Power Is The Pharmacy
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CST172 180gLP + art print • 180gLP • CD • DL
Release date: 12 May 2023
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“A genre-straddling outlier punk odyssey, Power Is The Pharmacy is a mash-up embodying soul. A thousand yard stare where socio-political observation, constant power struggles, every day anxieties and fear of loss are themes that provide the foundation to Ky’s array of skewed noise.” - SUN-13
“‘The Dancer” burbles along with a heavy laden groove, finger snaps, and Brooks’ leaning more towards singing than speaking. Things get denser over the song’s course, but still make for one of the album’s more approachable moments. While “Dragons” runs over seven minutes, but also manages to maintain its structure. The song is powered by Miller’s drums and the heavily treated and twisted guitars of Mat Ball. Brooks brings their most compelling vocal as well, making the song some kind of sonically darker twin to Talking Heads’ Remain in Light’s most prickly passages… a singular work” - UNDER THE RADAR
"Dragons" sets the scene with collective concern, assembling a quintet of guests for a cathartic artpunk tempest.” - EXCLAIM“The opening rattles and lilting repetitions foreshadow the emotional gravity Ky releases on “All The Sad And Loving People.” Auto-tuned vocals flicker from all directions over repeating synth phrases and spacious, atmospheric loops. Wistful memories bleed in from the periphery, covered in a vaporous hiss, obscuring details so only the most powerful feelings make it through. A rhythm sparks new life like a heartbeat in the undercurrent. The robotic nature of Ky’s processed voice only heightens the profound sadness woven in the song’s threads; the distance the auto-tune tries to create only brings us closer, only makes this feel more real.” - FOXY DIGITALIS
Ky is the new “solo” project of Ky Brooks, best known as vocalist and lyricist of noise-punk trio Lungbutter and a slew of other Montréal-based out-music projects like 8-person queer punk band Femmaggots and experimental/improv trio Nag. Power Is The Pharmacy is an album of cerebral and visceral outsider artpunk “mainly about grief, death, the fear of loss, losing dreams, losing youth, people, public space, ultimately oneself”—an emotionally electrifying, genre-spanning collection of songs fuelled by Ky’s piercing poetry, both spoken and sung, that delivers an acute blend of incisive socio-political observation and spiritual sadness, swirling through vortices of disenchantment and re-enchantment.
The seeds of Power Is The Pharmacy were planted in pre-lockdown performances where Big|Brave’s Mat Ball played tape loops to Ky’s poems, with their intent “to figure out how to make music that involved singing in a more melodic way and getting to use some parts of my voice that I wasn’t using with Lungbutter and other noise/punk projects I had played with.” Then pandemic hit, along with Canadian pandemic income support, allowing for Ky’s strategic acquisition of a couple of mini-synths. Songs took on all kinds of further shaping and re-shaping in isolation, especially through Montréal’s long and intense lockdown winter of 2020-21. Coming out of that time, tragedy then struck devastatingly hard (as it had for so many) in spring 2021 when Lungbutter drummer and dear friend Joni Sadler died suddenly of a brain aneurism at the age of 36. Ky describes “All The Sad And Loving People” as “the most direct piece of writing I’ve done in response to Joni’s passing” and the song’s haunting, devotional simplicity is a numinous album highlight among many.
In 2021-2022, Ky worked through grief and workshopped the songs further in real life, seeing them “coalesce around an improv recording session” with a trio of fellow-travellers, all of whom appear on the final album. A diverse crew of Montréal iconoclasts was ultimately enlisted to flesh out this gripping voyage through unruly stylistic and mood swings of experimental song. Collaborators include the aforementioned Mat Ball (now laying down his trademark incendiary electric guitar), synth maven Nick Schofield, saxophonist James Goddard (Egyptian Cotton Arkestra), bassist Joshua Frank (Gong Gong Gong), drummer Farley Miller (Shining Wizard) and Andrés Salas (Bosque Rojo) on no input pedals/electronics. Ky composed all the music, plays synths and guitars, asked all these friends to “not under any circumstances play any particular thing” and then mixed the album “for 10 million years.”
Power Is The Pharmacy careens through hissing bruitist synthscape, free/jazz sprinkles, soft-focus gauze, coldwave and ambient-to-thick sludge, all anchored by Ky’s superbly sly, searching, serrated lyrics and voice. The album ranges from trenchant spoken-word tracks like “Teeth (Power Is The Pharmacy)” and “Work That Superficially Looks Like Leisure”—which repeats the line “Suddenly! / No not suddenly! / But with a fantastic regularity and remarkable softness! / I woke up and decided I knew how to work!” with increasingly declarative breathless intensity over ambient synths progressively swallowed up by pummelling drum rolls—to the haunting electro of “All The Sad And Loving People” (which most overtly evokes the recurring touchstone of Big Science-era Laurie Anderson) and “The Dancer”. The album’s second half brings Ball’s noise-improv guitar and Ky’s voice more fiercely and soulfully unleashed, on heavy and utterly incantatory cuts like “Revolving Door” and “Dragons” or the quasi-operatic cabaret of “Listen! Avoid Magic! Be Aware!”
The album draws its title from A Critique Of Black Reason by Achille Mbembe, as quoted in the liner notes:
Power is the pharmacy, thanks to its capacity to transform the sources of death into a seeding strength, or to convert the resources of death into the capacity for healing. And it is because of its dual ability to be the force of life and the principle of death that power is at once revered and feared. But the relationship between the principles of life and death is fundamentally unstable.
Ky Brooks is a shining fixture of Montréal’s music underground, not only as a brilliant, committed, hugely active and participatory artist in their own right, but as a recording engineer, live sound person for Big|Brave, and house tech at mainstay Montréal indie venue Sala Rossa. They were also a central co-conspirator at the pivotal and fertile DIY loft space La Plante throughout the 2010s, where much of their musical and artistic community was formed, and to which Power Is The Pharmacy also testifies.
Thanks for listening.
Deluxe 180gram LP pressed at Optimal (Germany) comes in 350gsm Arktika jacket + 300gsm Arktika inner sleeve, printed with LE-UV inks.
Jacket has colour flood inside. Includes download card. Artwork by Mathieu Ball.
180gLP + Art Print Edition includes a 12"x12" 2-colour silkscreen print on 100lb coloured paper (mail-order exclusive; edition of 50).
CD comes in custom uncoated paperboard mini-gatefold jacket and printed inner sleeve.
Ky Brooks: Vox, Synths, Field Recordings, Guitar
Mathieu Ball: Guitar (4, 5, 6, 7)
Joshua Frank: Bass (3, 4, 5, 7, 9)
James Goddard: Saxophone + Electronics (1, 3, 5, 8, 9)
Lucas Huang: Synths (7)
Farley Miller: Drums (1, 3, 4, 7)
Matthew Reading: Synths (8)
Andrés Salas: Electronics (3, 8)
Nick Schofield: Electric Organ (1), LABS (5), Juno 6 + Moog Grandmother (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8)
All tracks produced, recorded, and mixed by Ky Brooks at Hotel2Tango and Error 403, with additional production input from Nick Schofield and Eliot Bates.
These songs coalesced around an improv recording session with James Goddard, Andrés Salas and Nick Schofield.
Drums on tracks 1, 3, 4, 7 recorded by Farley Miller.
Mastered by Matthew Azevedo.
Album artwork by Mathieu Ball.
For Joni, and everyone who loves her.
We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Québec, the Government of Canada and Canada’s private radio broadcasters
Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Québec, du gouvernement du Canada et des radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.