S#@t You Should’ve Heard Before: Bruce Peninsula – Open Flames / At The Dakota

That was Bruce Peninsula, the world’s roughest choir, playing the first track off their new record, Open Flames. It’s a great record, filled with call-and-response vocals and by far the most interesting instrumental parts I’ve heard from these musicians–they’ve got these progressive, snaky parts with these shivering, delicate vocals like glass over top of them, ready to fall apart at any point in the album. For me, that sort of a base to build songs on is going to always create a sense of unease, a roughness in the music that prevents it from ever being boring or comfortable, even when it’s soothing and beautiful.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to see the full force of Bruce Peninsula in a small bar, like the Dakota Tavern in Toronto, where they’re playing this week. When there’s this many singers in the room, having them all moving in and out of the songs can’t help but create dynamics like you never see. The crush of the vocals when they come in behind the lead of “In Your Light.”

52 seconds in… The music stops and the singers hit you like a hammer.

Open Flames works best when you have the time to listen to it from start to finish, but I found certain tracks quickly started making their way to other playlists, pulling themselves out of context. The spiritual center of the record is, for me, in the push and pull between the 6th track, Open Flame–a dense track alive with shifting moods and a serene interlude that serves to ground the sometimes distressing moods in the rest of their work–and the 7th, Or So I Dreamed, which I can only describe as deceptively tranquil.

I was fortunate enough to see a brief set from this group at a CD release party for Bruce Peninsula member Tamara Lindeman, who composes solo as The Weather Station. Her new album is a low-key alt-folk affair, beautiful and understated. That was a great show, and I can’t recommend either of these acts enough.

Catch Bruce Peninsula this Wednesday at the Dakota before they go back on tour for god-only-knows how long.

Cause what am I if not just dust, just dust …

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