Saltland: I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us
Saltland is the new project led by Montreal-based cellist Rebecca Foon (Esmerine, ex-Silver Mt. Zion), joined by Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Esmerine) on miniature percussion, programming and signal processing.
I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us is a beautifully restrained debut album that telescopes the directness and delicacy of Foon's compositional and vocal styles into lush, twilight atmospheres aglow with luminescent tendrils and flickering particles. Foon sings of childhood innocence lost, of serene utopic reveries and downcast dystopic horizons, and the search for soft, stoic strength in a darkening world, in most cases propelled by Thompson's handmade percussion and understated programming/processing.
The album's ambience also owes much to the work of Mark Lawson, the award-winning producer (Arcade Fire) who collaborated closely with Foon to record and mix these songs. With contributions from Laurel Sprengelmeyer and Jess Robertson (Little Scream), Mishka Stein (Patrick Watson), Colin Stetson (Bon Iver), Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) among others, Saltland offers up an unassumingly immersive debut album of searching songs that blend several core influences into a distinctively naturalistic sound. Saltland stakes out a unique space where minimalism, shoegaze, dream-pop, coldwave, chamber music, drone and ambient/electronic coexist and coalesce.
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Colin Stetson established himself as an intensely original solo composer and performer in 2011 with the release of the widely acclaimed New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, which ended up on countless year-end lists. Anyone who has seen Stetson in solo performance can attest to the stunning physicality of his circular-breathing technique and capacity to produce a seemingly impossible palate of multiple voicings simultaneously in real time.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the final installment in a trilogy of solo albums, again recorded live in single takes and again mixed by groundbreaking producer Ben Frost. Colin's membership in Bon Iver has also led to vocal contributions from Justin Vernon for this record, who appears on four songs, and whose voice constitutes the only overdubbing on the album.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light is the most cohesive and fully realized of Stetson's solo albums to date. It should reliably stand as the apotheosis of the New History Warfare trilogy, and certainly signals the full flourishing of Stetson's unique talents as both composer and performer, pressing his arsenal of virtuosic techniques into the service of vivid, impassioned and conceptually astute songcraft.
Jerusalem In My Heart: Mo7it Al-Mo7it
Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) has been a live audio-visual happening since 2005, with Montréal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at its core. Moumneh is a Lebanese national who has spent a large part of his adult life in Canada and has been a fixture of the Montréal independent music community from his early days as guitarist in various notable 90s hardcore bands to his tireless activity as a sound engineer and producer over the last decade.
With performances occurring 1-3 times per year, no two JIMH events have ever been the same, with Moumneh's vocals and purposefully blown-out sonic sensibility as the single constant.
JIMH has always been an immersive sonic and visual live experience; on the musical side, an evolving effort to forge a modern experimental Arabic music that weds melismatic singing in classical Arabic modes to electronic compositions with a punk-rock production sensibility. Mo7it Al-Mo7it, a unique and profoundly emotive album of contemporary Arabic music, captures and conveys all of this.
Jerusalem In My Heart has lately solidified around a core duo of Radwan Ghazi Moumneh carrying musical duties and Chilean filmmaker Malena Szlam providing live visuals using analog 16mm film projections and multiple site-specific screen installations.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don?t Bend! Ascend!
A full decade ago, Godspeed You! Black Emperor released Yanqui U.X.O. with no publicity or press availability, no marketing plans, no cross-promotions or brand synergies, driven by word-of-mouth from a passionate and committed fanbase galvanized by the group's sonic vision and its dedication to unmediated, unsullied musical communication.
To suggest that such simple principles and goals have become harder to maintain and enact a decade later is an understatement, but Godspeed is looking to try all the same. The band wants people to care about this new album, without telling people they should, knowing full well that these days, anti-strategy risks being tagged as a strategy.
The band has been blazing its own path again since 2010. We think they have made a new record that maintains if not exceeds the standards of their previous work. After almost two years of post-hiatus practicing, playing and touring, Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! delivers two mighty sides of music that are definitively stunning, immersive and utterly true to the band?s legacy. The future looks dark indeed, but on the evidence of this new recording, Godspeed appears wholly committed to staring it down, channeling it, and fighting for some rays of sound (and flickers of light) that feel hopeful and true.