In an ongoing effort to better understand the musical influences behind new music, we’re asking artists to tell us about their be-all-end-all essential albums of all time ever forever. This week we spoke to Ben Shemie and Liam O’Neill of Montreal’s SUUNS. You can their new record Images Du Futur is out now via Secretly Canadian.
Plastikman – Sheet One (1993)
Ben: Sheet One distills what I like about electronic dance music — it’s super minimal, it’s dark, there’s really not much going on, not many elements, but a lot of build. And I think it does speak to our band’s aesthetic in the minimal style — a lot of development on really really simple themes. It was a long time ago that I stumbled across it. It’s the classic sound with real machines, so it has all those classic elements of electronic music. I don’t think I’ve thought about it quite as much now, but I can see how it’s influenced me over the years. It’s the Detroit sound, which was the best.
Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity (1975)
Liam: I’m gonna go with Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity, which was an album I got into relatively recently, and, from my point of view, shaped the kind of aesthetic we were shooting for on our new album. It’s this electronic record that’s got a classic sound but will always sound futuristic, forever one step ahead. It’s very pure sounding, very simple. At the same time, Kraftwerk gets away with an almost punky aesthetic, in the fact that they can’t really sing but they sing anyways and it’s a little loose. It’s a really interesting combination to me. Every time I listen to that record, I’m taken away — I’m absorbed. Radio-Activity gave me a doorway into Kraftwerk, and I’d recommend that album to anybody that’s new to band, because it readjusts your perspective on them.
Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney – Ram (1971)
Ben: It’s so inspiring. It doesn’t sound at all like our band, but from the point of view of songwriting, he’s the master. It’s just masterful songcraft. This is post-Beatles, so it’s a little bit goofy, really Paul McCartney style. But it’s just a great record. It’s like listening to a genius at work, someone who has complete control over his craft, but kinda takes the piss out of it because he’s transcended writing normal songs. So, yeah, Ram, one of the greatest albums of all time.
Listen: “Ram On”
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
Liam: This isn’t an album to that I really listen to anymore, but at the time of the inception of SUUNS it was important for me. That album went a long way in defining our aesthetic. I remember hearing that album before I was familiar with repetitive music or Krautrock or any of that kind of stuff and having those first three tracks blow my mind. Especially the first track “Untitled,” there’s like no development in that song and I’d never heard anything like that before. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever. And that kind of icy vibe, we borrow from that a lot. Personally, I feel like it sent us on an aesthetic trajectory.
Listen: “Say Hello To Angels”
Pixies – Trompe le Monde (1991)
Ben: I think if you’re a hardcore Pixies fan, Trompe le Monde probably wouldn’t be your first pick. But for me, the Pixies were the band that bridged the gap between pop music and underground music or counterculture music, and Trompe Le Monde the first Pixies album that I heard. And I’d never heard anything like it before — up until that point I’d just listened to classic rock from the ‘70s. I didn’t understand why I liked it so much, because it was so different and so weird, you know? They’re just an amazing band. In a way, they’re the last great band, you could almost argue. Almost supernatural in the music that they wrote. Every song, no matter how far out, is amazing.
Listen: “Letter to Memphis”