Nick Roseblade, Vital, no. 1279, April 6, 2021

There is something about Vertical Squirrels that is hard to ignore. The music they produce is instantly memorable, regardless of whether it fits your tastes or not. The playing is always tight, and nothing is ever wasted. They just know the right notes to play at the right time. On their latest album Le gouffre / The Chasm this trend carries on, again, despite whether the music works as well as it should.

Le gouffre / The Chasm was recorded 23rd October 2019 at Silence in Ontario. It was recorded as part of the You Are ∴ I Am series. Vertical Squirrels had a residency and invited anyone and everyone to come and improvise with them. Le gouffre / The Chasm is the result of that. Throughout the album, especially on A Dewdrop on the Tip of a Blade of Grass in the Setting Sun, there is tenderness on display. The songs gently drift along. There are few moments of abrasive abstraction. Instead, the album is filled with wistful compositions that billow about like washing on the line. The playing is fluid. It isn’t rigid or brittle. Take All the World in Confusion. There is a blistering solo that lasts pretty much the duration of the song. It borrows so many cliché tropes from rock, but it doesn’t feel cliché. It feels the opposite. Vibrant and exciting. The solo is underpinned by elegant piano, sparse percussion, and throbbing bass, amongst other things. Eventually, the solo runs out of steam and gracefully drifts away. This is when the song comes into its own, as the backing instruments suddenly have a moment to shine. And shine they do.

What Le gouffre / The Chasm does really well is entertaining. It isn’t trying to show off how clever it can be. It isn’t trying to show how well proficient the musicians are. It isn’t trying to these and a slew of other things. At its core Le gouffre / The Chasm is just trying to entertain and it does that. Repeatedly.

The music they produce is instantly memorable, regardless of whether it fits your tastes or not.