Edmonton’s Slates are perhaps one of the hardest working punk outfits in Canada, seemingly always on the go, recording, taking care of their Jamz Club and touring. They’re indefatigable and that’s reflected in their unflinching, honest post-hardcore. With raw throats, open hearts and cranked amps, Slates are set to release their third full-length, Taiga, on their new label, New Damage Records.
Taiga was recorded in Chicago, at Electrical Audio Studios with Steve Albini. Albini, of course, renowned for his work in the studio since the ‘90s, proves to be a perfect match for Slates: the Edmonton quartet have never sounded clearer nor rawer on tape (analog, natch). Albini’s use of space, not only in the physical studio, but between the notes and instruments, coupled with his delicate handling of sheer volume elevates Slates to new heights. Thankfully, the foursome are more than match for this pressure and, on Taiga, they perform better than ever, taking their Hüsker Dü-inspired, bittersweet songwriting to a new level.
The album’s emotional centrepiece is the delicate “Minarets.” Starting with a hushed, finger-picked melody and pained vocals, Slates frontman, James Stewart, takes the lead, making a noisy, distorted mess of his demons before the release — empty and incompatible, Slates have to fight for their voice. At their core, Slates are a way of dealing with an inherently unfair world, finding your own place in a crowd with no room. There’s a reason they’ve been accepted with open arms across Canada: there’s real emotion behind the performance and legions of disaffected kids are flocking to these underground oases that provide a respite from a plastic world. Do yourself a favour: pick up Taiga and join your new tribe.
By Sebastian Buzzalino