Kingston transplants Old Haunt still found themselves dividing their time between Ontario and their new home in Montreal for their third EP of 2013. But while the scenery might still be in flux for them, the sounds of Empty Heart are very much in line with their earlier work.
Guitarist Matt Rogalsky recorded the seven-song EP, which was then mastered by Sandro Perri (Great Lake Swimmers). The band cites Townes Van Zandt and Carla Bozulich as inspiration for one half of their mix, while looking to Alvin Lucier and Tim Hecker for their electronic touches.
With Empty Heart, Old Haunt is fine-tuning a folk/ambient combination that sees Lucas Huang’s vocals echoing hauntingly over the instrumental-electronic music Matt Rogalsky and Chris Trimmer compose. There are moments, like in the final notes of the album on “Still Life,” where it becomes impossible to tell if the band is playing an instrument or recording waves rolling into shore. It’s this distorted but familiar sound that makes listening to Empty Heart captivating.
That being said, the more traditional guitar on “Lost Legs” pairs nicely with Huang’s vocals, and the riff at the end evokes classic rock before turning it all on its head with a robotic upgrade. And “Durocher” stands out as a moment where the band manages to take that folk rhythm and soften it with keys and thoughtful vocals—connecting their ambient ambitions with the traditional genre.
The album sets up a quiet escape as intros and extros hum past, while Huang, Rogalsky, and Trimmer use the moments in between to experiment with traditional folk music. There’s a modern infusion in the songs that manages to add both life and a dreamy quality to the EP, causing you to fade in and out of reality with the music as it weaves past.
Top Track: “Durocher”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)