Great Lake Swimmers have titled their sixth LP A Forest of Arms, and that moniker couldn't be more fitting. Much has been made of the band's recent recording in the Tyendinaga Caves for atmospheric reverb and distant echoes, and that's what they achieve on many of the LP's songs, especially early tracks like "Zero In The City," on which Tony Dekker's vocals boom audibly off of craggy, rocky walls.
But the deep woods of northern BC are the true muse on this new album. That earthy influence is apparent on key track "The Great Bear," a delicate ballad named after British Columbia's famed rainforest that finds Dekker singing in a plaintive tone about a river akin to a "Marble curtain floating down / Swimming into fishes' mouths."
Aside from Dekker's lyrics, Great Lake Swimmers also dedicate much of their instrumentation to Mother Nature on this new LP. On midway track "A Jukebox In a Desert of Snow," Miranda Mulholland's violin creaks like branches in the breeze, while "A Bird Flew Inside the House" opens with Erik Arnesen's surprisingly restrained banjo playing, which is refreshingly un-twangy yet taut enough to sound like a flock of chirping birds. "I Was a Wayward Pastel Bay" features Dekker's acoustic strumming, Arnesen's harmonium and drumming from newly enlisted percussionist Joshua Van Tassel, all of which is played as gently as a spring shower's drops fall on moss.
These subtle songs are surpassed, however, by the LP's most upbeat song, "I Must Have Someone Else's Blues," which boasts a sing-along chorus and a drum line that crackles like a campfire. The nuanced percussion work from Tassel cannot be overstated — he and master bassist Bret Higgins give all these songs organic, unfussy rhythms that dig in like the deepest of tree roots and guide this Forest of Arms.