On the surface they seem like polar opposites, but the oceans and the prairies are alike on so many levels. Flat and smooth one moment; prone to devastating meteorological disturbances the next. They are both places of loneliness, desolation, and danger. Both are easy to get lost in.
So is Dead, In The Water, the second full-length record from Saskatoon-born singer-songwriter Alex Bent + the Emptiness. Bent is open and honest about the difficult period in his personal life that influenced the dark pall that hangs over Dead, In The Water. In interviews, he offers resigned introspection about that time, much of it spent in his home working on music, this music. There are moments when Bent comes within a hair’s width of crossing the line between confession and embarrassment, but that’s the whole point. He feels so out of his skin, so creepy, displaced, and he wants us to feel it, too.
Psychologists could write essays and volumes on opener “Paper Mask ‘16” alone. As a statement of intent, it lays all Bent’s cards on the table early while holding back the tricks up his sleeve until later. Influences as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Johnny Cash, and Loverboy (you read that right) are everywhere, but so is Bent’s distinctive, velvety croon. He is a captivating vocalist–one of the best I’ve ever heard–so it’s hard not to get drawn into the emotional abyss of “Voicemail” and “In The Morning”. If there’s a criticism to make against Dead, In The Water it’s that its level of intensity throughout might be too much to take in one sitting.
Dead, In The Water is not the kind of album I’d love by default. In all honesty, it doesn’t check any boxes on my musical score card. If it were made by any other artist, I know I wouldn’t be interested, but Bent is not like any other artist. I see myself in him, in his sincerity, his vulnerability. I identify with his self-imposed, loner status. I know what it’s like to walk side by side with the Emptiness, his dark musical companion. Together, they are searching out kindred spirits and other wounded souls, looking to make a connection. Dead, In The Water is a beacon through a dark night of the soul, looking to save those who don’t even realize they’re lost.