REVIEW: Louser – “Intermediate State”

The emo/math rock trio Louser from Winnipeg, Canada released their first album Intermediate State on January 1st of 2018.  Louser is a side project for guitarist/bassist Nick Fondse and vocalist Nick Gammon (who are in Sit Calm together).  They joined forces with drummer Jess Hardie to create Louser.  The album was recorded by Nick Fondse’s brother Mike Fondse.  The record definitely has a DIY punk feel to it with the recording and mixing quality.  The guitars cut through the other instruments, making it the focal point of the album (circling back to the fact that this was recorded by the guitarist’s brother).  The bass is difficult to pick up while the drums and vocals are at a decent level, but they all still are drowned out by the guitar.  The distortion of the guitar reminds me of Love Lost But Not Forgotten.  Intermediate State is a very good stepping stone for a debut album. Will they continue to step forward?

My first impression of the record during the initial spin was a gritty math rock sound with more sung vocals than screamed.  To me, singer Nick Gammon’s voice reminds me of New Jersey’s emo/indie band Signature Escape.  The vocals fit very well with the band, with the singing and screaming matching the intensity of the music.  If Nick Gammon experimented more with his voice, I believe it could benefit the band in the future.

The first song, “Odds On”, slowly builds and then gets your attention with the band’s raw, high intensity sound.  The trio is very tight and offer some clever riffs paired with heavier odd time breakdowns.  They bounce between emo and math rock with some faster melodic punk sections.  Jess Hardie’s drumming sets the charge with tasty stick work and high energy mathy grooves.  Though the drums are hidden under the guitar and vocals, the snare is well situated in the mix.  One thing that Louser does at the end of a few of their songs is a feedback outro, which reminds me of The Mars Volta‘s Frances The Mute.  It’s a little ballsy considering the fact that it’s their first record.  TMV can get away with it because, well, they’re The Mars Volta.

The album peaks at its fourth and fifth tracks (“Jasper” and “Questionable”, respectively).  Unfortunately, as the band still looks for their sound, the songs tend to blend together. There is a calm outro with a guitar solo at the end of “Jasper” that stands out and is perfectly placed at the center of the album.  Though music shouldn’t be rated by its ‘catchiness’, the vocals for the chorus of “Questionable” really catch your attention.  As “Mistaken” begins, I actually got excited because it appeared to have an instrumental interlude feel to it.  Vocals eventually come in around the two minute mark, but it’s a pretty chill song which changes the pace of the record for a moment.  For the final song, “Seventh Stab”, there is a section at the three minute mark that has a nice Minus The Bear/Pinback feel to it.  I really like how the album ends abruptly with some stabs that you expect to go into another riff, leaving the listener wanting more.

I feel the quality of the recording is Louser‘s worst enemy in Intermediate State.  If the mix was more even and significantly cleaned up, I feel that they’d be able to shine a lot more.  The musicians are talented, but nothing really stands out or blows me away throughout the record.  It’s a damn good start; for future works Louser should look into experimenting to find a way to get a more original sound.  Though it’s hard to stand out in the emo and math rock scene, it is possible, and I think these guys are capable of doing it.


Score: 7/10

Notable Tracks: “Jasper”; “Questionable”; “Seventh Stab”

FFO: Signature Escape, Love Lost But Not Forgotten, Enemies, Pinback

You can follow Louser on Facebook and Spotify and also download Intermediate State for free here.

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