Status/Non-Status Wander Inward with 'Surely Travel'
WHOOP-szo spent roughly a decade playing the DIY Canadian music scene before releasing their 2019 debut album, Warrior Down. Filled with frenzy, disdain, noise, and calls for political change, that record formed what would be the foundation for the ever-evolving Anishinaabe artists and community workers now named Status/Non-Status. The intensity of Warrior Down carried its way through their 2021 EP, 1,2,3,4,500 Years, and this year, band leader Adam Sturgeon changed pace to form OMBIIGIZI with Zoon's Daniel Monkman and release their debut full-length Sewn Back Together. With such a high density of quality music released in such a short period of time, Status/Non-Status had fans wondering what the critical darlings of the Canadian music scene would do next.
Surely Travel answers that question. Where previous releases from Status/Non-Status explicitly reckoned with the conditions of Indigenous Sovereignty in colonial Canada, the collective's new record dives deeper into Sturgeon's personal experiences, reflecting on his place in the world and the complexity of life on the road: "You're thinking of me on those busy days in your busy ways while I wallow through the maze / I love you," Sturgeon sings on "Mashiki Sunset."
Surely Travel finds Sturgeon's sharp eye turning inward, his free association lyrical style exemplifying the often anarchic and disorganized way thoughts careen through our minds. "What Am I to Do" tackles subjects like breakups, ancestry, and climate change with incredible synergy. The '90s grunge ballad feels particularly heartfelt, but the rapid pace at which Sturgeon travels through his own memories is intentionally and carefully disorienting. No theme feels out of place or unearned, but you're often left wondering how you got there.
"Mainly Crows" sees the band plotting a journey across the globe. After dropping into cities like Tokyo, New York, and Montréal, Sturgeon sings, "We've been the only damn band out on the road / Out in the ice and the snow and foggy North." "Mainly Crows" feels intentionally obfuscating and can be read in a few ways, but regardless, the crux of the song wrestles with how a career in music and continual transience impact Sturgeon's family and community. Feelings of abandonment and discomfort creep in toward the song's end song, as Sturgeon sings, "When all of my friends have gone to Montréal or Toronto / We will remember them well / So far from home." Adam Sturgeon has always been a critical thinker and astonishing storyteller; with "Mainly Crows," he weaves these tales of displacement into a sonic tapestry of self-examination, trying to find comfort in uncertainty.
Despite the celestial lyrical content, the music has a grounded quality. Sturdy, classic guitar underpins many songs, and Sturgeon's insistence on singing the vocals in a single take brings it close to the chest. The contemplative "Travelogue" is the only instrumental on Surely Travel and highlights the album's brilliant production.
But the true showcase in production and structure is album closer "Surely Travel," a nearly eight-minute track that weaves together all the aural and lyrical elements that Status/Non-Status experiment with across the album. Expansive waves of looping guitar riffs run hand-in-hand with the warm tones of a Wurlitzer, and the backing drums dip the song into the Motorik realm. The track crescendos into a chorus of dissonant overlayed vocals before dissolving into a two-minute instrumental epilogue. The creativity and complexity of "Surely Travel" are marvelous, pushing the boundaries of what this unstoppable band can accomplish.
At the end of a record filled with questioning, remorse, and self-deprecation, Status/Non-Status' final statement is a promise to grow and explore despite their concerns or whatever rough terrain lays ahead; "I will surely travel / And we'll drive from coast to coast / I will surely travel / So far from home."