Isaac Vallentin describes Hedera as “a near 40-minute torrent of texture and colour, both balanced and chaotic, simultaneously empty and overflowing.” This ambitious description of a recording is usually one that I would be quick to roll my eyes at but does Vallentin ever get it right. Hedera (another name for ivy) is a dense display of electronics, hushed guitars, poetics, and some plant imagery for a little extra colour. Frequently changing into something completely different with every passing bar, Hedera is one of the most detailed and diverse recordings you will hear all year.
At times Vallentin is reminiscent of fellow Ottawa dwellers The Acorn’s 2015 standout record Vieux Loup but where Vieux Loup sounds smooth and sexy, Vestige stutters with anxiety, grief, and uncertainty – a soundscape that’s equally powerful nevertheless.
Very early on, in the opener “Cloud of Smoke”, we find Vallentin mourning, graphically revealing, “I loved you so much that I gave you my arms to use as a weapon when you got afraid.” Later, in “Hindsight” the uncertainty takes over, admitting, “In hindsight, I’d say you’re right: I waste my life chasing something only I can see.” The sentiments found in these two similarly minimalist guitar-driven pieces continues under a different guise throughout the LP. In the pulsing and scattered “Fake Harp,” Vallentin sings, “you stand over me, stealing momentum” while in “Garden I (You Own To Fight),” a hushed and skittery number, he explores his vocal range a little more, singing in a vulnerable sounding falsetto, “I like it when you lie or make a face of disdain, but we’re “happy,” and our parents are approving of our love.”
Shedding a little light on all this darkness is “Selena” – the most danceable and straight up groovy sounding track from Vallentin. Sampling the words of Audrey Hepburn from the movie Sabrina and mixing it with a poppy beat and a light backing melody, this needs to be added to your post-work “dance-it-out” playlist. (Or the beginning of one if you don’t already have one!)
In a record filled with numerous intricate moments worthy of attention, the all-instrumental “Peach Boy” has an almost 8-bit quality to it, “I Will Be Water” drips with emotion, and “Screaming Light” is a reverb-heavy acoustic guitar centred that is the closest things we get to a folk-rock song while still managing to match Hedera’s overall vibe.
Allow yourself to be covered by the multiple layers of Hedera.
Top Tracks: “Selena”; “I Will Be Water”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)