Part of the fun and the challenge of listening to Fresh Snow is figuring out how to describe them. “Kraut rock” was the term most often used to describe their 2013 debut full-length. And while there are elements of that on their second LP, the bigger feat is keeping up with the Toronto instrumental four-piece as they move us through a diverse sonic landscape, taking wild, abrupt turns from track to track and within each song.
Nine tracks may seem lengthy for Fresh Snow, whose debut had only six and whose 2015 EP had five. But as a whole, ONE is much easier to access and digest. Even though I Am Smitten With Your Wrath clocks in at over six-and-a-half minutes, it’s a prime example of how the band leans more on instrumental melody (in their own twisted fashion, of course) than brash, noise-infused rock. And it’s causing them to verge into Broken Social Scene territory.
That’s not a bad thing. Fresh Snow’s drama, most notably on the piano-heavy Anytime Minutes, isn’t reduced but condensed. They’ve figured out how to say more with less: the peaks and valleys in boisterous tracks like Flat White are akin to that engaging middle section of a roller coaster ride as opposed to the long drawn-out pull to the top at the beginning.
Fusing synths with a winding, faint hook, Mass Graves/Dance Caves is the kind of track that will instantly appeal to new listeners, while some rare vocals and violin come via Mila Petkovic and Laura C. Bates on Three-Way Mirror. There are also nods to dark 80s pop on the four-minute January Skies. Sinister undertones abound, but you can’t help but wonder if ONE is the sound of Fresh Snow not taking themselves too seriously. And more importantly, not feeling restricted to the blueprint of their debut record.
Top track: Flat White