Rich Aucoin

Release

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In what has now become his typically grandiose style, Canadian pop eccentric Rich Aucoin offers up a cinematic exploration of mortality and existential anxiety which, over its 11 neatly orchestrated tracks, also syncs up visually with the first two-thirds of Disney's 1951 film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. The Halifax native's other two LPs have been similarly ambitious, but are still accessible works and fortunately, 2019's Release follows suit, delivering thought-provoking themes and challenging art-pop which doesn't alienate its audience. Establishing itself firmly in the present, opening cut "The Base" serves as a philosophical set-up as Aucoin builds a gently propulsive electronic groove around samples from celebrated neuro scientist Dan Harris, who concludes with a carefully edited pause, "what we truly have... is this moment." From that point, Aucoin launches into his own philosophies with a series of bustling pop missives that read like chapters in a pop psychology tome. A breezy groove and high-falsetto vocals mark "The Dream," while the anthemic "The Self," with its group chorus and driving rock feel resembles early period Arcade Fire. Hypnotizing, glitchy vocal samples characterize the lyric-less electropop of "The Past," a sonic motif that repeats itself throughout the album on tracks like "The Mind" and the title cut, which closes out the album. "The Other" is also a standout, with a vibrant polyrhythmic feel whose rousing chorus wonders "are you really alone?" Paced throughout the collection, the more electronic-based cuts create anchor points for the more rock- and pop-oriented material, all sequenced with creative care and craft. Both musically and lyrically, there is a lot to digest here, but in comparison to Aucoin's two previous outings, Release hangs together a bit more tightly and makes for a continuously rewarding listen.

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