CLIFF PARKS -
From the start, the reborn band Space Cubs cultivated a much needed air of mystery, from their magical debut last summer somewhere in Allentown to a captivating show at the Mohawk before disappearing to record What Iff, their excellent debut EP and our Album of the Week, and praise be, that glorious mystery is very much intact. Dreamy yet precise and very much fully realized, What Iff only hints at this band’s tremendous potential, offering a tantalizing glimpse into a possible future for Buffalo’s music scene that you can totally get down to, which is always welcome.
Originally a one woman bedroom dream pop project from Suzanne Bonifacio, Space Cubs expanded, assimilating electronic artist and enfante terrible Shawn Lewis as well as scene mainstay Ken Culton and Adam Pressley to become something beautifully new, and “Gnaw” captures that metamorphosis perfectly in sonic amber. Hazy loops and haunted vocals give way to a de-tuned, underwater piano, buffeted by a sly and insistent beat that digs in and confirms that Space Cubs is now a band
Lead single “Quitting” goes for unsettled post Kid A Radiohead vibes with otherworldly poly-rhythms and Brian Eno sound textures, before giving way to “What iff,” the EPs first banger, an intense slow burner anchored by tight groove that floats under Suzanne’s powerful and crystalline voice, Adam Pressley’s searching, spiraling upwards guitar, and a cathedralesque sense of space that sounds holy and achingly pure as the jam reaches continually for heavens that aren’t really there.
After the interstitial ambient fuzz in the form of “Fizzle Practicality,” What Iff sticks it’s landing with the rapturous finale of “The World,” a heavenly slice of sonic butter that melts in your ears, attaining instant cosmic altitude thanks to Suzanne’s angelic multi-tracked vocals, layered and lushly irresistible electronic textures, and a shoegazey beat that demands hypnotically nodding your whole body and soul in time to the song. It’s really an astonishing piece of music: minimalist yet expansive, unapologetically beautiful, and deeply satisfying.
“The World,” and the future belongs to Space Cubs, and I seriously can’t wait to see what’s next.
It’s always exciting when two singular artists come together to work on one project. In this case it’s Buffalo-based musicians Suzanne Bonifacio, who has performed locally as Space Cubs, and Shawn Lewis, popularly known as Lesionread, who have teamed up to flesh out Bonaficio’s solo project into a full band along with Ken Culton and Adam Pressley. Both Bonifacio and Lewis are musicians who come from the more experimental end of the electronic music spectrum—Bonifacio as a solo artist behind a computer screen cranking out dark, broken, magical beats reminiscent of early Caribou and Four Tet, and Lewis dressed in a one piece red body suit, leveling up his ecstatic electro party music, sending cardboard robot mascots and GoPro cameras into his crowd. What they’ve created now, under Bonifacio’s alias Space Cubs, is different still than anything either has made; strange, ambient, jazzy and organic and electronic all at once. A few weeks ago the band debuted their new record What Iff with a show at Mohawk Place, and this Friday, May 4 they’ll return to the Downtown venue for a show with the Chicago-based experimental indie rock band OHMME. This week we spoke with Bonifacio about the pivot from solo project to full band, and the challenges and joys involved in adopting a new philosophy toward her music.
True to its title, there’s an unmistakable dread piercing the heart of this song; beneath the swirling piano figure that loosely tethers the more ethereal elements, a thick layer of dissonance gleams like a knife. The sounds detune as an eerily organic yet metallic chorus swims in and out of prominence, playing anxious call and response with main vocalist Suzanne Bonifacio, her voice surging as these audible strands of doubt crowd around her.
When a beat does come in, it sinks “Gnaw” deeper into quicksand. Bass and drums seem to run in reverse. The soundscape pulls in tighter, sucking in a deep breath before the plunge. A digitized ride skips along and Bonifacio waxes about leaving it all behind and starting again, telling herself, trapped in the immense gravitational whirl of the now-dense instrumentals, that “The past is the past.” “Gnaw” eventually coasts to the finish, but at the close Space Cubs have broken through to rich and mysterious new territory.