Album Reviews

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT: “Darling The Dawn”

The Montreal veterans combine with a release that harnesses hope.

Over the past three years, while there has been a notable increase in collaboration releases, Montreal has always been a hotbed for artists to share and cross-pollinate ideas.

The latest collaboration from the city sees Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene), joining forces with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Efrim Manuel Menuck.

With the pair having known one other since the late nineties, Engle and Menuck began playing music together during the first lockdown in 2021. Almost two years on as ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, they deliver their debut album, “Darling The Dawn”.

Also featuring violinist Jessica Moss (Black Ox Orkestar and formerly of Thee Silver Mt. Zion) and Suuns’ drummer Liam O’Neill, with The Besnard LakesJace Lasek undertaking mixing duties, once again ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT is another project consisting of some of Montreal’s most prominent artistic voices.   

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As a part of Broken Social Scene, whilst fully aware of the fucked world surrounding them, they have always been a band to alleviate the anxieties; leave your troubles at the door, this band has you covered. Meanwhile, Godspeed You! Black Emperor work on the opposite end of the spectrum – a sonic vessel careering into the void and everyone’s aboard. There has always been a lot to demystify with GY!BE such as their elusiveness and obscurity, but Engle helps ease the burden on “Darling The Dawn”, guiding Menuck through new creative terrains to great effect.

Speaking ahead of the album’s release, Menuck said that “These times are in-between times. The old things are sinking with their hands around our throat. There’ll be even more beauty there, during the unravelling, and then even more after the dark times are through.” It’s telling, as Menuck hasn’t been a part of something so overtly optimistic, and while his series of eerie bleeps and drones are dotted all throughout “Darling The Dawn”, alongside jazz-inspired percussion and Engle’s effortless melodies, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better experimental rock record all year.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT - "Darling The Dawn"

With Engle’s hushed harmonies arching over Menuck’s serrated noisescapes, from the opening stanza of A Sparrow’s Lift, the tone is set. Trading barbs, We Live On a Fucking Planet and Baby that’s the Sun sees Menuck take centre stage. His vocal, forever unique and a vital instrument in both his solo endeavours and spearheading Thee Silver Mt. Zion. His fragile yelps of anguish are harnessed by Engle’s angel-like harmonies, making this unison delightfully indefinable.

I dreamed a dream I could hardly see” sings Engle on the gorgeous Waiting for the Light to Quit. A swelling orchestral piece that, oddly enough, follows a similar groove to Sympathy for the Devil, but at quarter speed.

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With throbbing build-ups that make the walls sweat, we arrive at the album’s core. Firstly with A Workers’ Graveyard (Poor Eternal). Taking its cues from the dystopian snapshots Menuck carved out during his wonderful 2018 solo offering, Pissing Stars, the despair bleeds into The Sons and Daughters of the Poor Eternal – a prolonged drone where both Engle and Menuck distil the uncertainty of these times.

The storm clouds continue to hover during Anchor. “My anchor was lifted and I was cast out to sea,” sings Engle to the kind of sparkling electronics that embellished Nick Cave and Warren EllisCarnage. Splitting the storm clouds, it’s the most fantastical piece either artist has written, completely untethered and instead of staring into the void, we are guided into a sparkling new world that evokes Ghosteen-like imagery.

On Lie Down in Roses Dear, while Moss’ violin cuts through the noise of Engle and Menuck trading vocal harmonies, it encapsulates the spirit of “Darling The Dawn”. Pushing against the tide of dystopian horror, alongside Engle, Menuck delicately unravels a series of sonic vignettes that ooze with tender emotional force. It’s more of the beautiful noise that Menuck often references, but with Engle delivering one of the stirring performances of the year so far, a new light emerges. A real sense of hope and by the sounds of it, “Darling The Dawn” is just the start for ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT.

“Darling The Dawn” is out via Constellation Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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