Published Mar 03, 2020The sound of Nadjiwan's latest release, The Dog Lake Sessions, is so big that it explodes through the confines of its title. It's a vibrant narrative told through the movement of intense feelings, and also through a sound that is at once new and '70s-rock'n'roll-old.
The album was written and composed by acclaimed Indigenous musician and producer Marc Meriläinen, who wrote and recorded The Dog Lake Sessions late last summer inside of a cabin at Dog Lake, ON, along with his two sons, Cole Rivers Meriläinen (bass) and Fox Meriläinen (percussion). Meriläinen says the album is about loss, about surviving a feeling of hopelessness; accordingly, there are five tracks on the album, each elemental as an archetype — like the five stages of grief — strung together by a struggle for meaning, which is finally attained by the final track.
The journey begins electric and frenetic, with "The Lament," a song lifted out of confusion and despair, from prickly memories. Meriläinen's voice transforms and is transforming — it harkens to something tearful within the listener that was always there and is finally coaxed out by Meriläinen's guitar. His voice is smoky and smouldering, rough like Eddie Vedder's, but also very much his own, in the way that it can get soft and almost whispering. Following it is the aptly-named "The Dance," which, invigorating as an ice bath, injects hope into the album, with its spritely acoustics and Meriläinen's vocals repeating "Love finds a way."
By the third track "The Water" — which washes over your senses like a rushing stream, urgent but also positive, intent as life — the album and the listener are calm, clear-headed. As the track speaks of a stability, Meriläinen's voice gets softer, almost getting lost in the percussion sound of waves, the delicate twangs of the electric guitar that gently sew the song to your mind, which is the better for it.
"The Pursuit" is visceral and ambient, bringing courage through celebration of the self while "The Spirits" begins with the staid crackling of fire and a hissing like that of cicadas. It's dramatic, holistic, and Meriläinen's voice once again gives us something different.
The Dog Lake Sessions gives us a story that straddles a curious ground between familiar and new, a delicate and intricate album that shows us Meriläinen's genius and skill. It's so expansive, antithetical to the small space in which it was recorded, that you wonder how Meriläinen did it. (Independent)