reviewed by Chris Matei
Aidan Knight returns from a fairly lengthy absence (since 2012’s Small Reveal) with Each Other – a subdued collection of songs whose murmured lyrical cadences and subdued swells hide true poetic depth at every turn. His mood here is explorative, introverted and decidedly auteur-ish: the album itself, recorded live off the floor with a full band in The Bathouse Studios outside of Kingston, ON by Stars/Arcade Fire/The National engineer Marcus Paquin, comes complete with breakdowns of engineering minutiae and is recommended for consumption on quality stereo equipment only.
And yet, it was almost abandoned: as Knight revealed in a recent interview with Exclaim! Magazine, “This long extended period of trying to figure out the release of [Each Other] just really had me thinking, ‘Do I want to release this? Do I wanna just give up now and think of taking a new career path?’ Sometimes it gets dark in between those periods of having fun with your friends making music.” That darkness and uncertainty is certainly laid bare at times in the finished product.
A bevy of synthesizers were brought to bear on this record, a sprinkling of tape manipulation, a generous helping of musical esoterica, but it is hardly the kind of maximalist thing you might expect from such a weighty list of personnel and instruments. The intricacies of Knight’s work never go to such extremes as either the tectonically shifting weightiness of the National, nor the electro-street-orchestra jubilance of the Arcade Fire, but they are finely and expertly wrought. Little trills, micro-dynamic changes and wordless changes of expression seem to worm their way into every corner of Each Other right from the greeting-card opening of the title track: “congratulate my friends on the birth of a healthy son… take him quietly and hold him in your arms.” The line delivery hangs expertly between reverent, lullabying, and utterly depressed.
The songs here work best as impressionistic, reverb-painted canvasses for Knight’s emotional explorations, be they intimate or sprawling in scope. It’s a slowly, languidly unfolding record, keeping the backgrounds diffused and starry-eyed as the lyrics pour forth in that semi-deadpan Andrew Bird fashion, making the complications sound easy and turning the easy things into beautifully poetic abstractions. There’s an unspoken harmony with the caramel-warm slide tones on “The Funeral Singers” as Knight sings about being “stretched out like parking tickets on the dash of a car” – the lyrics seem just as much a part of the arrangement as any other instrument.
Each Other is finest in its middle section: “What Light Never Goes Dim” takes on the telling of a reflectively romantic tale in delightfully sweet and thoughtful terms, as Knight admits “I am not in love with the sound of my voice: I have been in love only one time,” stretching the titular phrase into a sighing galaxy of glittery synths, pulsing like the warmth of a good memory. “The Arp” almost feels like the other side of that coin, a meditation on the challenges that went into making music post-Small Reveal, regret and the struggle with “cutting off parts” of things: “burning memories – oh what a life that I have lived, and I’ll live it again.”
Whether pushing out toward the edges of analog echoscapes or sitting shrouded in dark with the clatter of fingers and plectrum as his only companions, Each Other is a beautiful examination of intimacy and personal space from Aidan Knight.
Top Tracks: “What Light Never Goes Dim,” “The Arp”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*