Twin Within use the buoyancy and grandiosity of the Hamilton Philharmonic to take old song songs to new heights.
Twin Within’s 2015 debut, Horizontal Lines is a short, sweet, classic-sounding folk-pop record. Bruce Peninsula’s drummer, Steve McKay, and man about town, Alex Samaras, created songs hinging on the startling similarity between the timbre of their voices. Often singing together, it could be difficult to tell who was singing what parts and the sterility of the studio didn’t always do the arrangements justice.
The duo has remedied both of these problems with their new “crossover collaboration,” Live-Off-The-Floor At Hamilton Place With The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Almost all the songs from Horizontal Lines are reimagined, and each is filled with a new life, beauty and theatricality. Both singers strengths are amplified. McKay serves as the steady centre (fitting considering his primary instrument) and keeps songs like “Night Driver” and “YerYard ’78” from floating away completely. Samaras is clearly a singer who thrives in a live setting and uses his enthusiastic voice to push songs like “Two Within” and “Tunnel To The Reservoir” to brand new heights, often outshining the whole damn orchestra in the process. He has incredible control over his voice, effortlessly switching from falsetto to full-bellied harmonies and it is a thrill to hear him wrap his voice around McKay’s.
Live albums aren’t easy to pull off and are very rarely essential, but Twin Within are so clearly in their element, using the buoyancy and grandiosity of the Hamilton Philharmonic to take each song to a new level. Although it was likely harder to pull off live than it would have been in the studio, Live-Off-The-Floor bursts with energy and succeeds because the two singers’ differences are on display. The “classical” versions of Twin Within’s output nearly render the “folk” versions on Horizontal Lines obsolete — an accomplishment in itself — and should be the go-to artifact for these expertly arranged and performed songs.