Feature Story Tuesday, January 31, 2017
A Chip off the Old Block
Parkland features new "Monument" album at Tractorgrease
Robert Malowany/Photos submitted
Robert Malowany with special guest Robin James Hunter at Tractorgrease Café February 23.
arkland’s debut double 12” (Singularity) was primarily a solo album, recorded in Malowany’s home studio with some overdubbed guest parts.
Monument brings a hand-picked ensemble into Vancouver’s Afterlife Studio, where engineer John Raham captured the sounds to tape before handing them to Rob for mixing and a couple of judicious overdubs.
Malowany’s process involves roughly sketching out song ideas before bringing them to the group in the studio, allowing the other musicians to spontaneously interpret and move the songs along. Monument was recorded in one day, with no prior rehearsal.
The songs were a week old to Rob, brand new to the other players. The result is pure, raw, and emotionally connected interplay from Fond of Tigers front man Stephen Lyons (on drums here), guitarist Paul Rigby (Neko Case, Art Bergmann), bassist John Savella (aka Johnny Wildkat), and experimental guitarist Tom Wherrett.
The push and pull between the alt-country/indie-folk song sketches and the expansiveness of interpretation mirrors the vulnerable dynamic of the lyrics. The uncertainty—and immense possibility—of putting one’s true self out into the world.
Side A’s three pieces explore themes of loss and longing, home and dislocation, the unattainable and the left behind, all with a maturity that is more nuanced and positive than mere weary resignation.
The intense “Take Me Now”—which at 17 minutes occupies the entirety of side B—looks to find beauty in death, seeing it as the ultimate expression of a life lived. A slow-burning, dark groove disintegrates and reemerges with more fire, Malowany’s voice a raw cry to the heavens.
Malowany is, by his own admission, not a poet. But poetry doesn’t have a monopoly on deep meaning. Rob’s plaintive lyrics are expressive, relatable and cathartic.
These are powerful vocals, not bedroom whispers. Feeding off the energy of the live band, Malowany morphs his lyrics and vocal delivery with the intensity of a madman and the deftness of a jazz improviser.
As melancholy as some moments on the record are, it moves towards—if not the market-ready definition of “joy”—most certainly a mature balance of the dark and the light.
On beautiful white vinyl, and featuring cover art by Dave Wilson (who also provided art for Singularity), the album is also available as a download through offseasonrecords.com, Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes, and other online services.
Listen to a sample here.
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