“Darling The Dawn” 

Constellation Records • 2023

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT reminds us of the infinite possibilities and probabilities that make each sun rising a discrete and ephemeral one-time-only experience.

What if every sunrise wasn’t the fluid and inevitable transition from night to day that we all believe it to be? Imagine for a moment that there is an elaborate series of mechanisms behind every morning—pulleys, levers, gears, winches and the whole lot—grinding and forcing the sun upward while simultaneously pulling the horizon down in order to achieve a miraculous and mysterious dawn each day? What would that sound like? I imagine a close approximation would be “Darling The Dawn” by ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, the duo of Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) and Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion). 

Engle and Menuck’s “orchestral-punk electro-shoegaze” arrived in 2021 as a pandemic-inspired collaboration that explored the darkness, not to wallow in it, but to expose it to light. Fittingly, with “Darling The Dawn”, ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT continues exploring the idea of hopefulness and optimism breaking through melancholy. As Menuck explains, he was inspired by “the different weights of [the dawn’s] radiance, the way it kisses our dumb faces when we rise and leave the night behind, [and] the heaviness of that light when you haven’t slept.” 

Therein lies the strenuous exertion it often takes for the morning sun to burn off night’s influence. On “A Sparrows’ Lift,” Engle’s melodic tendrils serve as a reverse lullaby, a summons blinking us awake with the gentlest strokes and touch. Why are you getting up again? / Are you seeing things in your sleep?” she questions, not even waiting for a response: “It’s not a dream it’s real / I don’t have to know, I feel.”

As an overture, “A Sparrows’ Lift” doesn’t fully prepare you for the epic sensory overload of the album’s first movement, “We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun.” As I’ve previously noted, it is an impressive ten-minute mission statement that articulates the album’s central thesis through droning swells. As magnificent as “We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun” is, it runs a close second to the album’s other majestic movement, “The Sons And Daughters Of Poor Eternal.” A hallucinogenic pipe organ and the short-circuiting wiring jumpstart the nin-minute-plus slow-gathering hymn featuring violinist Jessica Moss and SUUNS drummer Liam O’Neill. Its lyrics, penned by Menuck, are equally as vivid and arresting as the arrangement: “O Sister we saw Hell, it’s fluorescent above a white plastic table, sticky and one bent leg barely holding”; “She’s wandering again, northward from the water and the bad buildings downtown towards the bright edge of the sprawl / A pink winter coat torn with the stuffing leaking.”

“Darling The Dawn”’s final movement, “Anchor” and “Lie Down In Roses Dear,” are two halves of the same thought, both featuring Engle’s engaging voice and Moss’ imposing strings. Whereas the album’s remaining compositions, “Waiting For The Light To Quit” and “A Worker’s Graveyard (Poor Eternal),” lean on melodies to move them forward, ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT immerse listeners into a hard-working, droning celestial transmission that further solidifies their raison d’être. Nothing about “Darling The Dawn” suggests premeditation or forethought, yet ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT’s spontaneity and the ease with which they follow an impulse to its conclusion is impeccable. Though we may believe it is a daily foregone conclusion, ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT reminds us of the infinite possibilities and probabilities that make each sunrise a discrete and ephemeral one-time-only experience.

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