Doomsquad started out as a dark satire of Christian family folk bands, but you don’t get much sense of ironic detachment on their sophomore album. The Toronto trio’s idiosyncratic blend of psychedelic rock, techno, industrial, New Age and cosmic folk has solidified into a sound that’s unmistakably their own, and that doesn’t depend on the theatricality of their live show to work.
The core group of siblings Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas set off to New Mexico to lay down bedtracks for the album, and much of Total Time feels like it could be the soundtrack to a mystical psychedelic ceremony in the desert. It’s a subtle shift from the forested Canadian cottage where they recorded their 2014 debut, evoking a different mood.
Toronto art pop cult hero Mary Margaret O’Hara provides vocals on The Very Large Array, and Fucked Up’s Mike Haliechuk plays some guitar alongside appearances by Not the Wind, Not the Flag’s Colin Fisher and Brandon Valdivia. The biggest outside contributions come from twins Josh and Jesse Hasko of the duo North America, who have since been added to the live lineup. The guests help the album feel more like the work of an actual band than that of a half-joking conceptual studio project.
As much as Doomsquad are inspired by techno, their electronic rhythms share little with most contemporary club music. There are rhythmic nods to dancehall, Afrobeat and EBM, but the twangy guitars and heavily processed vocals put them closer to weirdo pop, despite the gurgling acid synths. The darkest moments bring to mind techno hippies who got so deep into the occult that they went Satanic – but we suspect that part really is a joke.
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Doomsquad play the Smiling Buddha on May 14. See listing.