What is darkness? And why would anyone want to hold on to it, even if it were possible?
The Western World's highly afraid of the dark. We personify it into everything evil, populating the night time with ghosts, bogies and demons like a Goya painting brought to frightful life. Romance, connection, imagination, empathy also exist in the dark. Maybe that's why the devil is so often associated with musicians.
Holding Dark is a short-and-sweet indie folk EP from Toronto's Archie Dubey, detailing stories of loss, heartbreak, excitement and ennui over sweet knotted acoustic guitar arpeggios with minor flourishes of country pedal steel and fleshed out with beautiful, moving vocal harmonies.
Holding Dark is an apt title for this lovely recording. Left to only the solar logos, music breaks down to just so many data points - you can write about its technicality, but you'll never hold its beating heart in your hands. You'll never be slayed by its mystery.
It cuts right to the quick of what it means to be a music journalist, reviewer, or even a fan in 2016. We're presented with countless new albums, on countless platforms, every single day. Scrolling through Bandcamp is a crapshoot, not unlike browsing through the record stores of yore, but you can listen to everything. Looking at the slightly lo-fi, homemade album cover of Holding Dark, you might not think much at first. Considering that chamber folk is not exactly cracking the Top 40, these days, apart from Mumford & Sons, who aren't even making folk music any more, a lot of folks might just breeze on past this one. "Oh, what's that you say? Guitar-based songs and personal lyrics? Great..."
It's their loss, as folk (and acoustic-based music) tends to be some of the most honest, confessional music out there. It never relies on cheap gimmicks or smoke-and-mirrors to cover up bad songwriting or musicianship. There's no hiding. Instead, musicians like Archie Dubey use lyrical magick and compositional finesse to spell out intriguing, conceptual hymns, that bear as much to modernist literature or poetry as any kind of Civil War ballad.
Archie Dubey is a talented, poetic and committed folksy musician along the lines of Leonard Cohen. This is the highest possible recommendation, for people who value smart, literary acoustic music with enough musical flourishes to bring the song poems to life.
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