Published May 27, 2016Frederick Squire's music has always been a bit spooky, at times channelling old folk music — for which you really ought to hear a needle drop down and the tape hiss — but the distance in the title of his third album is partly one created by time; the back cover states, "All songs written a long time ago by Frederick Squire."
Some of the songs have experienced multiple iterations, including a four-track recording with Shotgun Jimmie in Dawson City, Yukon, at the turn of the millennium. "Spill Your Lungs" and "Blue" originally appeared on Julie Doiron's 2009 album, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day. ("Spill Your Lungs," in particular, is more understated, more intimate here than Doiron's bolder, rockier version.)
Squire's quiet, warmly atmospheric, experimental and meandering rock vignettes on Spooky Action at a Distance were recorded solo (drums and everything) by Squire in the basement of the Copper Cliff, Sudbury home he shares with his wife, songwriter Kate Maki, and their two kids. Personal, poetic and often open-ended, Squire's old songs recall Lou Reed's quieter moments and, on "Book Of Love" (as Squire sings in a low voice, "I make mistakes sometimes / I often don't get it right") the Magnetic Fields.
Squire has built a church of reverb for his reflective old songs, with subtle, surprisingly hooky guitar parts (especially on melodic standout "Switch The Engineer" — I have heard folks sing along on first listen), warm swells of wonky distortion, studio stuff like the sound of tape slowing down and stopping and lovely details (like the "oohs" at the end of penultimate track "This Place").
Ghostly static takes over for the instrumental final track, "J Floor," leading to my only real complaint: at 30 minutes long, the collection feels oddly slight; a beautiful, understated relic from a different time, somewhat obscured by the very same studio magic that documented it, as if the static itself is a comment on the distance the artist is experiencing from his songs. (Independent)