By Chris Moore:
RATING: 3 / 5 stars
Otherworldly and haunting, yet so pretty and longing.
This is the best way I can think of to describe Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights, the EP that Broken Social Scene tacked onto some editions of this year’s Forgiveness Rock Record. In keeping with the aesthetics of the tracks, the physical release is plain; if you’ve seen the album cover, you’ve pretty much seen it all, except for a similar back cover and a navy blue disc with white letters.
And yet, there is a simple beauty to the ten brief songs that are appended to the full album. Forgiveness Rock Record is a solid album, one which I will review before the year is out, and yet it is not as notable as this little, possibly forgettable, largely instrumental ten-track EP.
It is in the concision of its songs that this collection shines.
Unlike its full-length counterpart, which suffers at times from not knowing when to stop, Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights does not let any one track stretch out for too long. No single idea, riff, or sound is carried out for more than a minute or two, and this is what propels this album.
1) New Instructions
2) Sudden Foot Loss
3) Shabba Lights
4) Song for Dee
5) Eling’s Haus
6) Professor Sambo
7) Never Felt Alive
8) Paperweight Room
9) Turbo Mouse
10) Far Out
“Song for Dee,” in asking, “Good times, where’d you go?,” provides the central motivation for the melancholy that permeates these tracks. Even the comparably brighter “Eling’s Haus” which follows “Song for Dee” is constrained by the repeated drone that sets the rhythm of the song.
“New Instructions” provides an opening for the EP that sounds vaguely like the acoustic fingerpicking from a Simon and Garfunkel single, but the subsequent layers that are added steers the track in a new direction. “Sudden Foot Loss” follows; it is also acoustic in nature, but is much more unified in its sound, with one strong guitar up front and center in the mix. The picking here is very simple and regular, with fleeting yet also regular flourishes between repetitions of the riff. The background invites the mood of a dream, which is explored further on the track that follows.
“Shabba Lights” hints at human voices in the ah’s and ooh’s that accompany the horns and bells. This introduces “Song for Dee,” which would be the simplest and unassuming track in any other context; here it is the only song that sounds like, well, a song.
Unlike the others, it has verses and words.
The second half of Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights drags a bit, with “Professor Sambo” providing ample time and space to consider what else might be said about Dee or other causes of the somber, trance-like tone of this EP. More vocals arrive on “Never Felt Alive,” but the words are difficult to make out, other than the three that comprise the title.
If regret could be translated into sounds, then it would sound precisely like “Paperweight Room,” a song whose title invites the listener to imagine a space, perhaps composed of memories, characterized by its ability to weigh one down.
The acoustic picking on “Turbo Mouse” is as pretty as the accompanying music is sad and offputting. It all builds up to the aptly titled final track, “Far Out,” which sounds as though it is set in outer space.
In the end, Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights doesn’t say much.
And yet it is the otherworldly, haunting, and yet beautiful textures that make the EP alluring and compelling. By saying less, it invites more imagination, and it is unsurprisingly an excellent choice of music to put on after dark.
This Broken Social Scene EP is one of the pleasant surprises of the year. You won’t hear much about it, but it is one of the most compelling collections of stripped down acoustic instrumentals I’ve heard in a long time — I dare say, perhaps ever.