vrijdag 17 augustus 2018

The Waves, The Wake. Great Lake Swimmers

The Waves, The Wake starts as a chamber pop album. Slow, solemn, small, frail. 'The Talking Wind' instantly grabbed me, despite that frailness. It was instantly clear Great Lake Swimmers makes a statement here. With self-assurance in abundance the band makes a point: we do not need grandness to excess, we create our own with minimal effects.

Something resembling a rhythm only comes in, still soft and modest, in the second song, 'In A Certain Light'.  This song again is slow and soft.

Canadians Great Lake Swimmers are around for 15 years in 2018 and have released 7 albums over that period. The Waves, The Wake is the third album finding its way to WoNoBlog after 'New Wild Everywhere in 2012' and 'A Forest Of Arms' in 2015. There is a commonality between all these albums: things do not take off between me and Great Lake Swimmers straight away. It always comes sort of slowly (and after a while I forget about the band, until I'm slowly, but in the end pleasantly surprised once again).

With The Waves, The Wake things are not much different. The soft songs sort of passed me by at first. Yet, with each spin it became clear to me that Tony Dekker c.s. again were on to something when creating this piece of work. The Waves, The Wake is an album that has an inner intrinsic beauty. Take 'Falling Apart'. Again a song based on sparse notes and loads of atmosphere over which Dekker sings with his delicate high voice. All sorts of instruments, often associated with classical music and jazz are played to create something of enormous beauty.

Promo photo: Ga Ile Legrand
Where Great Lake Swimmers were always categorised as folk, in 2018 there's not much opportunity to do so. The band explores new routes by letting in strings and woodwinds, atmospheric playing and singing. Music befitting Kairos, the radio show on Concertzender, in short. The music gets to a depth unheard of by Great Lake Swimmers' standards. The kind of music that does not allow for middle ground. Either your with the music, giving it your all or your out. Music to immerse oneself in. Totally, fully. What I remain with to conclude is the qualification I opened this review with.

It is at these moments that the richness of The Waves, The Wake shines through. The finer details of the music reveal themselves, showing the true depths beneath those waves. Although this in some parts is a very bare album, it still allows for all these details. The percussion, deep piano notes, the arrangements, the atmosphere wrapped around the whole.

If I have to compare, The Shins come to mind, but also acts like Low Roar and Novo Amor, where Great Lake Swimmers come out somewhere in the middle. Never rocking out, but also never so delicate to the point that music almost disappears from the music on offer. There's always enough to have a song and not exclusively atmospherics.

Promo photo: Ga Ile Legrand
'Visions Of A Different World' is completely a cappella. Dekker sings over a background "choir", befitting the church the album was recorded in. The sound indeed is wide and broad. A short song, but certainly one with an effect on listeners.

Yes, it is true. Come the 10th song I do get the impression that I have heard enough songs like 'Holding Nothing Back'. Great lake Swimmers are holding back a lot here. That problem is immediately solved. 'Mouth Of Flames' comes with an electric guitar, soft and smooth, true, it does change the mood of the album, once again and right in time. It is 'The Open Sea' however that reminds me most of the Great Lake Swimmers of old. There is a folk feel, that is belied by the piano playing and the atmospherics behind the song itself. It is arguably the song holding the most tension on The Waves, The Wake. The release comes in the chorus. For the first time on the album the band presents a full drum sound, even a full band joins in, ending the album on a grand note. 'The Open Sea' is an impressive end to an impressive album.


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