Leif Vollebekk

Leif Vollebekk

New Ways is a new album by Montreal’s Leif Vollebekk, his hotly anticipated follow-up to the Polaris Prize finalist Twin Solitude. It’s a record that lives between the kick and the snare, in that instant of feeling before the backbeat.

“The way that it was is the way it should be,” Vollebekk sings on “Phaedrus”—a line that’s a memory and a wish. New Ways is that too: the sound of desire in its unfolding. Two years ago, things were changing so fast, and the songwriter didn’t want to forget. “I often think of Leonard Cohen’s line, ‘I hope you’re keeping some kind of record,’” he says. “So I did.” It was like he was pretending you can compose a soundtrack to your own life (which perhaps you can).

In the end, New Ways is a document of everything Vollebekk felt, the way each moment arrived and moved through him. Whereas Twin Solitude was about self-reflection, New Ways is about engaging and changing, touching and being touched. It’s a physical record, with louder and tighter grooves, and the rawest lyrics the musician has ever recorded. A portrait of beauty, desire, longing, risk, remembrance—without an instant of regret. “She’s my woman and she loved me so fine,” goes the chorus to one tune. “She’ll never be back.”

“Anything that I wouldn’t ever want to tell anyone—I just put it on the record,” Vollebekk says: tenderness and violence, sex and rebirth, Plato and Julie Delpy. A story told through details—“the sun through my eyelids,” “a sign on the highway covered in rain.” The songs came fast—recorded a week here, a week there, initially just Leif and a drummer. “After each take, we’d go into the control room and listen back and see how it felt,” he says. “If it didn’t feel right we’d do it again, or switch from piano to guitar, or change the drum sound, or the microphones.” Once they got it, he’d move on. Never at rest, always in movement: 10 different tracks for 10 states of motion—each with its own pulse, drawing the listener in.

There’s the heat of the night and the cool blue of morning, hints of Prince and Bill Withers, the limbo of a lover’s transatlantic flight. “Hot Tears” is all hot-blooded memory. “Apalachee Plain” is a clamorous goodbye. “I’m Not Your Lover” would be a perfect love-song were it not for its chorus—a song that lets two opposites be true at once. “That last record I made for me,” Vollebekk admits. “This one is for someone else.”

Imagine the singer at the end of last September, performing at midnight in one of Montreal’s rarest and most intimate venues—a century-old porno theatre called Cinema L’Amour, a temple to the true and the carnal. He was sitting at a piano. The chords were moving like shadows on a wall. “She’s my woman and she loved me so fine!” Leif cried, singing to the rafters. “She’ll never be back.”

When everything was finally over—when the mixes were perfect and the masters cued up—Leif says listening to the album was like re-watching a film. “Now I knew what was going to happen,” he remembers. “Now the moments didn’t feel fleeting—they felt eternal, almost fated. The songs spoke to me differently, but they hadn’t changed. I just heard them in New Ways.”

Rebecca Foon

Cellist and composer Rebecca Foon has been a fixture of the Montréal
music community for two decades, since moving to the city from her
native Vancouver in the late 1990s. She co-founded the Juno Awardwinning
contemporary chamber group Esmerine in 2002 and was a
core member of the celebrated cult post-punk band Thee Silver Mt. Zion
Memorial Orchestra from 2001-2008 and the experimental
instrumental collective Set Fire To Flames. Foon was also a founding
member of the instrumental trios The Mile End Ladies String Auxiliary
and Fifths of Seven. Alongside over a dozen albums as a composer and
player with the aforementioned projects, Foon has a long list of
recording and performing credits as a guest player, and several
soundtrack projects under her belt (including the award-winning tar
sands documentary H2Oil). Most recently, she has been a member of
Colin Stetson’s acclaimed “Sorrow” orchestra (performing Gorecki’s 3rd
Symphony) and part of the band for the live documentary performances
of filmmakers Sam Green and Brent Green.
Saltland is Foon’s ‘solo’ project, the seeds of which were planted with a
series of local Montréal performances under her own name in 2010-
2011. As a first album took shape in 2012, Foon wished to give the
music its own moniker and identity, and to leave room for the project to
take on various members and configurations. Saltland’s 2013 debut
record I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us was released to broad
critical acclaim and featured a long list of Foon’s friends and past
collaborators as guest musicians, including Jamie Thompson (The
Unicorns, Islands), Richard Reed Parry and Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire),
Mishka Stein (Patrick Watson) and Laurel Sprengelmeyer (Little
Scream). The record was produced by Grammy-winning engineer Mark
Lawson (Arcade Fire).
For her second Saltland album A Common Truth, Foon set out to create
a more rigorously solo work, using her cello as the predominant source
for all the music and sounds on the record. Working with
producer/engineer Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes), Foon combines
both unadulterated and processed cello to forge the entire sonic
landscape – the notable exception being violin and pump organ
contributed by special guest Warren Ellis (Nick Cave, Grinderman, The
Dirty Three) for the album’s four instrumentals. Foon sings on the other
five songs in a voice that UK music magazine Mojo has described as “an
instrument of somnolent, gossamer allure which floats gracefully amid
the eddying, amniotic music”.
A Common Truth is also an album about climate change and an attempt
to musically translate a complex mix of emotional, social and political
resonances in this regard. Foon unfolds an atmosphere and pace on the
album that allows for the coexistence of optimism and despair, resolve
and resignation, the intimacy of the local/personal and the hope of the
Climate action is of particular importance to Rebecca Foon as she has
devoted much of her life in recent years to working for decarbonization,
land conservation, renewable energy and urban green strategies – as a
member of the Canadian cooperative consultancy Sustanability
Solutions Group, as founder of the Peruvian-based amazon rainforest
conservation charity, Junglekeepers, and as co-founder of Pathway to
Paris, an international concert series bringing together musicians,
writers and environmental activists to help raise consciousness and
create action in support of a robust international climate agreement.

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