- by Steve Rhodes Release Date:2017-03-24 Label: Yellow K Records
Electronica has been alive and well in Canada for some time, with Austra, Purity Ring and Young Galaxy producing well received releases that often delve into the dreamier end of the spectrum. Ontarian duo Alice Hansen and Chuck Blazevic fit neatly into the foray with their You'll Never Get To Heaven project, but rather than going for an over-produced, clinical and inert polish, ambience, atmospherics and subtle sampling are more comfortable bedfellows as nicely demonstrated on third album Images.
'Shared Dream' sets the stall with Alice's almost wafer-thin Sarah Cracknell vocals, etheriel, electronic sounds and lightly-programmed drums leading the way. The song becomes more interesting as a plucked bass appears and the sounds begin to envelop, with what sounds like an underwater marimba, touching on a slight oriental feel to a rather passive opener.
'White Light' follows with an effortlessly hypnotic, almost-weightless vocal, backed by a descending 3-note bass and a touch of white noise crackles. Synths sway in and out of the track and random electronic sounds permeate the surroundings, with Japan-esque segued keys providing a great hook to cling on to. A beautiful and atmospheric, if fairly insubstantial track.
The title track picks up the pace, taking a more beat-laden stance whilst maintaining Alice Hansen's glacial vocals. Pockets of electronic noises pop up from all around, tempered by a rather annoying electronic percussion note that sounds like a hammering of a toy xylophone set. The fairly languid verse develops in a traditional manner into a fuller chorus but struggles to forge any real identity.
Despite the false starts the album markedly improves with 'To Be Fair'. Decayed, buried percussion, a walking bass and deep synth chords builds the song into a symphonic chorus, that could sit easily with fellow natives You Say Party or Bjork's glorious Homogenic LP. Alice's subtle vocals, taking more of back seat, with a feel close to Annemari Davies of The Field Mice, allows the swelling synths to take centre stage. Adding a further flourish the track is topped with a beautifully soothing outro, where rustling water crackles are joined by moody synths and haunting samples.
'Exquisite Tension' is equally strong. A more structurally sound track from the off, as rolling basslines, low-paced drums and xylophone noises provide a luscious backing for Alice's vocal. Added walls of synths and high-end keys all contribute to a memorable, hypnotic track. The alleged tension of the title is conspicuously absent, as like with much of the album it is a deeply relaxed listen. Lyrics are pretty hard to pick out though the poignant “dancing me to sleep” seems to resonate with the serenity of the track.
There is room on the album for solid instrumental, ambient soundscapes that add depth to the release. 'Still' possesses nothing more than a buried, chorded synth, shrilled keys, repeated piano notes and a 'thin' bass. A mood piece that could rival Marconi Union for relaxation. 'Shadow Garden' likewise is unhurried, with repeated and treated strummed guitar chords and buried piano keys leading the way. Layers of pastoral noises appear to add further substance, becoming more frequent as the song progresses to an atmospheric conclusion. Even the introduction of the odd dystopian howl does not distract the remaining instrumentation from retaining their set course. 'Vapor Frames' is perhaps the best of these, taking a nod from Brave Timbers or Stranger Things in the afterlife, it is an calming intermission, with lots of echo and delay on the sumptuous chords and bass keys adding heart and warmth to a deeply chilled track.
The album's centre-point though is 'Wind', as heartfelt piano, buried keys and echoed drum samples link perfectly with Alice's vocals, at their most dreamiest. The song becomes more enveloped in duskier atmospherics, that add texture rather than overwhelm the track. A masterclass in simplicity.
As if almost the hammer the point home album closer 'Rain Copy' possesses dream-like lullaby qualities in the vein of Piano Magic or Frazier Chorus, as haunting descending four-chord keys are left alone to wrap up proceedings, sending the listener into a deep, undisturbed sleep. A fitting conclusion to a peaceful record, Images is the perfect soundtrack to render all troubles obsolete, at least for a moment.