Let’s get the most important part out of the way before we start wittering on: Rebecca Foon’s second album as Saltland is a bona fide stunner. Potentially one of the most beautiful records you’ll hear this year. It makes sweet misery out of melody while articulating a forlorn yet rousing sense of hope. Yes, we’re smitten, but with good reason.
Foon is primarily famous (if that’s the right word) for having served as cellist with Montreal’s A Silver Mt. Zion between 2001-2008, when the post-rock collective first broke out from under the shadow of guitarist Efrim Menuck’s more renowned outfit, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. You can certainly hear traces of those bands dotted across A Common Truth; largely composed of looped cellos and drones (with a little help from a very restrained Warren Ellis on violin, piano and various bits’n’bobs), it often feels like more of a soundscape than a collection of songs.
There are pop songs of sorts here, notably the enthralling Under My Skin, but their obscured lyrics drift through the fog like whispered, half-heard conversations; Foon’s breathy sighs are often drowned out by the swells of strings, piano chords and processed tonal noise. But mystery is a cunning master, and it draws us in like the suckers we are.
What lies beneath, according to the press release, is a series of emotional, political and ecological puzzles, where optimism lies parallel to despair (and if you can find a better sonic summary of the socio-political climate in 2017, we urge you to shout about it from the rooftops). It’s best illustrated on the title track, where a stirring arrangement builds to an enormous climax that feels utterly lost to chaos and yet defiant in the face of it. Indeed, yin and yang are constantly posited against each other throughout the album, but they always feel appropriately symbiotic – one cannot survive without the other, and it’s this very drama that A Common Truth hinges on entirely.
There will be more grandiose political records to come in 2017, doubtless with more clearly articulated rhetoric and more immediately approachable hints of fire behind their eyes. We’d bet that you won’t want to live with them as long as this though: there are secrets and truths to be untapped, and the way Foon sets to her task is a genuine thrill.
Listen to: Under My Skin, This Other Place, A Common Truth