An album which needs time to reveal the quality of the songwriting.
Noah Derkson’s Bandcamp page presents his view of himself and his music. “Born and raised in the heart of the Canadian prairies and maturing on the west coast of British Columbia, Noah Derksen’s self-described “contemplative folk” has taken him across the width of Canada and select regions in the United States.” ‘Sanctity of Silence’ is his fourth full length album, and he seems to have settled into a style of writing and performance that he is clearly comfortable with.
For music calling itself “contemplative” there is quite a bit of variety in the first 3 songs. ‘You Got a Hold on Me’ is a slightly anonymous almost AOR number, living somewhere in Marc Cohn territory. The title track is a more acoustic song, but the album sparks to life with ‘Heaven on a Hellbound Train’ which has an altogether rougher feel, thanks to a bit of well placed slide guitar. It would have made a far better opening song than ‘You Got a Hold on Me’.
Derkson’s voice is pleasant but unremarkable. There’s a touch of the John Martyn mumble on the quieter songs, which fits well into the contemplative mode he is clearly looking for. ‘One Stab at the Good Life’, is a smoky ballad that is one of the best on the album, and more pop-based as well. This would go over well on the radio and fit into the programming of places like BBC Radio 2. The rather single-paced drumming tends to make the album feel less varied than it is. ‘Fuck You and Fuck Your Friends Too’ is another song that despite the provocative title would be a good one for airplay. Its stop start section towards the end allows Kris Ulrich’s electric guitar a little room to breathe.
That song and ‘Maybe Next Year’ which follows it also show the Wurlitzer piano of Robbie Grunwald to advantage, adding another texture to the music. The album closes with the quiet, acoustic ‘Darling Don’t Tell Me What You Think of the Change’.
It’s slightly difficult to know what make of ‘Sanctity of Silence’. If this was a debut it would show promise, but for a fourth album he seems to be rather unsure of his musical identity. Is he a pop balladeer or heading towards a more acoustic country feel. Listening back to his previous album ‘America, Dreaming’ that seems to be a more assured album than this one. However, given some time for the songs to settle into your consciousness, they reveal themselves to be thoughtful and insightful. Perhaps a firmer hand on the production levers next time would give him that spark of individuality his music currently lacks.