Genius Loci North: new release!

Genius Loci North is out now! Here are new songs recorded by pristine mountain lakes and forests here in Quebec, as well as some we recorded here in Montreal in our studio shed in the torrential weather of the summer solstice. I’ve also included a lot of energy pulled from dreams I’ve had or that others have had of me and collaborations with some of my talented psychic dreaming friends. Adding layers of intuition pulled from a like-minded psychic female friends promises to carry us all even further.

All these songs were instantly composed, nearly always in one take, recorded moments after the poetry was written. My creative process in composing these songs is very much like my mother’s intuitive style of painting, where you rapidly place quick gestures spontaneously on the page and then polish and refine them over time to see what emerges. I love mixing and mastering the music for this reason.

Cover painting by Theo

And of course Michel and Reg add their own colours and brushstrokes, stainless steel bowls and well placed toothpicks here and there and sync their ideas with mine as we invent. Our (Michel and my) oldest son JJ obliged me by contributing his own rap bars/ sound poetry to a musical conversation of inner thoughts from the middle of nowhere on Folded Wish. It has been a great joy to collaborate with our family social bubble, with my father adding a snippet and joining us on our adventures. Both our boys sang some background vocals on I Will, surely one of the first free jazz laments about mothering teenage boys ever. Our youngest son Theo created all the artwork on these tracks and the videos that accompany the music. Mirror Lake, Spatterdock and lifeonpause. have been selected as finalists and/or won awards at several film festivals already.

Features on this album include: loons, crows, a northern cardinal, blue jays, the white throated sparrow, some bull frogs and flock of geese or two. Many thanks to my friends and family for pulling out their phones and sending me such great audio clips.

Some songs include layers of voices, drawing from background in working with sound poetry, notably in bpNichol’s workshop production of A Space Opera many moons ago. I’ve included a passage from a bpNichol work in the track Close Call somewhere inside the collage of voices reciting their mutual dreams after the library fairies tossed his chapbook in my lap while editing. You can learn more about bpNichol and his work at the bpNichol archive.

The track also features my dreaming friends Janet Mast and Maria Carla Cernuto reciting their mutual dreams that corresponded to the waking life close call I sing about that occurred a few days after their dreams. How we unraveled all that is another magical mystery and perhaps it is solved within the music. A third dreaming friend, Star Edwards, plays harp on Ronin, the final track which seemed apt as our dreams were entangled within the song.

track art by Theo

Channeling the spirits of place, the genius loci, in the Boréal forest turns out to include a lot of Canadian wildlife. I discovered that it is hard to capture the spirits in places on scraps of land where people have just passed through quickly or sometimes not at all. Sometimes I felt as though I was conversing more deeply with the local plant and wildlife.

It was my father that blasted Eric Dolphy (mentioned in the opening track) in a remote cabin within earshot of the jackrabbits and later I remembered our friend Misha Mengelberg telling us about Dolphy improvising with birdsong. Misha himself did some great work with parrots. I mention these two free jazz culture heroes to give context to the world I’ve been living in, the music I was raised with, and to explain why I insist on doing such unusual things like instant composing. And here’s another …

One of my goals was to celebrate the beauty in nature, as suggested by Cecil Taylor when he waxed poetic in the Rockies where I was studying. More about that here. With this music, celebrating these landscapes, I aim to bring awareness to the importance of preserving these natural environments for the future. We all need to stop and listen to the creatures around us more often and to consider our actions and try to do better.

As we escaped into nature to heal from the trauma of the pandemic and earlier deep losses in our family, we set out to capture the healing qualities of these places and bring them to you so you can enjoy them and carry them with you, perhaps through headphones will walking swiftly through a city or while in motion, dashing around on a country road, waiting for summer to return, a little bit melancholy, a little bit mindful and ever optimistic.

It also does make me wonder what it might be like to record in an ancient city dense with layers of human history and chaos, somewhere like Rome or Amsterdam. Genius Loci West maybe? But before I set off to do that, enjoy this music and know there will also be limited edition hard copies coming soon and some bonus tracks coming in the winter.

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We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, #BringingArtsToLife