Montreal jazz collective The Liquor Store release sprawling new album of dark, layered tracks
Group aims for a mix of complexity and accessibility on bold sophomore outing
The Liquor Store, a jazz septet from Montreal who also draw from the worlds of funk and hip-hop, released their new album Colossus on Oct. 1.
Though Colossus is only their second album, The Liquor Store have been making music together for 11 years. Their debut record, 2019’s NightDrive, showcased an ambitious melting pot of rapping, synths, and guest features from the likes of Montreal artists Cynikal and Milla Thyme. Colossus, in contrast, sees the group return to their roots in jazz.
Steve Gerrard of music blog Montreal Rocks has described the album as one which “Promises to be the most spiritual and conceptual work the band has done so far. With no lyrics, no clear message, the album’s seven rhythmic and dynamic tracks aim to charm audiences with a mix of skillful jazz and funk with sci-fi and retro colours.”
Alex Francoeur, a musician in The Liquor Store, explained the project exists as a space for its members to experiment and have fun with their own music outside their busy careers as freelance musicians.
“Working as a freelancer is cool because you get to play with a bunch of different people and a bunch of different styles, but this project has always been just us writing music we think is good and not having any outside pressure when doing so,” he said.
According to Francoeur, the group’s diverse musical interests are what fuelled the artistic transition that birthed Colossus. Though all members hail from jazz backgrounds, the collaborative writing process is kept fresh by everyone’s interests in a variety of genres.
“What I've always loved about this group is that we'll go wherever we're feeling, and for this album we were writing these darker jazz songs that were a little more exploratory,” he said. “Instead of being kind of scared and saying this might not please everybody, we decided to just go for it.”
Montreal-based illustrator and graphic artist Mathieu Potvin designed the album artwork for Colossus, in addition to lead singles “MOPHO” and “Upgrades.” He agreed that the album’s sound is an exciting blend of rich textures and bold atmosphere.
“On Colossus, there is a kind of sexy aggression. Something bold and funky. It's like really masculine without being toxic,” he said.
According to Potvin, this was something essential to capturing the album’s dynamic accompanying artworks. He likened the intricacy of the record’s sound to a Rubix Cube, and said this was an important visual cue in his creative process.
“The dense patterns are there to mesmerize you, keep your attention and at the same time make you feel trapped in them without being able to go away,” he said.
Despite the complex nature of the record and lack of hip-hop or vocal features, Francoeur still thinks Colossus is something everyone can appreciate. Seeing the group perform live, he said, can especially win over those who normally find jazz inaccessible.
“Just seeing that many people on the stage can be really something,” he added. “Seeing that many people jumping around and having the time of their life I think really adds to the experience.”
“Instead of being kind of scared and saying this might not please everybody, we decided to just go for it.” — Alex Francoeur
According to Francoeur, Colossus is only the first step in what he hopes will be a promising year for The Liquor Store. The band is compiling an additional record of songs from the Colossus recording process which didn’t thematically fit with this release.
“Some were more oriented towards hip-hop and singers, and we felt as if it didn't have enough continuity to put them all together on the same record,” he said. “We're hoping to go with a vol. 1 and 2 yin yang thing, but we're still keeping it open ended.”
In light of an ease in COVID restrictions, The Liquor Store has also been able to resume their energetic live performances. Francoeur said being able to exert their energy on stage at recent local shows has been an exhilarating experience.
“It was a triumphant return. We all have our reasons to make music, but in The Liquor Store our main reason is to make music for us and for the people and play,” he said. “I think the crowd doesn't know how important they are for feeding us our energy, because that’s what pushes us to the next level and keeps us going.”