Owls Blair Atkinson (L-R), Trevor Crook, Dave Comrie and Ian Russell are captured in mid-flight action during the Brandon Folk Festival last year.
This alarmingly stark message comes from the chorus of "Gossamer In Gale" off Sebastian Owl’s newly released CD, The Needle is Broken, The Compass Spins.
The subtle yet crisp piano intro turns into the haunting backdrop for the near hymn-like lead-off track of this collection of carefully crafted tunes.
This ambitious 11-track package is "the most extensive recording ever to come out of Brandon’s Garageland studios," according to producer Mike Posthumus, who says took him and the band approximately half a year "off and on" to complete.
Posthumus managed to find the proper balance for the multitude of instruments used on this disc and the tracks required to capture them.
He does so without getting things sounding too complex, which is a bonus for this listener who thoroughly enjoyed the musical mix of moods offered up on the disc.
The one constant throughout the CD that piqued my curiosity was the seemingly thematic lyrical content. Listening to lead singer Blair Atkinson deliver the oft-times heavy lyrical content is like an exercise in introspection; however, this seems quite fitting given the title of the disc.
In some cases you get melody lines laced with forlorn intonation, which blossoms into hope by the time the last chorus comes around.
The best examples of this sort of playful musical refrain are displayed in "Tallest Man on Earth" and "Wide Awakened".
It’s been said that a true mark of a great song is when it sets a mood. The Needle Is Broken, The Compass Spins hits that mark many times.
With the track "Eulogy", Atkinson’s pleading message takes the listener from melancholy to celebratory, all within the space of this five-minute-plus rolling opus.
The song seems to sweep along between the speakers while building to a furious peak. This track is intense stuff that puts you in a chilled frame of mind, chilled as in bone chilling.
While Atkinson’s vocal paints the picture from the narrative point of view with such conviction, the track builds to form a relentless grip on the listener.
There are similar experiences throughout the disc, which even with its complexities, forms a fine formulaic balance between folk and rock.
When you hear these compositions, it is clearly evident that this project was thoroughly thought out every step of the way.
Sure it’s methodical, but there is a playful musical spontaneity that remains — especially on tracks such as six, which kicks into hyper yet happy hoedown mode early and stays there for the duration of the buoyant horn-laden track "Go Steady."
From the songwriting to in-studio performances, every standpoint proves its importance when you hear how detailed these tracks are.
According to Posthumus, throughout the six-month recording process the guys were quite co-operative in order to make the songs as strong as possible.
"They are always open to new ideas and I learned a lot from them as well," he said.
Having a huge variety of instruments offered Posthumus a complicated yet enjoyable task at Garageland.
"It was a huge learning experience for me as I was recording strings, brass, piano and guitars — truly the most eclectic mix of instruments I’ve ever tackled. I also played electric guitar on the track ‘Let Go. As always, it was a fun experience and a very talented group of guys."
Check out this highly talented group of local players at The 40 during Ridgefest weekend. Their set is Sunday, July 15, or catch them the following weekend at the Brandon Folk Music and Art Festival.
*** Next week in Happenings on the scene, the full line up and set time details for Ridgefest 9!
1. "Gossamer In Gale"
2. "Brother Moon"
3. "Tallest Man On Earth"
6. "Road In The Clearing"
8. "Go Steady"
9. "Moving On"
10. "Let Go"
11. "Wide Awakened"
• Blair Atkinson — mandolin, piano and vocals
• Trevor Crook — drums/vocals
• Dave Comrie — guitar/vocals
• Ian Russell — bass/vocals.
Special guest musicians on
The Needle is Broken,
The Compass Spins
• John Baron — violin
• Andrea Rocha — cello
• Ryan Premack — trombone
• Julian Beutel — trumpet
• Mike Posthumus — electric guitar (on "Let Go")
Frank McGwire is a radio personality and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 28, 2012