With a sound that evokes both the endless vistas of rural Canada and the claustrophobic density of its biggest cities, Vancouver's Sex Church has an expansive, near-cinematic sweep. Their grey-washed tonal palate echoes the Pacific Northwest’s most noteworthy exports such as The Wipers, Unwound, and even Nirvana.
The last few years have seen a steady clip of stick-to-your-ribs releases featuring Sex Church’s unique brand of psychedelic punk. Coming hot on the heels of 2011’s epic Growing Over on Load Records, Somnambulist further refines Sex Church’s sensibilities. Their modus operandi remains the same: droning/grinding guitars over towering rhythms, with thousand-yard-stare singing; they just get better at it. Released by Instant Pleasure (legendary Canucks Simply Saucer nod in approval), a new imprint spun off from excellent Montreal label Psychic Handshake, this brand-new 12” EP finds Sex Church making all the wrong moves in all the right ways.
“Hidden Hand” kicks the proceedings off in bracing fashion. Corrosive guitars mesh with anguished vocals, everything spiraling down an endless staircase, straight into the bowels of misery. Much like vintage Christian Death, there’s a certain romance and squalor to the song that appeals to the damaged, the dead-beat.
“Slipped” pulls back on the reins a bit, showcasing Sex Church’s knack for subtle, melancholy melodies. The effect is a bit like Cheater Slicks covering The Jesus and Mary Chain. Parts of the song seem to glisten, while others rust rapidly. Sex Church has an inherent grasp of the elusive beauty that haunts our most ravaged scenes of decay. They seem to find comfort in the situations that most of us try desperately to wish away. That doomed moment, frozen in time.
Side Two’s “Wrong Side” lurches forward with seasick legs, a slo-motion collapse into a vortex of unwanted memories. Sex Church is able to surf these bummer waves without ever becoming overbearing, or a parody of themselves. A saxophone makes an attempt to bleat through the sonic fog, but this ain’t no funhouse, baby. Those reflections are the real deal, and you’ve seen better days. Sex Church has too, but they soldier on, heads down, steadying themselves for the next onslaught.