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Ten Albums Which Fueled Respire’s “Dénouement”

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On May 1st, Toronto’s Respire will release Dénouement, their second full-length record. Dénouement is, to this pair of yankee ears, a very Canadian record. Respire make earnest, emotionally vivid music with an “it takes a village” approach to arranging and hosting a small platoon of singers, horn players, strings, and miscellaneous instrumentation. As a result, Dénouement feels like the product of a community rather than an auteurist vision born from a single mind. The band make this communal spirit explicit by referring to the record’s musical guests as an “extended family.”

If this reminds you of similarly expansive ensembles from the great white north like Broken Social Scene and Godspeed You! Black Emperor (or any one of their many spin-offs), then you’re not far off. Respire are just as indebted to the sounds of screamo and late 1990s metalcore, and the combination of these homemade orchestral flourishes and the explosive force of post-hardcore makes Dénouement sound like its heart is about to burst right out of its chest. Though the record deals with the subject of addiction, Respire’s larger-than-life sound is more uplifting than dour, as if to suggest that by banding together and working as a team, they are capable of fighting through any hardship.

To help explain the influences behind this tremendous release, Respire‘s Rohan Lilauwala and Egin Kongoli shared ten records that informed their approach on Dénouement.

— Ian Cory

City of Caterpillar – City of Caterpillar
City of Caterpillar are seminal for us in so many ways. Their one and only studio album is a landmark in boundary-pushing hardcore. They paint this incredibly vivid and bleak picture through perpetual tension — a picture of ruin, desperation, yearning — so unnerving and unsettling it keeps you right on the edge. It’s a fervent, beautiful storm with contrasting moments of intense meditation. This dramatic use of tension and contrast is definitely something we try to channel on Dénouement. A couple of us were lucky enough to take a road trip down to New York to see them live last year — 15 years after the release of this record. Their live performance had the same passion and authenticity that made us fall in love with them in the first place.

Envy – A Dead Sinking Story
Another seminal record. As far as epic emotional hardcore goes, you really can’t beat Envy. A Dead Sinking Story is like an epic poem — a dense landscape comes alive with a spectrum of feelings, spaces, sounds all clashing together in raw punk intensity. The songwriting is just on another level here. More than anything, Envy’s music is triumphant, anthemic, and massive in scale — It’s always reaching for higher, always pushing in spirit. Our intent is the same — to make dense, emotionally engaging hardcore that has the power to uplift.

American Football – American Football
Fake emo or not, we can’t help but gush over this record — this crystal-clear, poignant snapshot of a brief moment. Musically, their use of “pretty” arpeggios and simple horn melodies to make syncopated and off-kilter parts sound natural definitely speaks to us. But there’s this unabashed, heartfelt vulnerability that’s near transformative — so thick it’s like a texture. It puts us right there — right in their moment. As a band we don’t believe in posturing or putting on an contrived front. In this same way, Dénouement is a window into our past year, an honest expression of this brief moment in our passing time.

Poison the Well – You Come Before You
You Come Before You was the first metalcore record our drummer Travis had ever heard — now he loves breakdowns and we have to stop him from turning every part into one. Because all drummers deserve a platform, here he is in his own words, “Chris Hornbrook became one of my favourite drummers for his ability to pull off technical parts, but still have it follow a rhythm you could immerse yourself in without trying to wrap your head around a certain beat or fill. One of my favourite live videos of them is Crystal Lake at Warped Tour 2003.”

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Broken Social Scene are hometown heroes. We grew up in mid-aughts Toronto with an ear for “different” music, meaning we grew up listening to this record. You Forgot It In People is special because it’s this hot mess of ideas and sounds — this multifaceted yet cohesive, bold expression — and it’s coming from 10+ people! Watching Broken Social Scene in 2005 (at 14) was a euphoric experience — to feel all that noise coming from all those people just celebrating on stage. So much of our approach to music and collaboration comes from Broken Social Scene.

Fun Fact: Egin is actually in the Broken Social Scene music video for “Vanity Pail Kids.”

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Suffocate for Fuck Sake – Blazing Fires And Helicopters On The Frontpage Of The Newspaper. There’s A War Going On And I’m Marching In Heavy Boots
So this record comes out in 2008 with almost no info about the band, but it floods the DIY blogs and forums of the time, quickly reaching cult status. Almost all of us found Suffocate For Fuck Sake this way, years before we’d ever meet, and have been transfixed by it since. Their ability to blend completely different voices — to go from the crushing and abrasive to the textural and soft, from walls of feedback to folky acoustic interludes — is always something we’ve aspired to. Its ambition lets us hold on to our (often self-defeating!) belief that it’s always better to make art that is aspirational and takes you on a journey, even if the creative process is emotionally exhausting.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada
What can we even say about Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They are colossal — in number, space, sound, and influence. Their music is verbose — often at its quietest moments. As a collective, they operated with ideals at their core. On Dénouement, even more so than Gravity and Grace, we tried to craft this singular story, cohesive and fluid through each movement. Slow Riot does very much the same, condensed in two brilliant sides of one LP. There’s a lot of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in us; we use strings, screwdrivers, and saws for eerie tension, we aim to be cinematic in scope, dramatic to the core, offer narrative through feeling. This record is an homage to our Quebecois heroes in many ways.

pageninetynine – Document #8
Pageninetynine’s [Editor’s Note: also known as pg99, PG.99, and a few other variants.] Document #8 is a wild, out-of-control forest fire, a visceral hurricane of despondency wrapped up in an onslaught of dissonance and violence. It’s immediate, gripping, aggressive. When we set out to make Dénouement a darker, more aggressive sound, we did it by looking to pageninetynine’s own unique brand of chaos — this feeling that everything’s always on the verge of falling apart. More than any of this, pageninetynine’s motto on the insert of this record — “Love your friends, die laughing” — encapsulates our love of community, DIY, and why we do all of this.

Carissa’s Wierd – Songs About Leaving
Though it’s maybe a little surprising to see such a quiet record on our list, but the crushing weight of sadness and unparalleled sincerity of Songs About Leaving has shaped a key pillar that Dénouement (and Respire in general, for that matter) is built on — the idea of radical vulnerability. This opening up in order to take back power and authenticity — to not be defined by our pain, but to use them as foundations on which we build our transcendence. Songs About Leaving is so damn sad because it’s so damn raw, so stripped down, so true to its goal. Carissa’s Wierd is, in some ways, just like pageninetynine — this sound of barely keeping it together, of unfiltered honest expression destroying itself.

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Converge – Jane Doe
Jane Doe was one of the first influential heavy records that a lot of us were ever exposed to, birthing us this wild notion that dissonance and chaos can be controlled, channeled, focused to deliver a message. The anguish and despair that permeates through this record is heightened by genre-bending frenzied moments — drawing from every corner of the heavy music world. While You Fail Me probably has better songs, Jane Doe feels like a more cohesive whole, showing us just how much nuance heavy music can have. We’ve tried to capture that nuance on Dénouement — especially in heavy and dark sections that go from frenetic to brooding and back again.

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