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On ‘O Monolith’ and on tour, new inflections in Squid’s ever-shifting sound

The British quintet comes to the Paradise Wednesday

Squid will play the Paradise Wednesday night.Alex Kurunis

The British rock group Squid resists labels. Trying to place their often cacophonous sound neatly under the umbrella of one subgenre — post-punk, art rock, experimental rock — never truly feels right, and the changes they’ve made on their newest album “O Monolith” make that even more difficult. On their current US tour, which includes a date at the Paradise Rock Club on Wednesday, guitarist Louis Borlase said it’s best to expect the unexpected.

“It’s kind of new year, new Squid,” he said. “There’s some music in the set that people are probably never going to have heard before unless they’re telepathic. There’s going to be old and new and everything in between.”


The perpetual evolution of the five-piece group, consisting of Borlase, drummer/lead singer Ollie Judge, guitarist Anton Pearson, bassist Laurie Nankivell, and keyboardist Arthur Leadbetter, is evident. The band broke out with a frenetic, post-punk–leaning sound, heard in material such as 2019 single “Houseplants” and the bombastic 2021 debut album “Bright Green Field,” which earned them critical praise and swaths of new fans. However, when it came time for album number two, Squid shed most of those sensibilities.

“The one thing we were always scared of was to feel like we’re saying the same thing twice,” said Borlase, adding that recording the album in the rural setting of West Country, England made them feel freer. “We were away from the city, doing long writing sessions without really ever seeing anyone else. That took away a lot of expectation of any kind of category we thought we wanted to be falling into.”

“O Monolith” features more spacious and rhythmically complex compositions than their previous work, and trades in nonstop energy for gradual crescendos. The band made it a goal of regularly writing outside of a 4/4 time signature, not only to challenge themselves as live performers but to alter their typical creative process.


“Differing time signatures, especially having a singing drummer, was a challenge that we felt like we really wanted to kind of embrace and lean into,” Borlase said.

Another notable change comes from Judge, who swaps his yelped vocal style for a softer, occasionally melodic delivery. This wasn’t completely out of the blue Borlase pointed to tracks like “Pamphlets” off “Bright Green Field” that featured some melody. However, this departure was another way the band attempted to push itself while recording.

“I think basically he wanted to say to himself: I can sing on a record,” Borlase said. “When we started listening back, it felt like that vocal approach was so at home with the rest of the music.”

That shift embodies the continual change the band’s sound has undergone since its inception. Most of Squid’s members met in 2016 at the University of Sussex and started out playing free-form, ambient-leaning music at the Verdict Jazz Club in Brighton, which gave way to a number of sonic evolutions over those early years.

Some of these changes were stylistic choices born out of a freedom to experiment, as Borlase described it. Others, like Judge’s vocals — which slowly moved toward raw intensity — were born out of necessity and benefitted bandmates.

“We could never hear one another on stage,” said Borlase. “Ollie could never hear his vocals. Obviously being a drummer, he needed to shout over the level of his drum kit. I remember specifically, Arthur [Leadbetter] early on would say, ‘I really like it when you just shout and don’t feel the need to sing everywhere.’ ”


All the unique quirks found in any given Squid song, from trumpet to hazy electronic noise to the vocal stylings of Judge, create an atmosphere entirely unique to them, though it can sometimes complicate the songwriting process.

“The hardest bit is often knowing when [a song] is done,” he said. “Usually it will start with one of us bringing a very small idea, and just letting that be looped and repeated. Often that original piece will disintegrate as these extra layers come and then we’ll remember it later on down the line and it will resurface. Things kind of come and go, and a lot of the time it’s incredibly loose. I think we’re often quite keen to avoid the easiest option.”

Wednesday’s Paradise show won’t be Squid’s first in Boston, but for fans who have seen them before — and for anyone who’s familiar with the band’s discography — don’t anticipate an identical listening experience. The band is always tinkering with their sound and pushing forward.

“We’re always wanting to do versions of things and things that kind of defy expectation,” Borlase said. “You don’t just get a carbon copy of what you’ve already heard on record when we do it live.”


With Water From Your Eyes. At Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave. Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. (doors). $20. crossroadspresents.com/pages/paradise-rock-club


Henry Bova can be reached at henry.bova@globe.com.