Independent • 2021

The debut from ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT (collaborators Ariel Engle and Efrim Menuck) is an open exhalation of fractured and fragmented sounds that vibrate without friction.

The “working-on-music-remotely” pandemic-inspired angle is bordering on becoming cliché, but there is nothing banal or pedestrian about the lockdown collaboration between Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) and Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra). Working together as ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, Engle and Menuck’s aeaeeaea is, as its vowel-filled name implies, an open exhalation of fractured and fragmented sounds that vibrate without friction. 

Menuck makes the noises: abstract sound collages that run on electrical currents and feedback loops. “SKIN I’M IN” starts off sounding like a pipe organ recorded off a trans-Atlantic telephone line before pulsing synths start slowly and methodically, lulling your senses into submission. That’s when Engle steps up to the mic to hypnotize you with her voice. She floats like a disembodied poet on the other end of the line, speaking in codes that connect with your subconscious. “TO RAISE A CHILD” scrambles the signal further. Not being a parent myself, I can only imagine that the track is the aural equivalent of what it’s been like to have to care for children while the world closed in around us because of COVID-19. It’s a claustrophobic cacophony that’s subtly textured and nuanced thanks to Engle’s layered vocals. 

There’s a sad, hollow bellow at the heart of “WICKED LEADER” that’s matched by Engle’s mournful, dirge-like verses. Part lullaby, part hymn, it is the darkest corner of an already moody and maudlin collection. And yet, aeaeeaea is underscored by an unflappable feeling that optimism will always triumph over fear and confusion. Sustained notes ebb and flow through these seven elongated tone poems, like winds in the sky signalling a change is almost upon us. What’s coming next? Hope? Horror? Anticipation? Anxiety? It’s all possible, all highly probable. With aeaeeaea, ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT reminds us that the only way out is to go through, and the only way to go through is to keep on going no matter the stakes.

Absolutely Free
Alex Southey
My Nights on the Island