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
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