Dark Bird: Out of Line LP
While it is obviously inappropriate to universally apply the hoary proverb Every cloud has a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic, from within its darkness the situation has inadvertently produced glimmers of hopeful, inspiring light with the emergence of some extraordinary art.
While the formulated plans and aims of musicians the world over have, at the very least, been unimaginably disrupted by the crisis for the foreseeable future, adaptative reinvention and adjustment has been key to continuation of the creative process. In the case of Toronto’s ROAN BATEMAN, before the pandemic was declared the intention for his long-running DARK BIRD project was to assemble a full band for the first time in 13 years and - having existed solely as a home recording concept to date - head into a studio to collectively craft OUT OF LINE, an album that had begun to evolve at the beginning of 2020.
But needs must, so rather than await an uncertainly distant opportunity to realize his ideal vision for the album, Bateman ploughed on, largely solo, harnessing and channeling what he describes as “all the crazy 2020 energy” he could muster to advance and complete OUT OF LINE. Despite the unprecedented circumstances forcing the 9-song album to be created in relative detachment from his prospective collaborators, the pandemic’s silver lining for Bateman comes with the facts that he has taken a significant leap forward in terms of personal home recording achievement and, by presenting “the many faces of DARK BIRD as one fully-formed, unified sound,” forged the most beautiful collection of his dreamy psychedelia yet unveiled.
Aided with backing vocals on three cuts by Bateman’s life partner, the acclaimed free-roaming artist EIYN SOF (Olde Nightrifter/The Hologlyph/Springskull DIY label); MICHELLE BRESLIN (Lostworldsounds) on backing vocals, plus guitar on Stranger, and fellow psych-rock adventurer STEPHEN KEEPING (Sadoceanspacebear/Squirrel) contributing additional drum programming on the opening And it All Ends Well and closer, This is It, Bateman otherwise handles lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums and drum machine, as well as the arresting sleeve design.
Since hatching in 2006, DARK BIRD has independently issued eight releases - half of which are EPs – as well as two all-killer, no-filler compilations. Bateman trades equally in spacy, atmospheric instrumental tunes and vocal material spanning introspective folk, elegant rock, leftfield pop and hazy psychedelia, but following Long Gone (2007), Come Home (2010) and 2018’s Lay Low, OUT OF LINE – his first opus for noted Nanaimo, BC indie imprint NoiseAgonyMayhem – is just his 4th full-length vocal album.
Expressed by Bateman as his “most personal and political work” to date, OUT OF LINE is cavernous in scale, drenched in reverb and blessed with vivid, oft-thought-provoking lyrical imagery. From a sonic perspective, while sounding vitally fresh and contemporary it’s also built from a classic psychedelic template, recalling such as Rain Parade, Spacemen 3, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Morgan Delt, The Rose City Band, and vintage inspirations for them all, especially early Pink Floyd. Chiming and chugging guitars, glissading synth, and layered harmonies blend and weave beautifully atop a rock-solid rhythmic backbone, producing an auditory experience as calming as it is thrilling.
And, so suitably sequenced, in the beautiful closing rocker This is It Bateman brings OUT OF LINE to a profound conclusion by pinning down the times that every single one of us are living in right now, leaving us to dwell on an awesome perspective: You are not alone / You are not alone / We are travellin’ on this rock / Spinnin’ round, spinnin’ round / Around the sun…