Forgive me for being nearsighted, but I don’t pay nearly as much attention to music from other places as I should. Aside from a handful of bands from England, Marianas Trench from Canada, and a few random Japanese bands, I admit that my attention has been focused on my own neck of the woods. But, sometimes beauty comes from way out of left field and finds you when you least expect it; the first time I heard Glosoli by Sigur Ros remains one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced with music.
So, with an open mind and hope, I decided to give Mak‘s self-titled debut a listen. Hailing from Montreal, I only knew their name and that they played a hybrid of music that was fascinating to behold. The decision to give them a chance was one of the best I could have made, because Mak‘s debut album is a perfectly diverse experience that conveys beauty and depth beyond many of their contemporaries.
Playing an interesting mix of rock, jazz and electronic music, Mak is a hard act to describe. If a comparison had to be drawn, Radiohead would be the closest I could get while still making sense. Mak’s experimentation with various genres echoes that of the aforementioned kings.
Even on the opening track, If She’s Got A Habit, the lines between definite styles are blurred, as electro pulses ride over the downplayed drums and calmly plucked guitars. Jesse Mac Cormack has a voice that needs to be heard; gentle yet urgent, which is perfectly suited for the lyrics that wander throughout the album: “Push me to the edge/’Til I can barely feel/That you have filled my head/With your skin and voice.”
Both Cause To Effect and Stone give guitarists Simon Labbe and Cormack chances to show off their chops, and they absolutely shine, whether meandering their way through the former or storming through the latter. Drummer Samuel Beland‘s versatility shines on tracks such as Stone, where he turns up the intensity, though he switches styles for every track.
It’s easy to admire the completely toned down percussion in Reverse, a simple and elegant track anchored by a swirling atmosphere and minimalist piano. This gorgeous track is a perfect example of how tight the production is on this debut, as every instrument is clearly heard and equally important to the landscape being created. Cormack’s voice also stands out clearly and, as with every other track, steals the show unintentionally.
Although the next track starts out strong, Young Lads, features one of the only missteps the band makes: autotune. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Cormack’s pipes are taken over by autotune about halfway through, and it just doesn’t sound right. While Mak can be applauded for trying something different with this one, it’s definitely a swing and a miss.
However, the next run of songs fix that little slip up by blowing it out of the water. Featuring beautiful atmospheric electronic waves that are either accentuated by guitars (Stab Me) or used to paint the backdrop of another knockout (Bulletproof Love), these tracks stand on their own competently. Bulletproof Love is one of the more straightforward rock songs, and every performer holds their own just as well as they do on the calmer tracks.
While TV finds everyone at their fastest and heaviest, it’s the perfect final track that rules the album. Them plays out like a summary of what has come to pass, with delicate instrumentation that serves to back the beautiful lyrics: “Pull the demons out of me/Pull them out/They’re not welcome anymore/I’ve got my eyes closed on so many ways to change.” Cormack’s pleading voice is at its best here, straining to rein in all of the emotions pouring out of him.
Having only recently released its debut album, Mak is a promising band that is well on its way to great things. Although a misstep is made here or there, an eclectic blend of musical styles saves the album from becoming redundant or boring. Mak has released an album that can truly be called mystifying and gorgeous, packed to the brim with atmospheric tracks that evoke the best of what can be done with music.
Although a strange mix, the payoff is immense, creating an album that won’t soon be forgotten by those who aren’t too nearsighted to miss it.