping with the kind of melody that sends you running to find its source. “Broken Tempos” cuts down to a simpler, bare-bones approach with arching melodies that could easily slip unnoticed into Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. “Melrose” rewinds to the direct lyricism of the first track, working in ‘80s synths and snaky basslines from the golden age of post-punk.

And “Gun Club” puts the pieces together. It begins with the simple lyrics and calm chords that flowed through the other tracks, stripped to just a guitar and voice. Then, with a shout worthy of SNOWBEAST, it begins to trade in grooves as soon as they’re established, maintaining a grade-school honesty throughout, until it finally rests on an a cappella refrain. The track sums up the record well: multi-layered, constantly changing, and truthful above all.

Found / Sounds is a contrasting call. It’s the music you hear from the pub down the street that makes you come running to make sure you’re not missing anything. It’s a taste of small town winters, fourth grade crushes, and a very sweet kind of love. That’s what truly guides Found / Sounds, tying it together better than any device: the people behind House Art Collective love what they’re doing. We’re just along for the ride.

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Found / Sounds can be heard here.

All artwork by T. Gallaro

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