Population II: Électrons libres du québec [Album Review]

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Population II
Électrons libres du québec
Bonsound [2023]

It’s no secret that heavy psych is one of our favorite genres here at TFN, and there are plenty of bands that fit that description releasing killer albums. From US-based acts like Osees and Ty Segall to bands from other parts of the world like France’s Slift and Australia’s King Gizzard, there are no shortage of heavy, tripped-out albums hitting our turntables on a regular basis. One of those bands who deserves to be better known is Montreal-based trio Population II, especially with the release of their latest LP, Électrons libres du québec (Free Electrons from Québec).

Named after Randy Holden’s 1970 proto-metal masterpiece, Population II first came across my radar with their 2020 album À La Ô Terre, released on John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records label. With Électrons, the band has taken everything I liked about that record and cranked it up to eleven. Tristan Lacombe’s guitar pierces through the speakers, Sébastien Provençal’s bass sounds fat and holds down the groove, but maybe most impressive of all is Pierre-Luc Gratton’s drumming, which swings but never loses the beat despite some tricky time signatures and manic tempos.

The band’s sound is definitely indebted to the heavy sounds of the early 70s, but the album never feels like it’s trying to ape any one particular style. Tracks like “Orlando” and “C.T.Q.S.” are able to move deftly between shimmering space rock and blistering psychedelia, while others like “Tô Kébec,” “Réservoir,” and “Rapaillé” lay down krautrock grooves that underpin interlocking guitar lines and complex song structures. Along the way Gratton’s vocals are sung entirely in French, but don’t let that put you off if you don’t speak the language—these songs will grab ahold of you whether you know what he’s singing or not.

Électrons libres du québec shows what Population II is really capable of, and it won’t be surprising if this is the album that brings them to a (well-deserved) wider audience. It’s one of those albums you can present to rock skeptics as proof the genre is alive and well if you know where to look. Montreal might not be one of the first places you think of, but if Population II is any indication it might be pretty high on that list soon.

“Orlando” / “C.T.Q.S” / “Réservoir”

Hawkwind / SLIFT / Osees

À la Ô Terre (2020)

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