AroarA comes to Kelowna with a poet's words wrapped in an album of music
It takes a very distinct kind of mind to put out AroarA's new record—or rather, two or three.
Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman and his wife, Ariel Engle, created In The Pines off of American poet Alice Notley's acclaimed book by the same name, after tracking her down in Paris to say they would make music from her work.
"She's a very prickly cool. Cool in every sense. She looked at me and said: 'How are you going to do that?'" said Whiteman.
Whiteman joined Broken Social Scene in 1999 after creating Apostle of Hustle, working an inner circle portion of the music world to which not everyone is admitted. One can surmise from his own history that there was some appeal to Notley's vaguely affronted demeanour and the project unfolded from there.
In the Pines is a somewhat esoteric work, drawing on lines of old folk songs Whiteman recognized from the Harry Smith Folk Anthology.
Unlike his wife, Whiteman did not grow up in a musically connected world. Engle was best friends with Martha Wainwright— daughter of American folk singer Loudon Wainwright and Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle and sister to Rufus Wainwright— and the pair are opening for her on this tour.
Whiteman followed his childhood best friend into music and has clearly developed a real eye for art.
In The Pines, the book, lays out a tale of a woman who goes crazy and winds up going to the land of the dead and the song lines—a couple from Bob Dylan as well—are not exactly obvious.
Lyrics are paramount in this project, but both guitar players are clearly concentrating on the music.
As Whiteman himself puts it, its for people who like the shadow side of folk and roots music and those who might enjoy the sound of primitive drums with interlocking guitar weaved over top. And it might be a one-of-a-kind endeavour for a while in their playbook.
"The words matter so much for this tour and this album, we might ease up on the words for the next album," he said, noting the pair are also still working on their sound together, meshing as an act.
While compiling this album, which took about a year, they stayed in contact with the poet, keeping her in the loops with drafts; she warmed to the couple and their work.
The result is an avant-garde take on avant-garde work as one follows this character through her spiritual and visionary experiences undergoing a cure for Hepatitis C.
Add in the cigar box guitars and 404 sampler, used to trigger matrons and Black Sabbath bells, and the result is a product one really can't find in another act out there.
"I can pretty much say that because what we're doing is really fresh, people respond really well," said Whiteman.
He has hopes of working with another poet, Ann Waldman, an active member of the Outrider experimental poetry community out of Boulder, Colorado; but he's also interested in electronic and names Caribou, an interesting Canadian musician with a doctoral degree in mathematics, as another artist he aspires to collaborate with in the future.
The pair, and Martha Wainwright, play the Minstrel Café tonight (March 8) at 8 p.m.