*This album is available in black vinyl and a limited edition of 500 on Sea Blue translucent vinyl. There is also a limited edition white cassette version available from our Bandcamp page.
The musical partnership of Joseph Shabason and Nicholas Krgovich orbits around a shared center of earnestness, slice-of-life poeticism, and the subtle everyday banality that becomes beautiful, even absurd, under their slight redirection. Where 2020’s Philadelphia placed domestic interiors under a microscope, documenting the indoor minutiae society was forced to examine mid-pandemic, At Scaramouche steps out into the sunlight squinting groggily and happily at the new day ahead-- and particularly the night that follows. One evening after a recording session and some aimless ambling that included a visit to the house where the 1974 movie “Black Christmas” was filmed, Krgovich and fellow vocalist Chris A. Cummings found themselves misplaced at the Toronto restaurant from which At Scaramouche takes its name, gawking with amusement at its concocted air of luxury. “The layout hinted at its MCM glory, and there was a panoramic view of the city,” Krgovich illustrates, “but it was full mid 2000s, dated Sex In The City re-run decor, ‘opulence’ for rich people with bad taste. I loved it! Chris loved it!”. On At Scaramouche, Krgovich and Shabason demonstrate a mutually uncanny ability to transmute this kind of cultural wariness into amused majesty, poking fun and bowing in reverence all at once. Their spotless smooth-jazz tonality, lyrical literalism, and even cover artist Jake Longstreth’s humorously sober depiction of an actual old Taco Bell building all point to the duo’s low-key-gonzo subversion of Adult Contemporary tropes into something unexpectedly transcendent.
The first glassy keyboard hits of “Soli” indicate this sentiment before Krgovich even steps forward as the album’s host, and when he does, he immediately gets to work setting the scene of a weary parking lot stroll on a cool, street-lit evening after work-- just one of so many unremarkable moments that become utopic under Krgovich’s poetic care. “Clocking out at five PM, don’t give it another thought, feel the evening coming in,” he sings. “When it’s dark before supper, and the rain on the house… happy for no reason.” Glimmering pianos and brushy percussion calmly converse with fretless bass as a diffuse light spreads across this little world that’s being created. But where the duo’s previous effort Philadelphia would’ve camped permanently in the stillness, At Scaramouche lunges into the upbeat stroller “In the Middle of the Day”. Though no less exemplary of the album’s quiet everyday magic, it sets a brisker pace with its head-nodding drum break and coolly interjecting bassline. Other moments on the album reiterate the spryness, like the nearly-erratic “Soli II”, and the lively pop centerpiece “I Am So Happy With My Little Dog”. On the latter, Krgovich leads a tight-knit ensemble that comes as close to krautrock here as they ever might, where a driving drumbeat politely urges the elements forward; trumpet harmonies, chanting vocals, and bubbling synths, all crowned by a chorus-laden, perfectly askew solo from guitarist Thom Gill . “This record was very much a band effort. Me and Nick were at the helm but we called on the amazing crew of musicians that I play with here in Toronto to really help flesh things out,” Shabason emphasizes. “The last record was a real exercise in minimalism and quietness, and to me this record feels much more robust, and occasionally bombastic by comparison.”
Joseph Shabason grew up in small-town Ontario, throwing punk and emo shows in garages and church basements as an alternative to “playing hockey or doing drugs,” as he states it. At the same time Nicholas Krgovich was 4,000 kilometers away in Vancouver, BC living the kind of suburban life that can, by necessity, imbue someone with romanticism toward the things downtown-dwellers might not bat an eye at, like the fluorescent glow of commercial lighting after-hours, or the overlooked poignancy of a rundown strip mall, and all the many thousands of tiny commonplace miracles that At Scaramouche is made of. “Childhood McDonald’s gone, there used to be some woods there,” Krgovich hums prosaically over a bed of soft drum machine and Dorothea Paas’s soft supporting vocals. “The cemetery was small,” he elaborates while noticing just how far and how fast the past has receded, “now the high rises around the mall that aren’t done yet…” Where much nostalgia can slip down the slopes into something melancholy that puts the past on an impossible pedestal, album-ender “Drinks at Scaramouche” proves that Krgovich is just as in love with the present, allowing history and future to bring out the sacred in one another. “Finding all the little blips, in-betweens, now with deepening meaning,” he sings, “what little light goes slow, heartening to know that nothing really goes away.” Like so much that Shabason & Krgovich put their fingerprints on, At Scaramouche presents a familiar palette with just enough inflected weirdness to prompt double takes, turning folk art into outsider art with an almost imperceptible sleight of hand.