Land of Talk / Half Waif
Sunday, Jun 18, 2017 9:00 PM CDT
Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
21 years and over
Land of Talk's second album has ten tracks and is called Cloak and Cipher. Its songs are cloaked, are ciphered, but the title is not just a description; it is a challenge, a command, a promise Elizabeth Powell makes to herself. CLOAK! she says. CIPHER! This is how hidden things may be shown, how secrets can be sung out, in golds and bronzes, to the whole howling world.
It took ten seasons; one for each track.
Three winters ago, Elizabeth Powell had been transported to an unfamiliar land. This was not Montreal. She was alone in a room, singing sketches into a computer, furious and lost. She was trying to keep from unraveling. When Powell was a teenager, she used to crouch beside her four-track, whispering. Now she sat with a disconnected guitar and Garage Band's automated beats, making small things: playing a single riff for two days, layering chords, murmuring melodies without lyrics. And then she stopped.
That spring, Land of Talk went on tour. Powell escaped the empty room. She extinguished a small flame. In Hamburg, at noon, she wrote "Hamburg, Noon". But mostly Powell did not write: she issued a debut album and sang her heart out. She hid in the spotlight. Two autumns ago, Powell busted her ankle, ruined her voice, played with Broken Social Scene. This was the season David Foster Wallace died; his death mattered. Powell made an EP. It was called Fun and Laughter. It borrowed the most angry of those old winter fragments, turning them into songs. The lyrics came last.
One summer ago, Powell returned to Montreal. On Parc avenue and rue St-Viateur, she clasped old friends. She jammed, she fell in love. Then Vic Chesnutt died, and Lhasa died, and Mark Linkous died, and Alex Chilton died. And Powell changed the melody to "Color Me Badd" so it'd have a little more of Big Star's "Thirteen".
Cloak and Cipher was recorded at Breakglass Studio in October 2009 and January of this year. Land of Talk worked with Eoin Olaoghaire on bass, Andrew Barr on drums, members of Stars, Wintersleep, Besnard Lakes, Arcade Fire, Esmerine and Patrick Watson. The album was produced by the inimitable Jace Lasek, with Lasek's inimitable console - the same Neve board that Led Zep used on Physical Graffiti. There are rising horns and diving strings, but much of Cloak and Cipher Powell did alone: she reclaimed the solo, found the note, nailed it live off the floor.
- by Sean Michaels