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Acres and Acres / Truth & Sky

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Truth & Sky is the sophomore release of the Halifax-based duo Acres and Acres. Kris Pope and David Scholten, the primary songwriters and movers/shakers of the band, certainly knew who to find for this album. They’ve kept the core members from their first release, All Nations – Ian Bent (piano, strings), Ian Sherwood (bass), Benn Ross (percussion) – and have added the layers of percussion heavyweight Jordi Comstock and engineer Don Mackay, vocalist Alana Yorke, and a string section consisting of Gina Burgess (violin), Debbie Miles (violin), Suzanne Brown (viola), and John Spearns (cello). Kris Pope and David Scholten: with a lineup of musicians of this calibre, I implore you to never let any of these people go.

All Nations was a modest album that featured a fairly uncomplicated lineup of musicians. It’s a loose, jangly album that seemed to satisfy a need to dabble with low(er)-fi recording techniques and relatively simple arrangements, most of which could be recorded ‘live off the floor’. There were seeds in there, however, that have been allowed to germinate, leading to a more sophisticated, cleaner sound in Truth & Sky. This is a welcome development, as their attention to tone and musical depth are clear signs of a more mature musical philosophy.

The biggest seed I would like to direct your attention to is the notable use of a wonderful section of strings, arranged by Ian Bent, that add a level of depth hinted at, but largely missing from All Nations. The album begins with an instrumental arrangement of the title track that instantly captures the listener and prepares them for what is to come. In that song, the pedal steel (Pope) is beautifully embedded within a soundscape of ethereal vocals, rising strings, and a drummer whose kick-drum and snare soundly demand attention. You Never Know continues the opening theme of a slow build, moving from a mostly melodic structure to a more rhythmic ending. Let’s Go Home takes a different turn entirely. Less of a soundscape and more groove-based, with a sort-of-reggae bass line, simpler and somewhat looser drums, and a grungy guitar, it’s clear Pope and Scholten have a variety of influences. Stay unfortunately fits less than spectacularly with the rest of the album. The chunky chords don’t blend in with the concept established earlier; however, if you’re a fan of the Jack Johnson school then you may call me a fool. Mayday still uses that chunky guitar but is rescued by a warmth that wasn’t there in Stay.

Gone is a return to the original concept with a beautiful instrumental written by Scholten and Bent. All My Colours and Shake The Moon highlight a subtle country influence, the former showcasing a Neil Young-like guitar line. These final two songs do well to tie together the styles established in the previous seven tracks with the full band making their appearances and carrying us out the door.

Acres and Acres will be in St. John’s Feb. 16 for their ‘Truth & Sky’ release show, at 8:30 p.m. at the Rocket Room. Naomi Kavka will be performing an opening set and leading the band’s string quartet. Marystown singer-songwriter Jeff Pittman will open the evening first. Tickets are $12 advance, $15 at the door, and available online here.

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