Sound Advice: Arctic Radio by EONS

Torontoist

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Sound Advice: Arctic Radio by EONS

Matt Cully and Misha Bower's new project wrestles with darkness.

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EONS is the latest collaborative project from Matt Cully and Misha Bower, best known for their roles in Bruce Peninsula. Their debut record, Arctic Radio (released by Headless Owl Records), is a beautifully fragile piece of folk. Its innate frailty, conveyed through delicate, often-trembling vocal harmonies, is also its source of strength. Like the first tentative green tendrils put out by an early spring vine, Arctic Radio‘s outward appearance belies its stubborn resilience—an emotional tensile strength that tightens its grip on the listener at unexpected moments.

Structurally, Arctic Radio is a sweet, mellow listen, defined by plaintive strings and liquid, shimmering percussion. Cully and Bower’s duets are the cornerstone of the sound, their voices dovetailing together with an ease and deep intimacy. At times they swoop and soar, almost battling against each other, and then suddenly loop together into an embracing sonic knot. The instrumentation comes in shivering waves, silvery and at times ethereal, conveying a kind of twilight ghostliness. It’s very easy to think of Arctic Radio as a soothing record.

The subject matter, however, is far less sweet than the sound. Many of the songs wrestle with difficult moments and themes, from gender roles and identities, to the violation of social norms. “Brothers and Sisters,” which presents a heartbreaking and sympathetic portrait of incest, and “Chair on Fire,” which explores the vast space between physical and spiritual intimacy, form the most intense pair of tracks on the record. (You can listen to “Chair on Fire” by clicking the sample above.) The final track, “We Are The Young,” is shiver-inducing in its vulnerability and features a startling vocal performance from Matt Cully’s father.

But for all its tender explorations of darkness, Arctic Radio also contains joy and playfulness. “Sliver of Gall” engages with speculative fiction and has a bubbling ebullience to it—and for all of its difficult wrestling, “Chair on Fire” is soaringly, relentlessly uplifting. Balancing frailty and power, complicated tension and easy joy, the album finds a balance that is at once incredibly pleasurable to listen to and endlessly, tormentingly surprising.

EONS will celebrate the release of Arctic Radio with a show in Toronto on September 8, 2013 at the Great Hall Conversation Room (1087 Queen Street West). Doors are at 7:00 pm and cover is $10.00. Nick Ferrio & His Feelings and Soul Sisters Supreme will also perform.

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