A haunting, improvised performance over six extended tracks, from Vancouver’s alt-country infused Parkland Music Project.
Led by singer-songwriter Rob Malowany, Parkland Music Project’s new album, ‘Sécurité’ features a shifting cast of talented players who are brought together and given complete freedom to collectively and spontaneously respond to Malowany’s songs, interacting with each other moment to moment.
The album’s opening track, ‘Goodbye’, begins with a gently strummed acoustic guitar before being joined by restrained pedal steel, bass and barely-there drums. Malowany’s rich, yet aching, vocal sets out the mournful tone. The musicians collectively and sensitively develop the track across almost seven minutes until they seamlessly wind it down, leaving the pedal steel and acoustic guitar to close the track.
Track two, ‘Magnetize Me‘ clocks in even longer, at nine and half minutes. It opens with a subdued free-form jam until a simple bass-line bring’s in Malowany’s vocals. A steady, pulsing bass and drums drives the track forward. As the vocal eases down, the band picks up the intensity with some nice reverse delay and tremolo on the guitars. For the rest of the track the performance continues to ebb and flow, from quiet intimacy to full-blown, post-rock intensity.
The third track, ‘Stockholm‘, starts out much more in a conventional alt.country vein, with Robin James Hunter’s lovely lap steel and slide guitar heavily featured, until the track drifts, seemingly naturally, into a more unstructured jam for the last couple of minutes.
‘Anything at All‘ is, at just under ten minutes, the longest and slowest of the five tracks. Gently pulsing tremolo and dream-like slow delays on the guitars and pedal steel give a suitably haunting canvas for Malowany’s impassioned delivery and powerful lyrics.
At under five minutes, and with its sparse but rolling drum beat, ‘Landmine‘, initially feels like it could be one of the more uplifting songs. However, Malowany’s vocal paints a very different picture. “It broke your heart // It broke your soul // All you had to spend was time // So much time down in those mines // Now you’re telling me you left it all behind”.
Every track on the album has an admirable delicacy and sensitivity, even in the most powerful and intense sections. These are very good players and Malowany, a talented singer, guitarist and lyricist in his own right, leads them with impressive commitment and confidence. However, maybe it’s all these very positive elements that have combined to slightly lessen the overall impact.
This album should appeal to fans of Will Johnson, Jeff Mangum, Phil Elverum, Jason Molina and similar artists, but there’s a sometimes subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – edge to these artists’ work that, if not absent here, feels somewhat dialled-back in this otherwise excellent album from Parkland Music Project.