Sound — 7
The Great Lake Swimmers give folk music an ambient edge in their fourth studio album, Lost Channels. Their track Pulling On A Line has a tin-pan alley rustling in the guitar strokes and an orchestral flare in Everything Is Moving So Fast. Their songs have a healthy dose of Americana-stylized spirals and a tooling of folksy cuffed ripples like in Palmistry and She Comes To Me In Dreams, while producing a solid sheet of silky acoustics that move like flaccid waves along Concrete Heart. The breathiness in Concrete Heart has a lacey texture and a romantic air that contrasts the babbling ripples of She Comes To Me In Dreams. GLS' strength lies in their tight harmonies which cause the instruments and the lyrics to blend into one. The country-tinged strings and guitar strums of The Chorus In The Underground are berth by scuffling beats that are reflective of the warm, melodic sensibilities of Ray LaMontagne. The band creates such smoothness in their textures that even their wobbling beats and out-reaching guitar bows move like sonic silk. The soft, whispery riffs of Stealing Tomorrow have a soothing aura, which break into a spread of crisp rustling in the guitar strums through Still and sprinkles of glittering acoustics that form a trestle of glimmering studs along New Light. The songs have a hint of Celtic-beamed storytelling reflective of The Finns, and a fringe of Americana tones and airy-folk shudders liken to Alison Krauss. The melodies have a dreamy-folk complexion and a love of life that is contagious.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics make observations about life, the tug of war and struggling that never ends pulling and pushing people like in Pull On A Line. Other recurring themes in the lyrics include finding the light in dark places and losing one's self in one's own imagination like in Concrete Heart and She Comes To Me In Dreams. Lead singer, Tony Dekker has a voice that is so supple and lightweight that it blends into the flaccid waves of the music as flutist and harmony vocalist, Julie Fader lightly feathers the melodies with an angelic voicing. The remainder of the band, guitarist Erik Arnesen, bassist Bret Higgins and drummer Greg Millson, creates an emulsifying mixture that levitates the lyrics and moves them along the shape-shifting phrases of the melodies transitions. It's tricky to blend the lyrics into the music so completely, but the Great Lake Swimmers do it easily with lyrics that dwell on the light that comes from the corners of nature like in the album's closing track Unison Falling Into Harmony as Dekker sings, Like the unstoppable river Your beauty is gentle but forceful and fast.
Overall Impression — 7
The Great Lake Swimmers songs on their latest release, Lost Channels, have such a flaccid complexion that makes the melodies seem like they have no structure. The recording was done in historic locations, according to the band's bio, this time in the Thousand Islands region of Ontario and New York state, telling tales of these places hidden histories. The title of the album, Lost Channels, makes reference to a certain passage of the St. Lawrence, close to the recording locale, where a reconnaissance boat from a British warship went mysteriously missing in 1760. The music alludes to this river-based imagery with the sounds of howling winds, celestial bodies glistening across the night sky, and musings deep in meditation as the sounds of water move down stream. Assisting the band in bringing this imagery into sonic form is an accompaniment of musicians who contribute various parts to the songs, like Darcy Yates on bass, Erin Aurich on violin, Paul Aucoin on vibraphone, Bob Egan on pedal steel, and singer Serena Ryder on background vocals for Everything Is Moving So Fast. It is an album that is steep in rural sounding country and buds of ambient folk making the album so entirely restful, but also countered by slots of crisp rustles that ignite slight sparks in the album. Each song is calibrated differently, so you'll have to pick out which ones appeal to your sensibilities.