by Chris Bryson
Gulfer make an enthralling blend of math-entwined emo-punk. From the stance of 2018’s well-received Dog Bless, the Montréal band have hit a sweet spot between complexity and catharsis that they’ve continued with their new self-titled LP.
The album opens with the brief blip-bloopy “Intro” that leads into the charged-up “Blurry,” whose interweaving hooks and melodies and skittering percussion meld gracefully together. “Nature Kids” starts off with chugging riffs until the band scrambles things up with intricate rhythms, groovy guitar and chiming notes. Curious and accepting lyrics are made emphatic on “Forget (Friendly),” while the winding notes and wordless singing in the latter part of “Mall Song” emanates a dreamy vibe.
Despite calmly delivered vocals, rapid-fire drums and guitars give “Letters” a bold urgency. And “Symmetry” hosts one of the band’s most beautiful instrumental passages, where the guitars weave through each other as the drums skip, patter and dance in the background.
Gulfer’s lyrical themes of uncertainty, learning about and figuring out people, relationships and life fit nicely into instrumentals that seem to tread common ground, blending math rock’s jittery flow with outpourings of melody, modal shifts and emo and punk’s impassioned heart to keep things moving.
This all coincides with one of the things that makes Gulfer’s music most interesting – their inability to stay in place for too long. Where, like life, there is constant momentum, but Gulfer has been making space for reflection, elegantly mixing the knotty with the beautiful, taking strides in the best ways they can.