THE FEVER opening for the (International) Noise Conspiracy at the Reverb (651 Queen West), Tuesday (May 30), all ages, $12. 416-504-0744. Rating: NNNNN
Re-releasing slight variations on the post-punk theme may be fine for the Franz Futureheads of the world, but the Fever have been slashing out the same angular riffs since forming in Brooklyn five years ago. So the fact that their latest recording, In The City Of Sleep (Kemado), bears little resemblence to anything they've previously released should be seen as a welcome turn.
Some long-time fans of the Fever will be troubled by the abrupt deviation from the jerky dance rock program, but their descent into the nightmare world of Victorian-era carnival sideshows, complete with suitably macabre pump organ embellishments, is really a progression. At the very least, the darker vibe and creepy cast of characters have given howling ringleader Geremy Jasper a chance to show off his vocal chops to chilling effect.
"I think anyone familiar with our other stuff will notice that some changes have been made," allows Jas-per over his cellphone from Seattle. "We've had some surgery done."
The removal from the Fever of co-founding guitarist/songwriter Chris Sanchez was not quite the simple cosmetic procedure we've been led to believe. But whatever went down (Jasper is reluctant to get into the specifics except to obliquely state, "It was more a lifestyle issue than anything musical"), the operation appears to have been a success.
"We were heading in a new direction before Chris left the group, but it was the day after he split that we began work on this new album. His departure was the starting gun.
"Whereas the songwriting on the last album was very much a two-man job, In The City Of Sleep was a total group effort. I think working more collaboratively on every aspect of the re-cording brought out some different facets of the group. We recorded most of it playing live in the studio, and wound up experimenting a lot more."
Engaging producer/engineer Steve Rivette (Liars, Black Dice, Panthers) proved to be the right choice for the job of developing a new sonic profile. If it meant altering the surface of the recording studio walls, Rivette is just the kind of guy who'd go out and buy the aluminum foil to do it. Of course, it would be a recoupable expense.
"So you heard about that," chuckles Jasper. "Yeah, he did have the studio wrapped up in foil for a minute. I think Steve was saying some reggae producer used to do it but, whatever, it worked for us. He was very open to letting us try different things so every song was approached in a unique way. We'd describe the feeling or mood we were going for and he'd figure out how to get us there with techniques tailor-made to fit each song.
"There was one where he had us playing in a hallway outside the studio, another where he put us in this brick-walled office space, and for another he recorded the guitar through a metal pipe whatever it took.
"Putting most of the songs down as live takes, all together in one room where we could see each other and feed off each other's energy, really made a big difference. The sounds all bleed together, and the resulting music exists in its own space. You get a sense of that space when you put on the album, which isn't the case with most music being made today.
"That's one of the reasons why older recordings sound so much better."