Audio Mixer: Jarrett Bartlett.
Recording information: Ahmad/Snider Cottage; Florence Gardens, Ottawa, ON; Port William Sound, Mountain Grove, ON.
Following 2010's No Ghost and its accompanying remix collection Make the Least of the Day: No Ghost Reinterpreted, Canadian indie-folk ensemble the Acorn took a hiatus as its members dispersed throughout the nation and primary singer/songwriter/guitarist Rolf Klausener concentrated on electronic side project Silkken Laumann. Vieux Loup, the Acorn's first release in five years, consists of songs Klausener wrote during that time period, and finds the project shifting to a sparser, more electronic-tinged sound. The album's eight songs are framed by intimate acoustic guitar and vocals, and feature subtle production tricks and textures. Klausener's arrangements here are impressive, paying attention to space and dynamics, and letting the instruments breathe clearly in the mix while still leaving room for experimentation. Standouts "Palm Springs" and "Influence" both feature low-slung disco beats and breathy and echo-shrouded vocals along with post-rock guitar trickery. "Influence" in particular has deep bass pulses and eerie electronic tones shifted off to the right speaker, catching the listener off guard if listening on headphones. The song's vocal melody sounds pleasingly familiar, bringing to mind Arthur Russell without sounding directly like any of his songs. "In Silence" begins as a soft, ambient-folk lullaby, then abruptly cuts into crashing, distorted drums and ghostly background vocals for a few measures during the song's bridge before returning to its calm, meditative state. Male/female vocal duet "Dominion" is the album's most rousing folk-rock tune, but it still has an ethereal, forest-like feel, with lush instrumentation outfitting its serenely driving rhythm and vocal harmonies. Even though Vieux Loup is markedly different from its predecessors in the Acorn's catalog, it feels like a natural, graceful evolution, and is an elegantly understated, resonant listening experience. ~ Paul Simpson