Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
One of the ways that you know that you're in for no good is when it gets darker and deeper into the gray, an erroneous step further into a teeth-baring, jaw-clenching storm, where blackouts and whiteouts surround you with a vicious alacrity. The steering wheel or the bi-plane has no other options to bypass the infraction, the unpredictable battering that could be in store, so it has to forage on into the unknown nastiness, crossing itself and cursing strongly that it got so bad and we're out in it - helpless sailors.
Basia Bulat kindles this romantic sentiment about a burning, shattering fleck of natural ferociousness not for the act, but for the way that they end. Here, this courageous Canadian - no stranger to blizzards and treacherous weather systems - came into the studio from out of the worst snowstorm the Midwestern part of the United States felt this winter, a real pummeling of stiff wind and nearly10 inches of the white stuff, early and enthusiastic. It was a marathon drive from Toronto the day before and bad conditions forced the beleaguered band to trudge and inch slowly through Michigan, thinking to themselves that the roads were passable and that those slowing down the show were just poor drivers who didn't know how to handle their shit in the midst of some accumulation.
They got themselves off the road early in the morning, slept ever so briefly and then recorded four songs that could all be traced to some greater power that lifts the curtain, sops up all of the rain and aftereffects and pinches the birds in the backside to get them to start schlepping songs again. The songs that Basia keeps to her name (on her just released debut Oh, My Darling) and in her personal folder of favorites are those with the faintest bits of interloping by cold, unsightly causes that then take different roads to get to the parts that you can warm your hands by, freeing them from the frostbitten hardness of where they started from. They are the soulful dioramas bobbing and orbiting around those wide and beaming eyes, having seen the bittersweet in most all occurrences and walked through planted fields where nothing has decided to grow. Bulat and her lyrics maintain astute, but forgiving memories of all past events, it seems, calling upon them for their enlightenments in those times of need and gravitating mostly to those times that were exhilarating even just in their magical briefness.
An unreleased new song is a gorgeous kiss that stings like a last slap. It's an apology and a roasting, a deservedly somber walk and "The Pilgriming Vine" is a goodbye that doesn't want to be. The protagonist is looking for that familiar silver in a lover's eyes and those recognizable rubies in the lover's words and most importantly that reassurance that the very love that made them lovers can be patched up. It's a holding pattern for breath and yet, all of the ways that it's gone about attaining these bits of discovery is like getting the wind knocked out of you by something stunning and beautiful, therefore permissable. It is where we find that light at the very end of the dead end tunnel, just a pinprick, then bigger than our head and then enough to squeeze an entire body through. They are when the ominous has been transitioned back into harmlessness, the loud, blackened clouds have gone off rolling through and are now torturing others. Bulat and her songs are when the new again happens (after the struggle and hardships), when the brooks are suddenly piping with fresh, excitable reinforcements and when the sun and moon beans have never been more welcome or awe-inspiring. It's a return, in a way, to the halcyon days, before everything or after you've lived enough, following everything. There will be more fights, more strain and anguish, but those lights always find ways of coming out again, popping so brazenly and confidently through the thickest gangs of rumblers.
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Basia Bulat Official Site
Rough Trade Records