We’ve been tracking Vancouver’s Weird Candle since about four months into their oddball synthpunk trajectory, and at times it’s felt like a part-time job. Between near constant gigging and touring and a steady stream of one-off demos, Kilroy Katerwol and Caleb Blag have been absorbing, assimilating, and sloughing off songs and moods at a preternatural rate. As anyone raised on 80s media knows, contact with the weird or toxic results in instantaneous mutation, and Weird Candle are no exception. Debut LP Regeneration is the work of a band far different than the one we saw just a few months before its recording, and truth be told it’s also notably different from the harder, more EBM-influenced sounds which have crept into their genome in recent shows. But it’s a welcome release as a housecleaning document of the band’s first year, and more importantly as a quick and unadorned blast of minimal synths and sheer creepiness, it’s a marked success.
Regeneration (and really, Weird Candle itself) is all about mood over technique. A straight-forward assemblage of fuzzed out synthlines, pads, and Katerwol’s namesake yowling runs through the whole (albeit only twenty-seven minute) album, but quickly conjures up a seedy and hostile cityscape at complete odds with Vancouver’s tourist-friendly self-promotion. “Year Of The Dog” has a plaintive and isolated inner monologue, while “Nature Vs. Nurture” connotes uncomfortably hot summer nights (all the more unendurable for their relative scarcity). Regeneration distinguishes itself by taking vice and desperation at face value, rather than distancing them with subcultural winks or ironic praise. Creepy neighbors, S&M, death in the city: it’s all too much for one mind to handle.
Fittingly, the musical accompaniment to Weird Candle’s damaged narratives generally take the form of tightly wound synth and drum machine workouts. There’s a pleasing roughness to productions like the record’s first proper song “Real Life”, a spritely minute and a half burst of kick-snare and pulsing 16th note synth bass. Whatever inspiration birthed it crystallized at the moment of recording. While that immediacy comes across well on freak-outs like “Night Freak”, the record delves into slowburn territory on numbers like “Cheap Motel”, where clicky, spitting synthlines ratchet the tension up incrementally as the song progresses. In either mode the brevity of every song works to their advantage, flaring up and flaming out before the next spasm takes hold.
For a band that’s still very much in the throes of self-definition, Regeneration really does capture something of Blag and Katerwol’s energy and unpredictability as a live act, thus far the most notable constant of their short existence. If it’s snapshot of the project’s origins it’s a bit of a blurry one; even as the record draws to a close with the aptly named title-track you can sense change coming down the line. By the time the sophomore record makes it to tape they could be another three steps beyond it already.