Canada’s Great Lake Swimmers have established their alluring sound through a combination of low-lit ambiance and celestial soundscapes, essential ingredients that have helped lend an atmospheric element to their wholly mellow musings. However for their latest opus, the ambiguously titled The Waves, The Wake, these Juno Prize contenders operating under the leadership of chief helmsman Tony Dekker opted to take things down even further in terms of their unobtrusive settings.
The object was to record the album absent one of a key instrument: acoustic guitar. Presumably that means someone was on furlough, but as evidenced by the results, that timbre was barely missed at all. The band still manage to ply their lovely, if elusive, melodies, and if specific tracks—“The Talking Wind,” “In a Certain Light” and “Falling Apart” in particular—seem especially hushed, it’s merely an outgrowth of their usual unassuming approach.
The shimme that illuminate such songs as “Mouth of Flames” and “The Open Sea” are contrasted, albeit briefly, in the upbeat tick of “Alone But Not Alone” and the quiet insistence of “Side Effects,” but it’s the acapella “Visions of a Distant World” that best defines the effort overall. The album was recorded in the 145 year-old Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church in London, Ontario, and given the environs, it gives some indication as to the sedate, worshipful nature of the songs.
While some may tend to interpret those twilight tones as a slumber fest, the overall beauty of The Waves further illuminates its charms. The delicate pluck of strings that resonates throughout “Holding Nothing Back” and “Unmaking the Bed” simulates the sound of a lullaby while underscoring melodies that are both elusive and surreal. Granted, it’s hardly the kind of thing one would play for guests at a wild party or as the prelude to a night out, but it resonates all the same. The Waves, The Wake is simply an extension of Great Lake Swimmers’ ongoing instincts, and in that regard, it finds them following through to until they realize those very last strokes.
Watch Great Lake Swimmers’ 2018 Paste studio session below: