Review — Great Lake Swimmers: Ongiara

By  Lee Zimmerman

GreatLakeSwimmers.jpgWith their weary, heavy-lidded ambiance and yearning, hollow-eyed intonation, it’s not surprising to find Great Lake Swimmers’ songs sounding as lonely and desolate as the prairies of the cold north country from which the band hails. But while this Canadian combo makes an erstwhile attempt to evoke some homespun imagery, the view they offer is uniformly bleak and barren, a place where dreams and desires often seem desperately elusive and consistently out of reach.

They achieve this dreamy ambiance and overcast disposition by plying a sepia-tinged combination of gothic, folk-tinged arrangements — mostly banjo, acoustic guitars, autoharp and upright bass — to Tony Dekker’s hushed vocals and understated delivery.

Despite their frayed sadness, there’s an undeniable beauty pervading these subdued melodies — in the unassuming ramble of “Your Rocky Spine,” the gentle, steel-guitar sway of “I Became Awake” and the slow, steady advance of “Put There By The Land.” Still, most of these tunes struggle to maintain any hint of momentum at all, drifting as if quietly suspended in midair. Despite the sense of lethargy, the music’s still lovely, like background sounds for twilight contemplation.

As is the case with their first two albums, Ongiara may seem more an acquired taste. Nevertheless, those who desire apt accompaniment for quiet repose will find this set unobtrusive and yet affecting.

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