Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reviews:: Great Lake Swimmers Lost Channels

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I don’t think there are too many bands I’ve posted on more than Great Lake Swimmers. Whether it’s crafting powerful soundtracks, inspired live shows or fostering a sense of national pride, Tony Dekker and his rotating crew of helping hands write music that I love.

The new record – Lost Channels – continues the tradition of recording in bizarre, isolated locations as the band headed to the Thousand Islands region on Ontario. For a lot of bands that might be nothing more than some filler on a press sheet, but for GLS that trip really formed the core of the record. Lugging gear around on boats and recording in castles, churches and community centers not only inspired the band, it also contributed to the songs. You can sense the energy of the buildings - the creaks of the walls and the ghosts that remain behind - on almost every song. Even the little interlude of the castle bells breaks the record into logical A and B sides.

Strangely enough, even with the isolation, mystery and history that inspired Lost Channels, the record is more energetic, fleshed out and spirited than you’d expect. The album opener, Palmistry, sounds like classic REM and really starts Lost Channels with a bang. Throughout the record, Dekker’s band – Erik Arnesen, Greg Millson, Darcy Yates and the super talented Julie Fader (and some great cameos by Paul Aucoin, Serena Ryder and Bob Egan) – is bolder and seems to be more involved with the sounds they are asked to create.

She Comes To Me In Dreams uses a driving melody and Dekker’s voice to stabilize the song, but the arrangement is jam packed with subtleties and risks. Egan’s pedal steel, deep timbre drums, female harmonies and infectious electric work all make appearances, but never overstay their welcome. These small shifts in sound may seem insignificant to an unfamiliar listener or a natural progression for the band, but they really show an evolution in Tony’s song writing, confidence and trust and make Lost Channels something very special.

The second half of the record is more in line with the atmospheric songs from Dekker’s earlier work. Stealing Tomorrow, Unison Falling Into Harmony and New Light all shine the spotlight on Dekker, but the inspired strums and of Still are the perfect counterpoint to Dekker’s past work. Tony may still be looking for the “whispers in between yells” and want to be “the note that’s unplayed”, but he seems completely comfortable giving his friends the freedom to fill out his songs. Even on some of the most emotional, stripped down tracks – like the beautiful Concrete Heart, they experiment, quite successfully, with strings, harmonies and echoes.

Honestly, Lost Channels is the perfect bridge for long time fans and those eager to soak up the new sounds Tony has to offer. Luckily, Great Lake Swimmers will be playing in another old church – St. Matthew’s - here in Halifax on March. 11th. Kate Maki will try to steal your heart to open things up, so I’d highly suggest getting - Pulling on a Line.

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Posted at 7:06 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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