Tim Darcy, we are told, had reached an impasse. Lead singer with the really-rather-superb Montreal group Ought, he knew that a change was needed, a side-step required.
Heading to Toronto, he squeezed in additional recording sessions while work on Ought’s second album took place. Utilising odd scraps of time – late at night, spare studio sessions at the weekend – he pulled together songs both old and new to forge something different.
‘Saturday Night’ is certainly different. It’s a record that continually feels at odds with itself, a record built upon confusing but beguiling contradictions. Opening cut ‘Tall Glass Of Water’ is minimalist rock ‘n’ roll worthy of Lou Reed, Darcy’s fraught vocals dented by an intense sense of urgency.
‘Saint Germain’ is an under-stated gem, a late night haze that descends in small smoky raptures before curling to sleep before it even hits the three-minute mark. ‘Still Waking Up’ splinters and shatters with each note, its off kilter sideways groove matched to a straight-ahead croon.
In between these moments of clarity, though, Tim Darcy plunges headlong into avenues of abstraction. ‘Joan Pt 1,2’ is literally two songs bolted together, with the third aspect of the trilogy arriving as the final track on ‘Saturday Night’; it opens in complete silence only to close the record in de-tuned electronics.
The record’s low-key mid-section provides some of its most under-stated yet involved signs of progression. ‘Found My Limit’ punctures silence with slivers of guitar and slurped vocals, while the title track opens with somnabulist songwriting before descending into fraught bursts of noise. Sonically, it’s like moving from Lou Reed’s more sombre moments to John Cale’s debauched viola; visually, it feels like the affect of staring at a neon sign until all that remains is the buzzing of the electricity.
Prettily enthralling but also unremittingly confusing, ‘Saturday Night’ offers songs fading into concentric circles that don’t quite match, reaching out but never quite touching.
At times, ‘Saturday Night’ feels like the necessary out-pouring from an over-active imagination. On opening cut ‘Tall Glass Of Water’ Tim Darcy asks a question with near zen-like lucidity: “If at the end of the river, there is more river, would you dare to swim again?”
It’s tempting to answer this question with Heraclitus’ line about never stepping in the same river twice: forever rushing forwards, ‘Saturday Night’ isn’t content to sit still. It’s illuminating and infuriating, but never easy to ignore.
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