by Joseph Purcell
Aaron Powell, the Canadian artist behind the Fog Lake project, has ventured through his own lived experience on his enchanting and exposing new record, Tragedy Reel
Fuelled by his scant geographical surroundings in Newfoundland, Canada, Powell has woven together intimate vignettes on small town life and tragedy. In a seemingly perfect marriage of melody and inspiration, Powell’s soft ethereal tones come together with tales of loss, addiction and broken friendships. There is a yearning grasp for nostalgia, before he crashes into the abyss of despair – as the realisation dawns that those times have passed.
Opener, Crystalline, is delightful, sparse, moody and filled with angst – and its soundtrack flits around Powell’s words in a hazy, mesmeric manner. Anchored by the propulsive drone at its centre, it sets the template for the record.
The sprightly banjos of Dakota follow, and the brisk moreish sounds provoke an evocative image of bright summer afternoons on the album’s most upbeat moment. Yet, turmoil is still at its centre. Powell, detailing his feelings of being torn between home and the big city, sings – ‘I wouldn’t wanna stay here with you / But I don’t wanna leave here without you’ – before reiterating – ‘You’re calling me back/ I’m one of them/ I put the past away.’
Powell has previously lent his voice to Little Kid’s SUN MILK album, and on Latter Day Saint, Kenny Boothby returns the favour. But on Catacombs, Powell’s voice has a striking resemblance to that of the fellow Canadian on a track that ebbs and flows, but manages to retain just enough air to stay above water.
Elsewhere, Crocodile is perhaps the record’s pinnacle. A hushed piano driven séance, each vocal line dances serenely – yearning to break free, but remaining. beautifully restrained. A moment of pause offers another rueful glance to the past, ‘sometimes I miss the way I was when you were around.’
Musically, Tragedy Reels is an eerie slow creeping affair. Haunting acoustic strafes clash with stifled pianos – before the overarching synth brings levity and a forceful propulsion to its base. Comparisons to Sufjan Stevens have previously been made, but, while a compliment, they also downplay Powell’s unique talents; on Tragedy Reel he is very much his own artist with his own sound.
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