OLD CABIN – SATURN RETURN
Every 29.5 years Saturn returns to the place in the night sky that it occupied at the time of your birth. No matter what personal beliefs you hold regarding the direct influence of celestial bodies on our lives, these reoccurrences can be used as marker, as calendar, as measure. By the planet’s first return, we enter a second phase of our lives: our responsibilities have changed, and our concerns, and we position ourselves differently in relation to the world than we did as children. At the second we may enter a late maturity, and at the third, and likely final, return, we hope to be living in a state of earned wisdom and grace. At each transition, messy, vague, we are given opportunity to take stock and to meet old questions with new answers. We are given space to take new chances.
The first two songs on Old Cabin’s Saturn Return form a suite. Where Did You Go begins with a loping guitar figure, reverbed ambience, Jona Barr’s voice at a distance, confessing “I don’t know where we all go”, hi-hats keeping a drifting time. We have a sense of something lost or slipping away, and we’re waiting, unsettled by the swelling French Horn. When the beat steadies and a violin plays a beautiful repeating melody we’re roused but uncertain: “let me die” Jona sings. We reach a crisis of stasis and crash into ?!? in need of release. Exuberant energy alternates with dragging half-time, detailing the wild swings of someone dealing with addiction. It ends in a chaos of noise, the orchestra blowing out of time and tune: is this a break down or crescendo? Is this an escape? It’s an ambitious opening, beautifully orchestrated and wonderfully played, in content and form displaying an exciting new phase for Old Cabin.
We can see the horizons have expanded from the personal concerns of previous releases Old Cabin (2013),Growing Up Young (2012), and a split EP with Old Time Machine (2012). If this is not surprising given the extensive and persistent touring Old Cabin has undertaking over the last five years, driving across Canada and back from his home in Whitehorse, YT, meeting people, collaborating with so many musicians, we must still credit the imagination: Jona’s songs are looking outward, sympathetic to those struggling with addiction, to victims of residential schools (Don’t Leave Me Behind), challenging the homophobia of a peer (Joe), grappling with the absurdities of modern North American life (I Got You). These are songs intended to join conversations.
It is a conversation that is also happening musically, as Old Cabin synthesizes and draws from many vibrant strains of Canadian independent music. There are echoes of the east coast in melodies evoking Joel Plaskett or Wintersleep; there’s the influence of Montreal art-rock in the orchestration and the ambition; a use of acoustic textures and an attention to lyrical songwriting that gets labeled as folk music almost anywhere in this country. And there’s a long list of collaborators: Michael Feuerstack, Pietro Amato, Mika Posen, Corey Isenor, Nick Everett, Rebecca Zolkower, Jordy Walker, Micah Smith. They lend their voices from the provinces and territories.
The doors of the old cabin are open. Light spills out, a band is playing. People are singing. The Yukon sky is filled with stars, some bright enough they must be planets.
RECENT PRAISE FOR SATURN RETURN
"This deceivingly soothing folk record is pitch-perfect for those hazy August days...the six songs feel travelled, though not weary, weaving together guitars, strings and horns in a way that softens the blow of some heavy lyrical material." -
"...weaves a sonic web of smooth guitars, strings and Barr’s deep vocals into a journey." - Gray Owl Point
"...the best moments on the album ring true with a sound as vast as the landscape in which they were created." - Exclaim!
"...a haunted and drifting album." - Vue Weekly
"...a record as poetic as it is artistic." - Canadian Beats
"...from pastoral, dreamy folk to outlandish noise to East Coast pop-rock." - Bob Mersereau
"This album is one that will require your full attention, music you’ll want to plunge into." - Michael Doherty's Music Log
"L'audace de faire appel à des musiciens chevronnés d'un bout à l'autre du pays permet à Barr d'opérer à la hauteur de ses ambitions tout en inventant de nouveaux codes à sa musique." - BRBR