By Michael Dunn
The reconciliation of disparate influences is a difficult task for a songwriter. To locate the intersection where Dinosaur Jr, Brian Wilson, Nashville pedal steel and Krautrock synths can blend seamlessly, independent of each other, yet harmonize into a satisfying artistic statement, is a spell that few artists would attempt to conjure, let alone execute with aplomb as Shuyler Jansen has on his fourth full-length release, The Long Shadow.
“Idle City” leads off the record in a familiar alt-country style. An acoustic guitar is accompanied by a heavily-drenched-in-Leslie electric before an off-kilter beat drops in with sharp starts and stops punctuated by Mike Silverman’s wild Keith Moon fills. It drifts in and out of a straight ahead beat, presenting a pleasant challenge of locating the groove for the listener.
Throughout the first side, Jansen’s past as a pillar of Alberta alt-country with Old Reliable is evident in the synth and tremolo push of the arena-appropriate “Old Machine,” and the interwoven nostalgia and weariness on “We Should Just Fall.” The cinematic, orchestral melancholia of “Unknowing Heart” finds Jansen’s falsetto channeling Neil Young in harmony with Kacy Lee Anderson’s breathier tones. “Treasure Trove” brings up the volume considerably, like a fuzzed out rocket blasting into the James Bond-space-disco of “Sharpest Diamond”. Once he’s taken you to the farther reaches, Jansen keeps you floating on “Silver Heart”, while “Mercury” is a pleasant comedown from the rush, a folk-country/lounge lullaby, reaching out and asking, “Can I sleep in your arms, or should I say ‘so long?’”
Supported by the sympathetic playing of some of Western Canada’s best roots musicians, including David Carswell (Destroyer), Ryan Boldt and Chris Mason (Deep Dark Woods), Kacy & Clayton, Jaxon Haldane (D. Rangers) and Paul Rigby (Neko Case), The Long Shadow ranks among the strongest work of Shuyler Jansen’s lengthy career.Shuyler Jansen, The Long Shadow