Catalog #TER094
ReleaseW 24 - 2022
FormatVinyl - CANLP
EAN Barcode844667053180
 € 28,50 incl. VAT, excl. shipping


  1. New Ways Of Chopping Onions:
  2. Walkin’
  3. Prep Cook In The Weeds
  4. Waiting
  5. Seahorse Tranquilizer
  6. Dishpit
  7. Congee Around Me
  8. The Worm


Beyond whatever mood is likely struggling to be sculpted by the house playlist, restaurants are full of their own natural music. Porcelain and cutlery clatter in bus bins like little medieval battlefields; the chatter of patrons smears into a single stormy texture; the kitchen staff hollers and chides as their own chosen music competes for the ear of anyone walking to the restroom; the churning and hissing of the dish steamer leads the assemblage of sounds that leak out from the back of house to and cling to a diner’s subconscious. The fact that restaurants employ so many hustling musicians, whose entire lives are centered around sonic sensitivity and awareness, is either grand irony or total synergy. Toronto outfit Fresh Pepper, led by longtime friends Andre Ethier and Joseph Shabason, playfully navigates the mental and emotional mark left on many musicians by such places. Their self-titled debut is less concerned with their service-industry traumas, doldrums, and setbacks than it is with creating a relatable space for album’s contributors to fully be themselves within the ease and freedom of having similar histories. Shabason, Ethier, and company recount their culinary past lives across eight jazzy and benevolent tracks that exude their authors’ sheer enjoyment of the creation process. Though the mental image of restaurant inner workings might trigger a mix of urgency, weariness, and yearning for a better livelihood, Fresh Pepper recolors these frazzled scenes with fondness and levity, exorcizing past workplace woes through skillful musicianship and an earnest, slightly bizarre sense of humor.

Fresh Pepper was played and assembled in-person during a gap between COVID waves, and the gleeful rarity of the occasion is palpable. Whatever brooding was stereotypical of artists and musicians pre-pandemic was not invited to this reunion. From the very beginning moments of Fresh Pepper, Shabason and Ethier guide their companions (a sort of super group of Toronto musicians from acts like Bernice, Beverly Glenn Copeland, and even Destroyer’s Dan Bejar himself) with breathy, hushed tones via saxophone and vocals respectively, casually traversing their own annexed corridor between smooth jazz, exploratory avant-indie, and subverted adult-contemporary. Mid-performance apologies are left unmuted in the mix, room-tones are evident in spacious moments, and the spirit of close collaboration is omnipresent. After a mini-parade of loose and glassy keys, the pensive funk highlight “Prep Cook in the Weeds” intros with the kind of furrowed-brow noir-smoothness of some yesteryear crime drama, buoyed by Ethier’s gently insightful musings. “Another fly lands on the clock,” he sings in a hushed tone through a half-smile, pointing wryly toward the relationship between wage-workers and timekeeping devices. “Flies on the hands of time,” he continues, resigning his sense of control, “the flies take the wheel.” Ethier’s slice-of-life lyricism and serene baritone delivery find a fitting counterpart in Dan Bejar who appears on “Seahorse Tranquilizer”. Where featured vocalists-- especially those as iconic as Bejar-- would threaten to out-charisma an album’s resident personalities, Ethier and Bejar heighten the charm of each other’s demeanor in a natural and relaxed way, leading to one of the gentlest moments of an already gentle affair.

Conversely, the track “Dishpit” is noticeably the most abstract chapter of the album, reminiscent of the factory-like, thankless, yet oddly contemplative corner of the kitchen after which it is named. The track begins with a toyish, motorik pulse that imparts the fraught motivation of a full sink during lunch rush with still more dishes on the way. Shabason’s saxophone spins in the mist and steam, disoriented but determined, rallying an equally bewildered percussionist behind it. On much of the album, Shabason’s playing assumes more practical form in contrast to the ambient impressionism of his solo output, but here his atonal fourth-world fingerprints are easily visible. Following all this, “Congee Around Me” again finds warmth in the chaos, imparting the same sense of peace within the jumble that characterizes Fresh Pepper. “Mushrooms in the frying pan,” opens Ethier, summarizing the album’s pathos, “throw another in, I’ll see you when I see you.” Album ender “The Worm” - fatigued and victorious, fluttery and decayed, sounds like a memory-rich bygone era that never really existed. Was that 1990-something? Did it really happen that way? Did the sunlight really look like it does through a camcorder, or has sunlight always been the same as it is now? Does it really matter if I couldn’t see it from the kitchen anyway? 

It could be argued that the best art frames its subjects without any commentary, leaving as much room for the viewer to fill with their own experiences, shortcomings, and longings as possible. Fresh Pepper provides this kind of framing around a scenario so taken-for-granted that it becomes mythic under the slightest examination. In this sense, like so many projects that Shabason puts his sonic stamp on, Fresh Pepper conjures an unexpected slice of enlightenment from somewhat unnoticed circumstances. True to form, Fresh Pepper assures us not just that we are going to be okay, but that we are okay right here and now, overtired as we are amid the stainless steel, heat lamps, and spattering oil.

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