ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT announce debut record, “Darling The Dawn”, out on April 21st via Constellation Records
Two acclaimed and fiercely seasoned iconoclasts of Montréal’s independent music scene have joined forces: ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT is the newly minted orchestral-punk electro-shoegaze power duo of Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) & Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion). Longtime friends, collaborators and stalwarts of the Montréal post-punk community, this is their first full-fledged project together, which weaves these two unique voices through lustrous tendrils of blown-out tones and drones, expanding on Menuck’s eponymous modular and analog synth-based work of recent years, now imbued with an additionally searing, soulful warmth and melodicism through Engle’s singing.
“Darling The Dawn” is their radiant debut long-player: singing & modular synthing in glorious blown-out tangles & tendrils of melody & drone, with contributions from Jessica Moss on violins and Liam O’Neill (SUUNS) on drums, and mixed by Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes). “We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun” – which you can listen to below this article -, opens with haunting modular synth pulse and shimmering drone, as Menuck and Engle’s intertwining voices sing in unison and then in harmony through ornate and winding melodies. Guest players Jessica Moss and Liam O’Neill eventually join in, helping to drive the song towards a rapturous crescendo, as the lead vocal hands off to Menuck while Engle traces soaring arcs of wordless devotional canon. The song’s lyrics contain the record’s title “Darling The Dawn” and the 10-minute track is a tour-de-force that stands as a thematic and stylistic mission statement for the album as a whole.
“We live on a fucking planet and baby that’s the sun” is a lyric that’s been floating around in my head for a couple decades. I lived in an apartment once with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors by my bed. One morning I woke at dawn, sat up like a bolt, and heard myself say those words. I could see the halo of orange pink light cut into the last of the night. The lyric is about the uncanniness of living on a sphere. The smallness of us in contrast to the size and motion of planets and the comfort of the eternal return of dawn and sun after the night.”, states Ariel Engle. The duo speak about the inspiration behind the record, their work likened to a “dawn” which is coming for us in the real world. “These times are in-between times.” says Efrim Manuel Menuck, “the old things are sinking with their hands around our throat.” But as they sing throughout the record, some brighter world must come. “There’ll be even more beauty there, during the unravelling, and then even more after the dark times are through”. For Menuck, the record started “with an idea of making a long thing about ‘THE DAWN’, the different weights of its radiance, the way it kisses our dumb faces when we rise and leave the night behind, the heaviness of that light when you haven’t slept”. As the album title suggests, literal sleepless anxiety/euphoria and a sense of somatic channelling is also vital to these songs: “I mostly kept the first thought I had, like a cold read, I wanted the melodies to be immediate and to surprise me, not a laboured process; it’s about being a weather vane, guided by preconscious impulses”, says Engle.
The record’s sometimes bleary, often incantatory hopefulness shines through in electronic shoegaze suffused with freak-folk, kosmische, darkwave and post-industrial. Flowing from ambient minimalism to pulsing maximalism, “Darling The Dawn” conjures traditionals sung in the haze of earliest light, accompanied by overdriven circuit boards powered with ungrounded wires. It’s the singing and lyrics above all, in sentiment and delivery, that conjure certain freak-folk furrows – Engle calls this “music inspired by ancestor music, sea shanties for seas we’ve never sailed” -, while the instrumentation resonates out-of-time, in a glistening liminal at once synthetic and analogue. “Darling The Dawn” is a record of preternaturally genre-bending sonics and songwriting, aiming to capture, as Engle says, “the uncanniness of living on a sphere, the smallness of us in contrast to the size and motion of planets and the comfort of the eternal return of dawn and sun after the night”. This is a wholly compelling collaboration between Engle and Menuck, a set of songs thrumming with alternately tender and serrated beauty, as only their combined strengths and sensibilities could conjure.
“Darling The Dawn” will be released on April 21st via Constellation Records. Pre-orders are now available here.
Photo credit: Michele Fiedler Fuentes