Somewhere around 2012—after years in a self-imposed wilderness of being an adult—John Ex called his friend Victor Malang and said, “Let’s you and I form a band.” This was going to a simple affair. A duo. A guitarist and a drummer, with volume turned to ‘bleed’, phasers set to ‘stun’, and every guitar pedal under the sun…except for maybe an actual phaser.
After years of writing and jamming and recording behind closed doors, the pair finally emerged from hiding with a debut record in tow. Called Pique, it was released in March 2015 as the perfect distillation of their raucous, economic M.O.—eight songs, 30 minutes on the nose. It was ferocious, yet occasionally tuneful. It said its piece and then left the room. Toronto weekly NOW, Chartattack.com, and blogs like hellbound.ca gave it a glowing reviews; podcast Cups N Cakes even named it their top Canadian LP in their Best of 2015 review.
Meanwhile, Not Of gained a reputation as a live duo of spartan, yet monstrous proportions. Loud, yes. But also deft and deceptively full. Not wanting to lose any momentum, they wrote furiously and headed back into the studio in late summer 2015. With ten new songs already written, the plan was to come back within a year with a follow-up. The time for contemplation and design was over. Now, they were just going to blow things up.
But then a funny thing happened. One studio session, turned into two. Then three, then four. And five. The writing never really stopped. And with each gig, the band—and its possibilities—kept evolving. Choosing to listen to what these experiences were teaching them, Not Of returned to its original philosophy—let the record tell you when it’s done, not the other way around.
Finally, nearly twenty songs and over two years after the process began, the record you have before you was finished. At first glance, Hypocritic Oath might not appear to be all that different than its predecessor. At 9 songs and 35 minutes, it’s hardly a double LP left turn that such fussy seclusion might suggest. “Watch Him, They Said” would’ve fit on Pique seamlessly. But the palette has been noticeably broadened.
Tunes like “Barb Dwyer, Esq.” and sludgy centerpiece “The Goat” commit to a type of naked brutality that Pique barely hinted at. Elsewhere, “Astoria Jack” and “Fix Don’t Fix” nestle in hooks more confidently than ever before. But the biggest change is how—for such a still concise album—Hypocritic Oath is not in any hurry to get places. All throughout, it is peppered with found sounds and collages—long moments of hum and distortion soundtracking a sickly meditation. Finally, closing pair “It’s Curtains, She Said” and “You Believers” is a perfect example of how patience has tempered the band’s outlook. The heft abounds, but so does a measured fragility; a frailty that arrives with or without the band’s consent.
For a record all about the cognitive dissonance that walks with most of us through modern life, this is the only way that things could have turned out in the end. Music that sometimes has to be pretty to be ugly; weightless to be heavy. Not Of uses this tension to make Hypocritic Oath as unsettled as it is complete.
Copyright © 2015. Auteur Research, All Rights Reserved
Site By: Blake Bowman