Album launch show to take place August 6 at The Hollows
Standing amidst a cadre of candlelit skeletons, Alissa Arnason begins plucking at a guitar. Nimble and unnerving, within the minimal, and haunting, delivery of her vocals is an ominous distant rumble of cello.
“The devil’s afraid, god ran away,” sings Arnason, as lithe flickers dance around her. Shivers and chills.
The images, as featured in the video for the song “Devil’s Lemonade” – directed and shot by the students of The Motion Picture Arts Diploma Program at the Recording Arts Institute of Saskatoon in March – are a stark addition to Arnason’s already haunting vision.
It’s also a lingering visual introduction to her new album Stone & Feather, a selection of songs the singer has written over the past eight years. Even so, Arnason says that “Devil’s Lemonade” ended up being the last song she recorded for the album.
“I wrote it right before we went in, but I really wanted it to be a part of it because I lost my friend last summer and some of the lyrics, specifically the chorus and the title, were a part of a project that he started before he died,” she says. “I wanted to take that and finish it, so I wrote some lyrics around it.”
Throughout the course of its seven songs, Stone & Feather is a warm listen that hums with soft melodies and transfixing vocal lines. On lead track “The River” Arnason conjures a near-hypnotic rhythm between the instrumentation – guests Amanda Bestvater, Melissa Gan and Thomas Seibel similarly contribute as part of the string section found throughout the album.
Released in part with Saskatoon’s Sound and Silence Collective, Arnason says that she went into the studio not knowing what songs were going to end up on the album, but after the first one was done the ideas started fitting together.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere with this album, and that was this delicate balance between heavy and light. The music is a little bit lighter but the lyrics can be dark and heavy. It’s a contrast that fits together in a natural way.
“It was a big learning experience,” she continues. “We recorded at PAVED Arts and we spent a lot of time there. We started a year-and-a-half ago and it was a long process. But it was also really good because I got to learn along the way.”
While Arnason’s typical live performance is generally a solo show she plans on mixing it up during the release show for Stone & Feather.
“For The Hollows show I want it to be true to the recording,” she says. “So I will have Thomas and Amanda with me.”
– Featured image courtesy of Alissa Arnason – photo taken by Gary Colwell