Squid Were in Transition in Toronto | Exclaim!

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“Do you guys have Groundhog Day here?” Rachel Brown playfully asked the crowd between tracks. Before this jaunt, Water from Your Eyes had never seen a Canadian winter, and their lead singer was fixated on the cold. Ice on the mind aligned with the art rockers’ opening set, where an overdriven guitar could be mistaken for a vocal effect within its ecosystem.

Helmed by Brown and guitarist Nate Amos, Water from Your Eyes brought another guitarist and a drummer with them to the Phoenix. It was a remarkably lush setup for their instrumental simplicity; a backing track aided, but did not submerge. Though rooted in post-punk, their set called on indie pop and even IDM, a sneaky and compelling hint at the rest of the night.

Winding intros in a sea of time signatures were quickly made integral to this iteration of the Squid live show. Entering by extending O Monolith opener “Swing (In a Dream)” into a sprawl, the band built up and then back down through heavy pulsation. This would become commonplace — not quite improvisational, but telling of their set-building and technical skills.

So much of this layering came in the form of Squid’s rhythm section. It makes sense that a band led by their drummer would be so percussive, and Ollie Judge’s tact as a frontman was only bolstered by his ability to sing behind the kit. The secondary percussion added to this sturdy foundation, with Laurie Nankivell playing with cowbells and a güiro between his stints on the trumpet.

All of these elements climaxed leading into “Leccy Jam,” where their flirtations with electronic turned into a full-on rave. A racing BPM kept effects that mimicked clicking tongues and firm raindrops hitting drums in check. These synth lines loaned a new wave feel not immediately apparent in the band’s discography.

As the overlay eventually became more subtle, Squid’s post-punk heart ventured further down their sleeves — not that it ever fully disappeared. Of course the guitars were constantly sharp, and the vocals oscillated between erratic and deadpan. Both of these things are hallmarks of the scene the band came up in — a culture the crowd was deeply aware of.

A survey of T-shirts in the room was telling. Many repped fellow Windmillers like black midi or shame, and bassist Anton Pearson shouted out their old label, Speedy Wunderground on his own chest. If not a direct reference to south London, others were proud to rep Squid’s influences (Talking Heads), or their inspired American counterparts (Geese). This matters as a tell of Squid’s stretch — an idea of a moment in post-punk many have velcroed themselves to in the last half-decade.

That moment seems to be changing, but Squid are comfortable in the transition. While they gave new life to some older tracks with new arrangements, others remained the same. Moreso in performance than on record, they have a firm idea of what they want to leave behind. 

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