Isaac Vallentin’s “…” is an unlikely breath of fresh air after a year of noise, nerves, and neurosis.
As I sit in the mid-March sun shaking off the winter blahs while listening to Isaac Vallentin’s “…” (which you can pronounce as Ellipsis or Dot Dot Dot), we are now 365 days into That-which-we-are-all-sick-of-talking-about-but-still-need-to-take-seriously. According to Vallentin, it was about 365 days ago that he started writing these six wistful tunes, songs that he says came “like a wave, …the words came crashing in, drowning [him] completely for a time.” Recorded in three days via “an ancient MCI 2″ tape machine,” “…” is an unlikely breath of fresh air after a year of noise, nerves, and neurosis. Like the sunshine streaming through my windows today, Vallentin’s music is the best disinfectant for souls grown weary of the grind.
“Diane in the Morning Light” is everything I could ever want from an opening song: a finely-drawn portrait of a character that comes to embody all of us, a woman, who Vallentin describes as being in the throes of recovering from the loss of someone she held dear. Vallentin takes his time acquainting us with Diane. Over the course of fifteen verses, she becomes as intimate as kin. From there, “Winter Song” documents the escape we all long for: “The northern winds grew warm / toward the end of May / and in due time / we’ll be just fine, I’m sure of it.”
Vallentin’s Bandcamp page for “…” offers extensive notes on each song’s inspiration and context, serving as a pseudo-album sleeve to read whilst listening. He’s explicit about his concerns around “The Ballad of Nunangat,” a song written from the possible perspectives of an Inuk youth growing up in the North fifty to seventy years ago. He goes so far as to suggest further readings to help put the territory’s history in context. Like “Diane in the Morning Light,” Vallentin takes his time, letting his young narrator share his experience over ten riveting minutes of unadorned folk guitar and through his gentle voice.
An LSD-fueled stroll around Montreal (“Three Scenes of the Apocalypse in Montréal”) puts a bounce into Valletin’s step as “…” rounds a corner and heads home for a remembrance of family (“Joe the Crow, Rusticoville”) and another extended exploration of where Vallentin and the world’s head was at mid-2020. “As I Wake from an American Dream” is both a scatching indictment of what has become of our neighbours to the south, and an optimistic prayer that, even as it feels the country is tearing itself apart, healing is still a possibility.
After a year of unfathomable loss and isolation, the world is about to come out the other side — wounded, scarred, and more than a little scared — but present. By the time “…” strums its last chord, it’s obvious why Vallentin opted for a wordless title: What better way to honour every tragedy we’ve witnessed and every triumph we’ve celebrated in the last year than with contemplative, reverential silence?