New Snowblink album ‘Returning Current’ navigates the waters, in both sunshine and starlight

By Kennedy Enns
Snowblink’s latest effort sails us through past relationships. Photo: Danielle Rubi

Snowblink’s latest effort sails us through past relationships.
Photo: Danielle Rubi

CALGARY — The antlers that grace Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink’s “hand-me down [Gibson] SG” have been affixed there for almost a decade. Before her move from the United States, Gesundheit dreamed that her guitar had moose antlers, which she credits as a “premonition” of the band’s eventual relocation to Canada. But the “clearly impractical” moose antlers were replaced by caribou antlers, a bizarre, but apt analog to the band itself, whose musical commitment is dream-like manifestations of the subconscious, even when those manifestations are somehow canted. The Toronto/Los Angeles electric folk pop duo have returned with their newest album Returning Current, which released on September 9th, their first since 2012’s vibrant Inner Classics.

Returning Current was a labour of love, which Gesundheit tells BeatRoute, “took its time to unfold.” The duo spent a year writing at the Banff Performing Arts Centre in an artists’ residency, another year recording, and yet another in production. The album started as a moodboard filled with a collection of “images, sounds and lyric fragments” until slowly a theme emerged. Gesundheit and Dan Goldman organically incorporated ideas like Santa Fe, desert landscapes, calypso disco, flash floods and natural disasters from the moodboard into their album.

These themes were then used to investigate different relationships the two have had. Songs like “Cyclone” “use the idea of a tornado to describe somebody who comes in and completely destroys you and turns your world upside down just by knowing them.” Whereas “Cobalt Clear” has an “even-tempered, tropical feeling” inspired by the desert.

Gesundheit and Goldman enjoy a commitment to experimentation, but not just with sonic landscapes, the duo also plays with the iconography of the album format. In a play on the analog divide between A and B side on a true LP, Returning Current is divided into both a “daytime” and a “nighttime” side. Each half offers the listener a focused lens with which to view the themes of the record.

With such a lengthy production cycle, Returning Current became a process-driven project, and thus, the band brought in outside musicians, producers, and engineers. Gesundheit and Goldman are extremely well-connected and managed to score some serious heavy hitters including Feist, Owen Pallet and AroarA (Andrew Whiteman and Ariel Engle), who then helped create the sounds with a plethora of instruments, including acoustic guitars, saxophones, trombones, synthesizers, four different drum sets and three different string sections.

“We’ve found the greatest work has come out of bringing other people in that we trust,” Gesundheit explains. “We wanted to bring in artists we love and admire in and let them have as much agency as they wanted in the process.”

The final product is an intimate collection of stories that walk the listener through different relationships the duo has had, both with others and with themselves. A press release describes the sound as “sensual, not sterile, elegantly imperfect, wabi sabi,” (wabi sabi being the Japanese worldview of accepting transience and imperfection).

The first single, “Feel Like A Man,” is Gesundheit’s way of combating the pressures of having to “be in drag” or act overtly masculine in order to succeed. A “masculinity burn-out,” the lyrics map out strategies to stop “striving in a masculine way,” but along the way is confronted with the temptations of the social utility thereof.

Snowblink describes their music as “non-denominational pop.” By removing overt religious consciousness while still allowing themselves into “the deep end of experience” that can be found in religious music, they have created a “pop paradox.”

Snowblink’s North American tour stops in Western Canada through mid- to late September. Catch them Sept. 18 at Park Theatre (Winnipeg), Sept. 19 at Bassment (Saskatoon), Sept. 21 at Broken City (Calgary), and Sept. 23 at China Cloud (Vancouver).

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