Music

Great Lake Swimmers: Great Lake Swimmers

Mark Horan

The aural equivalent of a quiet late-summer night spent sitting in the backyard with only a cool breeze, the crickets, and your regrets to keep you company.


Great Lake Swimmers

Great Lake Swimmers

Label: Misra
US Release Date: 2005-04-05
UK Release Date: 2004-03-29
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Recorded in an abandoned grain silo in rural southern Ontario, the debut album from Canada's Great Lake Swimmers evokes a feeling of wide open spaces and dark, back-country roads. Finally available here in the States on Misra Records, the disc was actually released last year in Canada and Europe, where it has garnered numerous accolades and given the band a loyal and constantly growing fan base.

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tony Dekker (who essentially is Great Lake Swimmers) quietly intoxicates listeners with the effective combination of his lonely songs and minimalist production style, which gives Great Lake Swimmers it's deliciously dark core. The organic recording environment of the silo, with it's natural, ghostly echo and incidental sounds, further serves to make things feel as intimate as is worldly possible. The tracks whisper in your ear, and you get the feeling that it's always night time in Dekker's universe, where the business of the day has receded, and contemplative thoughts occupy the mind.

What Dekker so deftly accomplishes with Great Lake Swimmers is channeling his considerable influences into a music that is completely his own. Harvest-era >Neil Young is certainly a steady presence on the album's 10 songs, as is Mark Kozelek's more acoustic work and, to a lesser extent Nick Drake, whose influence is more one of atmosphere than style. Yet however huge these influences may be (and each of them is certainly significant enough on their own to artistically strangle a lesser musician or songwriter) it's Dekker's voice in the end that you recall when you run Great Lake Swimmers through your head.

Opening cut Moving Pictures, Silent Films sets the mood for the rest of the album, which rarely deviates from its initial blueprint. Gently plucked acoustic guitars, awash in echo, weave majestically with delicate, minimalist piano runs and a bass that's just barely there. Dekker adds a lovely vocal melody sung in his warbly, warm tenor voice and an impossibly catchy chorus and the effect is complete. It's the aural equivalent of the thousand yard stare. While the rest of the album adds some lap steel, accordion, and drums here and there, it's this basic instrumentation, modest and unfussy, that is the foundation of Great Lake Swimmers.

While there may not be much variation from track to track, it still works mainly because of Dekker's strong writing and the overwhelming presence that the disc possesses. This is an album, not merely a collection of songs. I suggest that if you want the full experience, it should be listened to uninterrupted, from start to finish. The overall feel of Great Lake Swimmers reminds me a lot of R.E.M.'s Murmur in the way that it evokes a feeling of the past without being too time or place specific. It's like watching an old black and white silent film, where your imagination can add a lot to the story, depending on where your mind wants to take it.

Great Lake Swimmers gives voice to that late-summer feeling of melancholy that we all can tap into and relate with. With the US release of their sophomore album Bodies and Minds due in late August (when else?), you should have enough soundtrack to enjoy a beautifully bittersweet summer for the whole year. Seasons be damned.

8

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image