Body Breaks is the microtonal rock duo of Matt LeGroulx and Julie Reich. From their homes in Montreal and Toronto, respectively, the DIY lifers behind projects like Bile Sister, EXPWY, and Galaxius Mons have developed idiosyncratic approaches to bedroom recording that culminate on their collaborative debut. LeGroulx composed the music for Bad Trouble, recording guitar, bass, and drums in tunings that stand in stark contrast to traditional Western consonance. Reich completed their songs with her spellbinding vocals, weaving vulnerable themes of aging as a woman and artist, environmental devastation, and feeling like an outsider in her own generation.
Fans of rock music in unusual tunings can trace a direct line from the Velvet Underground to Glenn Branca’s influence on Sonic Youth to Horse Lords’ refretted instruments. Body Breaks can now be added to this exploratory lineage, yet the duo also harken back to the slacker sound of Pavement, Os Mutantes’ fuzz, and Palberta’s ramshackle approach to pop. On headphones, LeGroulx’s stereo-panned riffs ping pong from left to right, while his sparse but relentless drumming thumps away like a motorik Moe Tucker.
“Initially, I was trying to tune my guitar to Balinese gamelan scales,” explains LeGroulx. “I quickly came to realize those tunings sounded very normal and beautiful to me. I finally settled on quarter tone – a subset of microtonal music – because it seemed to me that no matter how much I heard, it never sounded in tune.”
The album’s opening salvo “Between The Heart And The Mind” is a deeply personal song for Reich. “I wrote that song after I caught someone cheating on me and eventually came to forgiveness,” she says. “When you’re trying to make sense of something hard, you’ve got your feelings and your rationale. You need to use both, and somewhere in the middle you find peace.”
On “Eyes To Brightness,” Reich taps into her lifelong struggles with insomnia. “I’ve always hated sleep ever since I was a little,” she laughs. “It means the day is over, and I’ve never wanted that to happen.” Perceptions of her waking and dreaming life blur deeper on “Reality,” as mindfulness meditation techniques cause her to question the differences between these states. “Bad Trouble” unfurls from a hypnotic haze, placing Reich’s feet back on firm ground as she describes another difficult day. “I basically had a breakdown,” she says. “It’s about the emotional journey I went through, the things I witnessed in a park, and making connections between the two.”
In her job as a support worker and advocate for the neurodiverse community, Reich met a woman on the autism spectrum who was prevented from dating by her conservative family. This feeling of helplessness combined with the upsetting sight of factory smokestacks on bus rides to her client’s house inspired Reich to write the album’s angriest song, “Work For The Man.”
“I would see the smokestacks for years and wonder why we haven’t invented something to stop them from being horrible for the environment,” she says. “It’s so blatant and normalized. Seeing them on the way to this house where there was a lot of repression made me feel really frustrated. When you’re forced to go somewhere every day, a lot of things can make you sick.”
Bad Trouble concludes with “Break The Icons Down,” the sole song featuring LeGroulx’s vocals. While his approach to lyric writing is far more abstract, one line repeated like a paranoid mantra feels eerily prescient: “I don’t want your technology inside me.” Breaking down their fears, heroes, and guitar tunings with radical artistic honesty, this pair of boundlessly creative outsiders have transformed into something entirely new.
- Jesse Locke
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released June 18, 2021