With a sound described as “ominous, emotionally charged avant-rock fusing spellbinding melodies with an urgency akin to 1980s anarcho-punk”, it’s no surprise that WHIMM‘s newest single would be a captivating, mesmerising track and an exciting teaser of what the album will hold. Produced by Dean Tzenos from ODONIS ODONIS at Toronto studio Union Sound (FUCKED UP, METZ, GREYS), “A Stare Ajar” adds new dimensions to the band’s dark, feverish sound with violin, piano, and cello from guest musicians such as Anna Mayberry (HSY / ANAMAI) and poetically draws on singer Mounir Chami’s experiences as a Palestinian living in Canada while wrestling with internal conflicts and feeling split between worlds. “Town Hall” is a welcome reinvigoration of the genre and we’re thrilled to give you its first listen.
WHIMM‘s debut album A Stare Ajar will be released by Pleasence Records later this year.
The band’s singer/guitarist Mounir Chami stated:
“I think about discussion and question if I’m physical enough. I switch from being passive to active, between different ways and beliefs. Try listening to both sides’ needs.”
Photo by Michael Raymond Clarke
For the past three years, Toronto’s WHIMM have brought the searing intensity of their live performances to stages across North America, honed through touring and shows with likeminded artists like Ice Age, Merchandise and Frigs. Singer/guitarist Mounir Chami, bassist Andrew Matthews, and drummer Jonathan Pappo create ominous, emotionally charged avant-rock fusing spellbinding melodies with an urgency akin to 1980s anarcho-punk.
To capture this feverish sound on their debut LP, WHIMM tapped producer Dean Tzenos, mastermind of abrasive industrial punks Odonis Odonis. The album’s 9 tracks were obsessively refined over several months both onstage and in their garage rehearsal space, yet the band purposefully limited recording sessions to two rapid-fire days with engineer Ian Gomes at Toronto’s Union Sound (Fucked Up, METZ, Greys).
While bottling the band’s frantic energy, the album adds new dimensions to WHIMM’s musical landscape, expanding their instrumental palette with violin, piano, and cello from members of Toronto groups HSY, Scott Hardware, and visual artist Olenka Syzmonski. The album draws on influences ranging from Southern Gothic country, as heard on cinematic opener “Ember in the Wheat”, to the uncompromising experimentation of late period Scott Walker.
Lyrically, the new record is refracted through multiple fields of vision, gazing at a splintered world through the eyes of the displaced. Perspectives range from an immigrant office worker forced to assimilate to their environment (“Ushers”) to the H.P. Lovecraft-ian title track’s haunted soul struck and captured by horrific apparitions. Chami penned these character studies while pulling from the stories of his family and his own experiences as a Palestinian living in Canada, wrestling with internal conflicts.
“I think about being part of a diaspora constantly,” says Chami. “Between the home where I’ve been raised and what that demands, and what society and my friendships demand, where do I fit in? How do I stop feeling strange in these environments? I exist in both of them but I don’t really understand how.”
WHIMM’s members also exist between musical worlds – with Chami adding heavenly piano keys to Scott Hardware’s ecstatic house, Pappo playing drums for hyperactive indie-rockers Hooded Fang, and Matthews working with his own minimal techno project HOST. Rejecting genre boundaries while synthesizing various sonic strategies, the trio finds a kinship in catharsis.
“Instead of musical influences, I think about the relationships of instruments and people coming together,” says Pappo. “We talk a lot about frustration and emotional release. But even though the music sounds aggressive, there’s always an emotional tenderness or reaching out at its core. It’s not just pointless frustration; there’s a trajectory.”