Friday, January 30th, 2009
Review of Bruce Peninsula's A Mountain Is A Mouth
Yuula Benivolski When you’ve become gotten to know a band exclusively through their live performances, it can be difficult to accept them as a recorded entity. Especially so when the band in a live setting possess a sort of elemental energy that you can’t imagine being done justice in a studio environment. This was the case with Toronto’s Bruce Peninsula, who made a serious impression with a series of shows back in 2007 which established the band, ten members deep when at full strength, as a potent new force on the local music scene.
A listen to their first recorded output last Summer – a 7″ of traditional folk recordings – verified that they’d somehow managed to capture their sonic potency, but it took some time with their debut album A Mountain Is A Mouth – out on Tuesday – to confirm that they’d really made a record that fulfilled all the expectations that had accumulated since August of 2007. And they have.
Mountain seems to have been crafted to emulate nothing less than a massive gathering storm. Opener “Inside/Outside” coalesces from a gentle, ghostly breeze into an ominous stomp whose energy remains mostly unrelenting through the whole of side one. Pounding yet surprisingly nimble percussion alongside singer Neil Haverty’s gruff field holler provides the foundation from which the choir’s angelic voices rise. And these aren’t the touchy-feely kind of angels – they’re the flaming sword-wielding kind. But for all the effectiveness of their sound and fury, it’s the eye of the storm – the delicate “Weave Myself A Dress” – that really pulls it all together. Misha Bower’s weary-beyond-her-years vocals are devastatingly vulnerable in contrast to tumult that surrounds them. The song provides a brief but essential respite before the winds again begin to whip.
The other revelation of the album is how solid the songwriting is. By choosing to work in such an old sort of blues/gospel/folk aesthetic, the band had to face the conundrum of how to sound authentic and yet still bring something new to the table and it’s saying something that the two traditional songs they’ve included in the set fit seamlessly with the original material. It’d have been easy enough to just rely on the intensity of their delivery to impress, but they’ve still taken the time to create something richly melodic and with real depth. It’s safe to say that A Mountain Is A Mouth is most unlike anything else you’ll hear this year, and for that reason alone it’s worth your attention. And if you need another, I’ll throw in the fact that it’s excellent.
Bruce Peninsula play the Horseshoe tomorrow night in support of The Tom Fun Orchestra, play an in-store at Soundscapes on February 4 to mark the album’s release and do a proper record release show on February 22 at the Polish Combatants Hall. You can miss one, or even two of these shows. But miss all three? Not an option. Exclaim documents the formation and formulation of the band, they talk to NOW about the process of capturing their sound on tape and there’s further interviews over at Echo and The Hamilton Spectator.
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula
Neko Case sounds off on animal rights to Spinner and verifies that you shouldn’t expect to see her in any PETA ads anytime soon. Her April 18 show at Trinity-St Paul’s is almost sold out and the April 17 date probably won’t be far behind. Hesitate and lose.
Popmatters plays 20 questions with Jason Isbell. He has a date at the Horseshoe on March 4 and is swapping an MP3 from forthcoming album Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, out February 17, in exchange for your email.
NOW talks to Gary Louris on the circumstances surrounding Ready For The Flood, his collaboration with former Jayhawks partner Mark Olson. They play the Mod Club February 4 and you can stream the album right now at Spinner.