CD REVIEWS: Evening Hymns: Spirit Guides

Arts & Entertainment/Music by

Spirit Guides, the full length debut from Jonas Bonnetta under his Evening Hymns moniker, is also the newest release from the Trinity Bellwoods musical community (that features the likes of Timber Timbre and Ohbijou). Fortunately, it’s a good indication of the music coming from West Toronto’s indie music scene. In short, it’s pretty fantastic.

Sonically, Spirit Guides isn’t too far removed from the sound of most of the Bellwoods bands – not surprising considering Ohbijou’s James Bunton produced the album and many Bellwoods mainstays lent a hand to the recording process. All of the elements are here, from rich orchestration and emotive melodies to a record heavy on atmosphere. But it’s hardly predictable, with songs often starting simple before erupting into soaring statements of strings and brass.

Bonnetta really excels as a storyteller and Spirit Guides is about dealing with loss. There’s obvious pathos in these songs, but the album doesn’t try to make you sad. Bonnetta may sing that he lies like a dead deer on the floor, but you know by the end he’s picked himself up. In fact, opener “Lanterns” is a plea for perseverance and a promise that everything will be okay. It’s a reminder that there is always a light, a reappearing lyrical theme weaved throughout the album.

Spirit Guides works best as an album. That’s not to say these songs don’t stand out from one another – they do – but they work even better in tandem. Case in point: “November 1 2008, Lakefield, Ontario,” an ambient five-minute recording of a rain storm. Normally such a track would rightfully be declared wholly pretentious, but flowing seamlessly from the end of “Cedars,” this non-song makes complete sense taken in context, fitting in perfectly and helping to soldify the overall tone of the record. Plus, when was the last time you really sat and listened to rain?

An incredibly strong debut, Spirit Guides is an impressive addition to the already impressive Bellwoods canon.