Great Lake Swimmers

The Waves, The Wake

BY Kyle MullinPublished Aug 14, 2018

Say what you will about Great Lake Swimmers, but the Canadian alt-folk outfit can't be accused of stagnation or resting on former glories. For their new LP, The Waves, The Wake, frontman Tony Dekker bucks against folk conventions by recruiting a vast array of contributors to add marimba, flute, pipe organ, harp and other eclectic instruments to broaden the Great Lake Swimmers sound.
The result is an inspired, richly textured set of songs. One of the biggest highlights is "Unmaking the Bed," whose marimba and pit-pat percussion are low key and winkingly playful on the verses, before the song bursts into anthemic and atmospheric choruses. "Root Systems," meanwhile, features rattlesnake-like percussion along with haunting cello that evoke the tense ambiance of a spaghetti western.
Other tracks are more straightforward in terms of forefront instruments, while still boasting plenty of atmosphere. Prime examples include "In A Certain Light," whose banjo plucks are taken straight from a deep South back porch, and "The Real Work, which features moaning strings and resolute, ambiance building piano notes.
Still, many of the most memorable moments on this album occur when typically classical or jazz instruments get woven into Dekker's alt-folk tapestry. By incorporating those elements, Dekker renews Great Lake Swimmers' sound while still retaining the atmospheric singing and subtle yet intricate guitar playing that are quintessential to the band. It's a tricky balance, but Dekker and his sprawling team of contributors pull it off with aplomb.

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