An Exploration of Nootka Sounds and their new album, Anti
THE BLEEDING THUMB
SO TIGHT WITH LOVE
TOGETHER WE DROP
AND FLOAT LIKE A FOREST
HITCHING ON SCRUB
AT THE FORE
BLOWN BY THE SUN
WHEN THE STARS FALL
ARE OFTEN LEFT WONDERING WHAT THE FUCK
IS GOING ON
The track titles on Anti read as a poem, adding context to the music and teasing the imagination of an inquisitive soul who might be curious as to ‘what the f*** is going on.’ Anti is a collaborative album between Wolf-Loup and other members of the Nootka Sounds record label and collective. The collective is primarily made up of musicians living in Tahsis, B.C., but welcomes musicians from the greater Nootka Sound region and beyond. The group is a multi-generational mix of trained acoustic instrumentalists and self-taught electronic music producers.
These days, only a few hundred people live in Tahsis and around the Nootka Sound, a region that was historically home to thriving First Nations groups. While the region still boasts abundant wildlife and fresh island air, the effects of colonial activities in the forests and oceans have reshaped the land and its communities.
According to the collective’s mission statement, the group intends to be a nexus of artistic collaboration and development around the Tahsis area. The platform is also a means of bringing the region to the wider world through sound, with the goal of attracting listeners to visit and investigate the beauty for themselves.
The Martlet had the opportunity to interview Wolf-Loup and other members of the collective to find out about the arts scene in Tahsis and how the album came into being. In addition to Wolf-Loup, Anti features Nootka Sounds members Venadito, Susan Biggs, Sierra Jannise, Carla Haywood, Emily-Rose, Deraek Menard, FreeWill, Pillager, and V.
On Anti, the group fuse their respective skill sets into a brand of music that is markedly different from any of the members’ solo work. While the album’s atmospheric grandeur might suggest a more planned approach, Anti emerged organically as a product of experimentation, leaving us with a surprisingly intimate record of the group’s creative activities. Wolf-Loup describes how sections of improvised music recorded during the group’s regular jam sessions were ultimately used to form the finished tracks.
Although there can be no substitute for actually visiting the region, Anti feels like a sonic portal to Tahsis and the surrounding lands. The short intro track “Wind” begins with a low electric drone accompanied by sounds resembling old ships creaking in a gale. The openness of “Wind” is then filled by the sharp, gnashing strings of an acoustic guitar, before transitioning into the album’s next track, “The Bleeding Thumb.” A deep static rumble subsides as the guitar shifts chords and emits individual screeching accents, like a storyteller speaking in multiple voices.
Most songs on the album have occasional distortion, yet the music on Anti remains structured and still carries a sense of intentional human design. The use of reverb also has the effect of creating a chaos that coexists with the order of the musical progressions.
A duality between the natural and the man-made is depicted throughout the album. On “So Tight With Love,” hanging atmospheres and trance-like incantations are mixed with delicate field recordings lost in reverb. Musings of guitar, synth, and the squashed voices of children and adults conversing are like the traces of civilization found scattered along the fringes of Vancouver Island’s forests.
“Hitching on Scrub” features the cosmic flute of Susan Biggs amid a rumbling cascade of synths. The drones feel powerful — even dangerous — but as the flute grows calmer, so do the synths. The spiritual, cinematic pieces on Anti range from the decidedly inorganic, like the crumbling distortion of “Unfettered,” to songs like “Blown by the Sun,” which reconciles the natural with the artificial. Other pieces feel unsettled and alienated, like the tech overload of “Are Often Left Wondering What the Fuck.”
Anti owes much to the sonic possibilities afforded by digital technology, even as it seems to question where such progress is leading us. The poem does not offer a final answer, nor does the music. When interviewed, the Nootka Sounds members were optimistic, and it was clear their main focus is to practice their craft while enjoying the beautiful landscape that surrounds them. Anti is thought-provoking, as it expresses contradictions by combining diverse musical styles. Yet for all of its diverse influences, the album manages to achieve a cohesive sound. This creative cohesion speaks to the closeness of the musical community in Tahsis, making the scene an exciting one to watch.
Read a full transcript of the interview with Nootka Sounds at https://darktreebrightlight.blogspot.com/.
For more information visit https://nootkasounds.com/.