“Thanks very much, Leeds,” Nova Scotia’s Brian Borcherdt addresses the healthy crowd scattered across the Belgrave Music Hall, voice drenched in the fuzzy echo of his effects microphone.
He picks at a loose wire, one of the many dangling from the effect-pedals boards stacked across two tables in front of him. “It’s been a very long time we’ve been here. It’s weird. I don’t mean weird in a bad way!” he hastens to add, to chuckles. “It’s just different.”
One could be tempted to trivialise the sound of Holy F*** as “just different” too. The Canadian four-piece’s USP – crafting unorthodox electronica through a blend of conventional live instrumentation and various non-musical apparatuses without relying on programming – remains a noise-rock-indebted oddball within their field. But Borcherdt and Graham Walsh’s outfit are more than just purveyors of the off-kilter dance party; across an hour-plus set, they brush up against multiple other genres in a spectrum-spanning showcase that is equal parts tangible and non-corporeal, fascinating and frustrating.
Leaning heavily on last year’s Congrats – their first album in six years – Borcherdt and Walsh progress in a relatively linear fashion, building up songs layer by layer to often deafening crescendos. Aided by live bass and drums, the muted industrial throb of Chimes Broken rises to a juddering, unfettered climax whilst House of Glass twists a motoric, twitchy eight-note riff over and over again until it coalesces into dangerously violent stabs of feedback. Old cut Stay Lit draws the warmest reaction; a mournful, piano-pinned explosion of catharsis, it is thrillingly unvarnished and beguiling to watch.
But elsewhere, the band’s auditory tour-de-force smothers some of the subtler moments found on record. Latin America’s vaguely baggy lilt is rendered less loose, more prosaically straightforward; the unashamed elliptical dance-funk of Red Lights lacks the nagging groove it truly deserves under insistently glitch-laden rhythms. These are less musical errors, more conscious choices; the group is as tight as a nut and immaculately drilled amongst the cluttered chaos of wires littered around the stage. But when they can nail the icy synths of Neon Dad in perfect balance immediately after, it grates to a limited extent. Holy F*** are certainly more than “just different”, exceeding such banal sentiments with aplomb – but their ingenuity is sometimes undercut by curious stylistic choices.