For the past couple of years, Alien8Recordings has been putting out some amazing music that runs the gamut in terms of sound. They've released everything from deconstructed ambient electronic by Tim Hecker to the haunting Appalachian folk vs middle-eastern beauty of Tanakh. Along with Constellation (and perhaps now Paper Bag), they form a hugely solid backbone for great Canadian music. Having said all the above, and knowing the already eclectic back catalogue of Alien8, I probably shouldn't find this release by Soft Canyon as so surprising, but it nonetheless threw me for a complete loop the first time I heard it (and even a bit since then).
Rising from the ashes of the band Tricky Woo, Soft Canyon is just about everything you'd expect from seeing their 70's psych influenced cover art. There's a touch of Allman Brothers, a bit of Neil Young, and a small dose of even The Grateful Dead (true!) in the swirling pot of sounds that is Broken Spirit, I Will Mend Your Wings. With 11 tracks and about 35 minutes of music, it even falls into perfect LP length (and given the amazing LP packaging by Alien8 in the past, you can bet they're going to be all over this one).
Literally from the first track of "For You," you're going to feel like you've been pitched headlong back into the late 60s or early 70s. Several layers of guitars just sort of smooth together (except for the restrained guitar solo), and buzzing synths add another flavor over gritty bass and drums that sound like they were recorded with one mic in the middle of an empty auditorium. "Hope's Great Divide" just keeps it coming, with a verse/chorus cycle so familiar that you'll swear you've heard it before and warm guitar riffs that meld nicely with the psychedelic vocal style.
There are several short tracks on the disc that basically pass the time and not much more. "The Illumination Of You" is a minute-long strummed acoustic guitar number and "I Have Salmon Arms" is the 15-second "slab o jam" that feels like a quick burst of energy cut from a particularly inspired improvisation session. The track that will really get the lighters going, though, is "We Threw Our Love Into The Universe" (the song titles are so retro it hurts as well). Coming in at 7 minutes, it shows the most dynamics for the group, building into a wall-of-sound number that evokes Pink Floyd. Oddly enough, the release sounds like a debut album. Although their influences mostly seem to be about 20 years old, they're worn directly on the sleeve and instead of updating the sound or advancing it, most of the tracks seem like well-done homages. The group is obviously talented, and hopefully they'll walk their own way a little more on future recordings.