Published Aug 26, 2016On his new six-song EP Saturn Return, Whitehorse, Yukon artist Jona Barr, better known as Old Cabin, evokes the corners of our country characterized by a deep yearning, a sense that is hard to put into words but which Barr relays nicely here. After the first listen, it's clear that the best moments on the album ring true with a sound as vast as the landscape in which they were created.
The opening track is reverb-soaked and enticing, an album highlight. Brilliant wispy horns and strings woo the listener into the tempo-shifting, borderline psychedelic rock number "!?!". Barr manages to pack a ton of ideas into this opening sequence of Saturn Return without ever feeling cluttered. If he's throwing spaghetti at the wall, it's all sticking here.
The record isn't quite hook, line and sinker though. "I Got You" is an upbeat, Joel Plaskett-esque song that feels a touch out of place tucked between the downtempo numbers here. And yet, after a slightly stationary middle passage, "Don't Leave Me Behind" (another standout track) successfully sandwiches the album in cinematic sound with lyrics reflecting the darker days of Canada's residential school history.
Saturn Return has a subtle loneliness to it, but it's also gently inviting. The experimentalism Barr brings to this record makes it stand out over his previous work. Although it tiptoes outside of the genre, this is undeniably folk music, full of the human experience and, more importantly, questions about it. (Label Fantastic)