Under Review

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Man Meets Bear

I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Before Me

author
Victoria Canning

Deviating from the Indie Folk dalliances of predecessor, Huronian Cadence, Toronto natives Man meets Bear, explore a more spiritual side in their largely instrumental 5th album, I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was Before Me.

The album, released September of last year, flits between both World and Post Rock genres, collating natural and synthetic melodies with ‘pretty’ guitar motifs to create droning soundscapes. At times, inspiration is drawn from traditional Native American music, known for stimulating strong feelings of meditation and ‘zen’. This theme is heavily felt in title track “Lake Ontario Seiche”, as well as “Year of El Niño” and “Garrison Creek”.

The band however, pull back toward their Indie roots on both “Niimi” and “Sun’s Back”, whose flirtation with dreamy folk tones and lo-fi are warmer, more inviting and less foreboding than the aforementioned ‘atmospheric’ tracks. These songs are reminiscent of Man meets Bear’s Dream BC, whose perfect balance of whimsy, wit and folk-pop charm made it a strong and intriguing debut, that played like a meeting of minds between peers Belle & Sebastian and The Polyphonic Spree.

But despite the efforts made in pursuing a more ethereal sound, I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was Before Me fails to offer anything of much interest. Instead, Soren Brothers (the man behind Man meets Bear) chooses to meander aimlessly through half baked ideas that’d be better served as interludes between more thought out songs. Given the choice, I recommend Brothers’ second album, Buffalo Comets for its far more earnest and flexible reaches as an experimental album. In comparison, I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was Before Me paints itself into a rather dull, ‘New Age-y’ corner.

lowcolour
author
Lucas Lund

Low Colour is entirely saturated. The latest release from The April Fools Childrenhood — the solo project of the folk duo Leave’s David Cowling — is thick with sound all the way through its five tracks. As advised on his bandcamp page, “Low Colour is a quiet collection meant to be listened to loud.” You would be wise to heed that advice, because the release really does benefit from turning up the volume. The richness of every sound can only be grasped when the volume is cranked. The swells and washes of reverb and feedback possess so much more weight when they threaten to overwhelm. While the silences, the spaces between, become all the more significant.

Cowling implements a very sparse sonic palette over the course of the record, utilizing hardly any variation in instrumentation. Clean, clear guitar; deep and swirling reverb-soaked synths; wince-worthy waves of feedback; and of course Cowling’s deep and comfortable voice make up the majority of the sonic landscape. Even with this repetition, Cowling still manages to steer clear of monotony.

Each of the five songs — aside from “Low,” a 25-second introductory soundscape — are firmly grounded in Cowling’s simple strummed guitar and voice. One could almost call it folk, if the rest of the sonic ornamentation didn’t entirely alter the mood of each song. Underneath the vast backdrop of somber, billowing reverb of “Miss Resentment,” Cowling’s voice and guitar holds the song’s structure together, while a sharp and sporadic guitar jumps across the foreground.

It’s on the final track, “Never Alone,” that the atmosphere gives way slightly, in favour of Cowling’s voice, as if it took four songs to gain the courage to really belt it out. Repeating the same phrases over and over — “Never alone, never the same,” and “I wish you the best,” — Cowling seems to focus the listener’s ears to the slight and ever changing timbral qualities in a human voice, as it slowly exhausts itself.

All the songs sound as if they were born of the same thought, painted with the same brush. Cowling is precise in almost every element of his production, with every sound carefully chosen and arranged delicately amidst its dark and gloomy world.