Hope Floats

Exclaim! - - REVIEWS - ANNA ALGER

POP

Ariel En­gle has come into her own as a singer and song­writer with La Force. The project, born out of her pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion with hus­band An­drew White­man, AroarA, and recorded at the same time as Bro­ken So­cial Scene’s Hug of Thun­der, sees her ce­ment her power as a vo­cal­ist and lyri­cist. La Force cap­tures En­gle’s sin­gu­lar en­ergy, as she mines grief while si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­flect­ing on all she has to be grate­ful for. Son­i­cally, the al­bum fea­tures drone, rhythm-driven tracks and the full range of En­gle’s voice. Ten­sion and melody jux­ta­pose against each other on “TBT,” its rhythm only break­ing down to al­low for the full­ness of her voice to cen­tre in the mu­sic.

Min­i­mal, warm ar­range­ments suit En­gle’s voice as much as lush and full ones do. “Lucky One” ex­udes beauty, as she re­minds her­self: “Heart, be calm, be calm about it all / ’Cause we used to get ob­sessed,” while ef­fort­less gui­tar joins her in melody. “Mama Papa” floats, slowly grow­ing from its first quiet lines to beau­ti­ful sax­o­phone ac­com­pa­ni­ment. Her voice weaves be­tween bass, beats and at­mo­spher­ics that re­call early Bro­ken So­cial Scene, while still stand­ing apart from it. Through­out, one can feel the con­fi­dence in En­gle’s voice and con­vic­tion in her words. Within the dense nine tracks of La Force, En­gle is vul­ner­a­ble FOLK

La Force

while see­ing beyond her­self — “I don’t have to know, I feel.” The birth of La Force proves En­gle as an artist deeply at­tuned to her emo­tional land­scape. (Arts & Crafts, www.arts-crafts.ca)

How did ma­jor life ex­pe­ri­ences in­flu­ence mak­ing this record?

It’s one coin. It’s the fragility of life in how it’s fleet­ing and also, of life force. I just felt like I was both the crest of the wave and at the bot­tom of the ocean, si­mul­ta­ne­ously. So I think the record deals with those themes, be­cause that’s where I was. And peo­ple say, “Write what you know,” and that’s what I knew. I still feel it, I’m still in a form of it, but I think maybe the peaks and val­leys are a lit­tle more level than they were at the time.

How did you cre­ate songs that are vul­ner­a­ble with­out be­ing overly re­veal­ing?

I wanted to be hon­est with­out feel­ing like you were walk­ing into my di­ary. I don’t keep a di­ary, but it doesn’t have to be ev­ery­thing. One of the songs that I was pretty ex­cited about was “The Tide,” be­cause I am re­ally at­tracted to, and I hope to in fu­ture, make mu­sic that’s more trancey and about get­ting into a state of mind, rather than song struc­ture. One high­light is “Un­mak­ing the Bed,” whose marimba and pit-pat per­cus­sion are low-key and wink­ingly play­ful on the verses, be­fore burst­ing into an­themic and at­mo­spheric cho­ruses. “Root Sys­tems,” mean­while, fea­tures rat­tlesnake-like per­cus­sion along with haunt­ing cello that evoke the tense am­biance of a spaghetti western. Other tracks are more straight­for­ward in terms of fore­front in­stru­ments, while still boast­ing plenty of at­mos­phere, in­clud­ing “In a Cer­tain Light,” whose banjo plucks are taken straight from a deep South back porch, and “The Real Work,” which fea­tures moan­ing strings and res­o­lute, am­biance-build­ing pi­ano notes. Still, many of the most mem­o­rable mo­ments on this al­bum oc­cur when typ­i­cally clas­si­cal or jazz in­stru­ments get woven into Dekker’s folk ta­pes­try. By in­cor­po­rat­ing those el­e­ments, Dekker re­news Great Lake Swim­mers’ sound while still re­tain­ing the at­mo­spheric singing and sub­tle yet in­tri­cate gui­tar play­ing that are quin­tes­sen­tial to the band. It’s a tricky bal­ance, but Dekker and his sprawl­ing team of con­trib­u­tors pull it off with

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