No Earthly Sound is earth-moving music and a welcome return from Bruce Peninsula.
In the midst of a global pandemic, nothing bridges physical distancing and quarantines in quite the same way as music does. From the collective singing of strangers from their balconies and rooftops to the atonal banging of pots and pans to streaming playlists and albums at the same time as others who are holed up in their homes, music connects us when nothing else can.
Though they couldn’t have predicted a worldwide crisis like COVID-19, Bruce Peninsula couldn’t have picked a better time for their return album nor a better name for it. No Earthly Sound is an eight-years-in-the-making return of the Toronto-based ensemble that scrambled choral singing, psychedelic rock, folk, and roots music to cook up an otherworldly sound and style on Mountain is a Mouth (2009) and Open Flames (2011). With core members and principal songwriters Misha Bower, Matthew Cully (EONS), and Neil Haverty (Understudy), plus the added support of over two dozen friends and collaborators both in the studio and behind the boards, Bruce Peninsula circa 2020 is no less boisterous and ebullient than its previous, more populated iterations.
Opening with “Don’t Wake the Giant”, first heard as the theme to Andrew Cividino’s 2016 film Sleeping Giant, No Earthly Sound rouses classic Bruce Peninsula rhythms and harmonies from their extended slumber. The ominous presence of “Don’t Wake the Giant” towers over No Earthly Sound and lays down a loose template of dynamic, impassioned music that the record’s other nine songs follow. Recent single “Make a Sound” is downright funky. Fronted by Bower singing of a relationship going sour, “Make a Sound” connects both emotionally and intellectually. “Been Busy” finds Haverty chewing through rapid-fire lyrics and follows similar themes about disintegrating trust and communication in relationships.
A tidal wave of rhythm crashes through the Cully-led “Summertime” before the second half of No Earthly Sound ebbs into gentler but no less affecting numbers like “Born Lucky” and “Dig A Little Deeper”. Closer “Why Can’t” starts off with Bower’s heartbreaking croon then swells to a rousing crescendo before gently bringing us back down to earth. No Earthly Sound is earth-moving music, but the most stirring and surprising moments for me come in the silence once it’s over. It’s the void of sound that impresses upon me how much better life is when Bruce Peninsula is making music. Welcome home.