by Mykhailo Vil’yamson
Anyone who is familiar with the Winnipeg music scene has surely happened upon Joel Klaverkamp’s music over the years. But one could be forgiven for perhaps not knowing his name since his projects since 1989 have been multitudinous. From the teenage hair metal band Breakneck Inferno to the indie-forward cyberpunk project Robojom, to the latest broody dance-rock outfit Cookie Delicious, Klaverkamp is perpetually involved in the process of reinvention. Is he now the armour-clad Reynard first seen on the cover of his 2022 single Forget It? And how long before the next iconoclasm? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, Fox in Golden Armour provides listeners with nearly 36 minutes of what has been self-described as “hypnotic creamsicle,” which aptly describes the swirl of tasty beats, sweet hooks, and biting lyrics.
The album grapples with various themes of perspective and powerlessness, love and loss, and soberly dealing with and accepting change. Sight – i.e. seeing and being seen – preoccupies the artist and serves as the main thread that runs through each and every song, which is mirrored by the dynamic interplay between Klaverkamp and backing vocalist Domo Lemoine (who appears on every track except the trippy outlier “Bite Your Medicine”). Though quite different in style, the dual vocals, stark drums, minimalist guitars, and synth-rootedness of Fox in Golden Armour is somewhat reminiscent of the recent rock opera Atum by The Smashing Pumpkins; though Cookie Delicious is much closer in alikeness to certain incarnations of LCD Soundsystem or Beck.
“Seeing Further” is the most radiant song on the album – its drums and bass capture the cadence of summer cruising. But while it might first appear with the playful wah at the start of “Code Words” that a party atmosphere will continue, it quickly becomes clear through layers of instrumentation that a less jovial course has been set. The deeply reflective “Fall to Pieces” confirms this movement, with its solitary, reverb-heavy piano chords impelling the listener to stop and drift. Its tone still contemplative, the tempo picks up again in “Another Time,” which is punchy and highlights all aspects of the band’s lineup. The second half of the album begins with a steady descent into even greater darkness and self-reflection via “Into This Dream,” followed by the enigmatic fever-dream of a track, “Bite Your Medicine.” However, when all seems potentially lost existentially, “Help Me” brings things out of depths with some self-propelled beats, steady bass, and a pensive guitar solo. And it all concludes with the assertively buoyant call to action in “Turn Back.” What should one “annihilate” though (as so urged by the repeated lyric)? I guess what needs destroying in oneself and the observable world is up to the listener to decide.