Monday, October 19, 2009

Reviews:: Evening Hymns Spirit Guides

Have you ever been around a group of friends that constantly tries to set up their single friend? They constantly talk about the friend’s heart, personality and how perfect they could be for the right person. Musically, I think a lot of the talent on the Out of This Spark collective – Ohbijou, Forest City Lovers, The D’Urbervilles – feel this way about a young man from Orono, Ontario named Jonas Bonetta.

Jonas, who writes under the moniker of Evening Hymns, will release his OTTS debut full length on November 3rd, and sadly I’m envisioning a reaction as quiet as the beautifully crafted songs he offered up on his previous releases. A quick scan of the usual suspects – hypem and - shows one lonely MP3 entry from his previous efforts, which in today’s digital world is shocking, especially for a talent like Bonetta.

I’m hoping though, as Sam Cooke said, “change is gonna come.” With the support of the Bellwoods crew (especially considering the huge rise in support the friends have seen thanks to a string of terrific records from the likes of Ohbijou and The Wooden Sky), Jonas has written a much thicker, fleshed out record that surprises you with beautiful strings and horns, but still strips away any superfluous sounds when he needs to hit you with a powerful confessional.

Echo-y drums and simple acoustic guitar start Laterns, but it’s Bonetta’s vocals and the mood setting steel that curls slowly around the track that locks you in. Slowly, harmonies and pace are added to the song, but the delicate touch producer James Bunton uses helps you stay focused on Jonas. Even when the horns surge in and Jonas is supported by terrific female vocals, the surging track still holds true to its humble roots and make the six-minute effort feel like a three minute quick hitter. He uses the same recipe on the stellar Dead Deer. Keep time drums and hushed guitar start the track, again shining the spotlight on the two vocalists, but the chorus explodes with an unexpected, booming crescendo that retreats as quickly as it appears. Bonas opts to fill the void with strings, refusing to let the song rest, but never pushing it too far.

But song three - Mountain Song - is where you really start to see the change in sound Jonas went through. The collection of friends he adds on the track help transform the track into a more personal, reserved but still almost as powerful, Bruce Peninsula track. The subtle tones that dot the beginning heighten the anticipation to a fever, and when one by one you are hit with dancing strings, drums, and group vocals the energy crackles. Instead of exploding into a spiritual event, Jonas makes the smart decision to let the song build but never run free. The seamless transition into the beautiful Mazinaw Lake - which sounds like waking up, watching the morning fog lurk around the foothills - perfectly setting up the muscular riff of Broken Rifle. The catchy as hell piano softens the electric guitar, but it’s the most straight ahead rocker I’ve ever heard from him and it really changes the feel of the record.

Jonas reveals another, more playful side on Tumultuous Sea, where the horns, strings and claps transform his sound into a rural, orchestral pop before settling into the last three tracks of the record. The jarring juxtaposition to the eerie Cedars reminds me more of the stripped down, spiritual work I expected to hear and shows that Jonas doesn’t need the support of his talented friends to convey emotion and power. The 5-minutes of rain is an odd choice to add to a record, but it does take give you a rural cabin feel, as you are left with nothing to do but hear the rain drop s hit the roof above you. Waiting through the weather, Jonas does give you a nice reward, taking the mic with only the help of his guitar. It’s the type of song he does so well, exposing his reserved demeanor to anyone who chooses to listen. Hopefully, this time around that’s a lot of lucky people.

MP3:: Evening Hymns - Broken Rifle

MP3:: Evening Hymns - Dead Deer


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Posted at 9:17 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

News:: Friends in Bellwoods 2

Go to any city, and you will stumble on little pockets of musical camaraderie. Whether it’s a group of art school friends that start playing music or an old house with gear piled in the basement, the creative energy is tangible. Here in Halifax, I guess you’d go with 6015 Willow St, but in Toronto, I’d say that honor goes to Casey Mecija’s house on Bellwoods Avenue.

With fellow Ohbijou member James Bunton, they collected songs from their friends and put out a charity record that featured some of the best indie rockers/folkers in the Canadian scene. Not only was Friends in Bellwoods an embarrassment of riches (Forest City Lovers, Bry Webb, Ohbijou, The Acorn, The Meligrove Band, Sebastien Grainger, The D’Urbervilles, Snailhouse), it also raised over 10 grand for charity. All in all, a pretty amazing success.

Remarkably… Bellwoods 2 puts the original to shame. Forty rare and unreleased tracks from the best talent TO has to offer, including Sandro Perri, Timber Timbre, Great Lake Swimmers, Ohbijou, Final Fantasy, The Acorn, The RAA, The D’Urbervilles, Basia Balat, Evening Hymns, Gentleman Reg, and tons more but more importantly, you can tell the people involved really believed in the project. The songs are spirited, and for so many of these talented artists to donate their time and music is special.

I don’t want to start analyzing the tracks - half of the fun of this record is just hearing what some of your favorite bands offer up - but hearing The D’Urbes totally transform the ghostly Timber Timbre jam, Magic Arrow into an energetic romp, the ear pleasing jangle of The Great Bloomers or the beautiful picking dance around Rolf’s voice on Slippery When Wet are three of the big standouts for me.

Truthfully though, on a compilation where fantastic bands like Forest City Lovers, Tusks and Snailhouse barely catch your eye on first glance of the track list, and new material from Ohbijou (with an absolutely perfect string arrangement), Polaris short-listers Great Lake Swimmers, Bruce Peninsula, The Wooden Sky (!!!!) and The Rural Alberta Advantage seem standard, you start to see the power of this project.

Throw in the fact the proceeds go to The Daily Bread Food Bank and it’s pretty well a given that you should be rushing to pick up this 2-disc set on August 25th courtesy of Out of This Spark. The label is offering up a few songs - and as good as these songs are, the gems you will find when you actually purchase the record are staggering - so take a listen, but please donate to this great cause.

MP3:: The D'Urbervilles - Magic Arrow

MP3:: Tusks - New to Old Money


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Posted at 8:01 AM by ack :: 4 comments

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