Featuring little more than two vocalists and a drummer, Dolman / Rossy / Jobin creates a haunting and unique sonic world that sounds like little else in the best possible way.
Dolman / Rossy / Jobin (the experimental trio of drummer Aaron Dolman and vocalists Sarah Rossy and Eugénie Jobin) manages to create a world of sonic complexity while mostly avoiding melodic instruments. Borrowing from jazz, chamber music, folk, and the avant-garde, their debut album as a trio, Are You Here to Help? will probably not sound like anything else you’ll listen to this year, in the best possible way.
Album opener “Two Boats and the Lighthouse Keeper” is a deceptive tease of what is to come. It features jazzy and tight drumming coupled with a somewhat straightforward folk refrain. Expectations quickly shift on the album as the trio moves further away from lyrics, focusing in many songs on using voices as instruments, in harmony, unison, and sometimes discordance. Percussion expands on different tracks filling spaces in various ways, though almost never in a manner that might be considered a traditional drumbeat.
Already eschewing traditional band setups, the group demonstrates careful restraint on most tracks, pushing the listener to consider how we perceive music, especially where their music is at its most minimal. Most impressively, though, despite its creativity and experimental nature, this album is so wonderfully listenable. Minute details hide amongst each vocal blend, sparse percussion, and at times, silences between sounds. Rossy and Jobin have lush and warm tenor voices that work nicely together, and the clear and clean production accents Dolman’s virtuosic drumming.
It’s unlikely another Canadian album will come out in 2022 that resembles Are You Here to Help?. However, Dolman / Rossy / Jobin is not looking to find contemporaries. With their debut, an album that feels both carefully orchestrated yet still beautifully spontaneous, the trio has started down a new path towards accessible and alluring experimentalism that challenges most notions of what constitutes a band.
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