reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
The landscape, the wild, the diversity of natural biomes has become one of the things that Canadians cling to when looking for our own identity, particularly in art. Look at the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and the Tragically Hip. Post-Rock outfit Nothingness carry this on, embracing the landscape from which they rose and threading it through their debut album, Being.
Truly an example of why showing bests telling, act-break like instrumental portraits give the album a uniqueness and a unity. “Pender Island” kicks it off with sullen floating guitar notes and horns that tether the track to the ground. The transition feels like a fog clearing to make way for “Annie’s Song”: a love song laced with political convictions and just enough fear to make the sweetness authentic. A melodic baseline is marrow in the bones of the track, sweet when the lyrics aren’t.
After the dynamic rise and fall of “Riverrun”, “Sunshine Coast” hikes in (quite literally) to begin the next section of Being. “Sunshine Coast” is anything but sunny — much like its namesake for most of the year. Haunted strings possess the crash of waves with emotion. The track is dark, and sets the tone for the stormy second part of the album.
“Welcome child, to the other side, to the darkest world, with the brightest light,” is the introduction we get to “Overflow”, which careens into chaos and delivers like puffs of entropy into the world. “Sun of Mine” continues the unbinding. At nine and a half minutes, there’s delicacy paired with noisiness, organic strings paired with electric guitar, and enough texture to get lost in. The track was previously dubbed a “wintertime must hear” by Grayowl Point, and works as a perfect centrepiece to the album.
“Haymaker” mixes this noisiness with melody. The lyrics are what strike most powerfully on this track, poignant at some moments and playful at others. “Dreamers are waking up, it’s about to get loud, or maybe it won’t come,” Bill Young sings as the music builds before dropping into soft calm. Keeping up with the tantalizing spirit, the song spins into a false ending before a buzzy sudden finish.
A change of pace is marked by the warm crackling of “Strathcona Park”: the final instrumental break on the album. It’s almost as though Nothingness are warming up to the emotional ignition of “Sacrifice”. A choir joins Young for what is perhaps the most weighty moment on the album. We feel the sorrow like deeply bedded tree roots and the ecstasy like Douglas firs reaching up, up, up.
When I began writing about Nothingness’ Being, I tried to select which songs to reference, but the truth is that each piece of the album is so necessary to the others that to omit any would be untruthful. Sometimes dense, sometimes soaring , it’s safe to say that Being takes you somewhere else, somewhere dangerous and beautiful, and leaves you with more than you came with.
Top Tracks: “Annie’s Song”; “Sacrifice”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) + *swoop*