Steadily approaching Halloween and El Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead, not the same as Halloween as some might assume); the review today is almost too perfect. Poetically fitting! In fact, for Gillian Stone, to be “poetic” is just par for the course. The multi-instrumentalist and interdisciplinary artist from Toronto (Tkaronto) is releasing a new EP on November 18th entitled “Spirit Photographs.” It’s to be a five track EP, and oh boy if you’ve read my stuff before you know that I’m done for when it comes to this: The EP has a Vinyl pre-sale going on right now on Bandcamp. Pre-order today! After listening to the the EP a few times through today, I can tell you that my interest is certainly peaked for the translation to vinyl. Looking forward to hearing it on that medium.
Gillian Stone’s sound is known for being “surreal” in approach. I would call it avant-garde. It’s definitely vocally centered as at times it’s almost acapella only accompanied by minimalist type of trippy pulsations, loops, and piano. At other times she embodies a post-rock, ambient kind of sound. What I like most about it, however, is Stone’s lyrical approach. Her writing tends to be dire, yet cryptic. Suits my taste just perfect when it comes to lyrics. An example from her 2020 single, “Bridges:”
“Drowned saints and poignant liars pounding flesh for their desires”
I mean, come on, that’s like metal! In all sincerity about it though, I truly do enjoy the lyrics the most about her work. She elaborates:
My music processes riding the waves of mental health, particularly as it relates to dysregulation, addiction, shame, relational trauma, and dissociation. Because of this, I speak candidly about my lived experience through my music and expressions of artistic identity as an act of de-stigmatization.
Stone’s discography in Spotify only goes back as far as 2020’s “Bridges.” However, a nice easter egg you will find if you explore her Bandcamp page is a cool 3-song EP of stripped down blues entitled, “Banshee Blues,” only available on Bandcamp! Just a quick shout out about a nice find that made its way into my Bandcamp wish list before we take a look at the upcoming “Spirit Photographs” in more detail.
The title of the EP “Spirit Photographs,” is named after a spiritualist practice that was popular just after the Spanish Flu. A practice that claimed that the ghosts of loved ones would be captured in a subject’s photograph. That is where one concept ends and another beings. The five tracks on the EP are conceptually linked together by each one representing a different step in the Kübler-Ross model’s five stages of grief (AKA DABDA). A very interesting concept in my opinion. Stone details it further:
Through this model, I explore processing the personal turmoil of my mental health disability in an era of collective trauma. In a landscape where post-rock is very male and instrumentally dominated, Spirit Photographs responds and challenges the genre by being vocally and emotionally driven.
Track 1: “June” is the denial stage. There are erratic sound effects that would support this feeling at times, it reminds me of Tori Amos and Bjork, especially the “ooh yeahs!” towards the end. Kind of manic.
Track 2: ” Amends” is the stage of anger. Some lyrically dark content about how she “had been drinking” sets up a tone of tension, and the guitar arpeggio sounds anxious as well. She plainly states “I’m angry” at one point in the song before moving into a crashing finale with a nice fuzzy bassline starting about two thirds of the way through.
Track 3: “Raven’s Song” is the bargaining stage. This track is the most avant-garde in my opinion. Sounds ritualistic, chant like, with much talk of the devil. Perhaps the proverbial “bargaining” is happening with the devil? Overall, this is a classic example of one of her minimalistic, psychedelic, and vocally intense approaches.
Track 4: “Solitude” at this point we are in the depressions stage, and what better of a way to drive that home than with a Black Sabbath cover? This is one of the tracks off their “Masters of Reality” album which was always one of my favorites. The Sabbath track oddly enough, is also the one that I’ve heard and had questioned to myself “is that really Ozzy? I wonder…” There’s a whole Reddit discussion about it. Anyways, I digress. Great obscure pick from their catalog by Stone, it’s very cool, super depressing (as conceptually intended), and dark. Once again it is a great vocal performance and minimalist, as a lone bass carries much of the tune (with some syths) contrary to the Sabbath version rich in Tony Iommi’s multi-instrumentation efforts that included flute.
Track 5: “The Throne” brings us to the final stage of acceptance. “The throne and the siren song becoming me” is an interesting line to open up the song. As if saying, “I’m fine now. I’m getting over it like I’m told to.” At 1:57, the song picks up, gets kind of funky, and a bit upbeat. Stone sings, “Drop me in the water that I can’t afford to drink” and “Think we’ll have a daughter and name her by it’s father” as if she’s making cynical plans for the future, maybe if for nothing else appeasement, because that’s what “you’re supposed to do” since we are in the stage of acceptance now. Just my interpretation.
Spirit Photographs was co-produced by Michael Peter Olsen (Zoon, The Hidden Cameras) with Gillian Stone. It was recorded at his home studio in Parkdale, Toronto, with the exception of Spencer Cole’s (Weaves, The Weather Station) drumming throughout the record, and the electric guitar on the “The Throne,” which were recorded at Union Sound Company. Recorded between June 2021 and January 2022, the project had hit some snags and delays up until now. The delays acting as a blessing in disguise as Stone made mention of some last minute changes that she was glad to have made. Just goes to show, you don’t rush art!
Don’t forget to support this project and to follow on Instagram, Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube, and Spotify. You can also visit her official website. If you enjoy their music and are able to provide monetary support, you might consider downloading it on Bandcamp.
It also helps to stream and share their music; you can obviously find it in the following Playlists: Less Than 1,000 Followers, Fresh Singles, Indie Only, Alterindie State Of Mind, Female Rising Stars, 12 New Songs This Week, Sickest & Dopest, Chill – Folk – Acoustic, and Unknown But Essentials!
Remember that you can always find me here AMS Radio for all my social media and collaborations.
P.S. If you enjoy discovering new artists and fresh new music you can subscribe to this blog Less Than 1,000 Followers and follow the Playlist with all the artists that we have presented here!
This coverage was created via Musosoup #sustainablecurator