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Basia Bulat THE GARDEN

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Basia Bulat THE GARDEN. Secret City Records

‘Montreal’s Basia Bulat today shares ‘Fables (The Garden Version)’, the deeply stirring second single arranged and orchestrated by Zou Zou Roubidoux and from her forthcoming album THE GARDEN via Secret City Records. The track arrives alongside a video directed by Bulat that juxtaposes Hi 8 Camera footage from her childhood with recently shot footage of herself and her daughter. “This is one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written because, as a folk singer, I have spent my adult life devoted to singing stories,” explains Bulat. “Storytelling is how we understand who we are and where we come from - fables carry lessons from one generation to the next. But what do we do when part of the fable passed down to us is forgotten or mistaken? When we realize as adults that we may have been carrying on legacies that we didn’t intend or understand? Sometimes the stories we learned in childhood about ourselves and our homes are remnants from a past that cannot answer the questions we have in the present. We can’t change or save anyone with the stories we’ve carried with us, but they remind us to be bold enough to meet one another in the moment we have now with truth and love.” A reimagination of songs across Bulat’s five studio albums with stunning classical string quartet arrangements by Owen Pallett, Paul Frith, and Robidoux.

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Of the video, Bulat adds: “I wrote ‘Fables’ as both an ode to childhood and to the more difficult truths of adulthood, so when I came across some lovely old footage my mother filmed during a snow day, I was inspired to sing back to that time and see what might happen if I filmed it. Millefiore Clarkes and I were lucky enough to catch the sunlight and calm the day after a huge blizzard came through on Prince Edward Island. It felt very emotional watching the footage back to back, across years and seasons, recreating what felt like a childhood fable I had forgotten about in a new era of my life.”

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Review

Canadian Bulat is one of the finest female singer/songwriters to emerge in recent years by virtue of her distinctive, expressive vibrato voice and successive record releases of consistant quality and beauty. THE GARDEN follows in that tradition and could well be her finest record yet. ‘The Garden’ opens the release with swaying strings and that quivvering, mesmerising, high-register voice. Throughout, there are waves of violin sounds that rise and fall behind Bulat’s contemplative vocal and a heavenly melody. It’s a thing of utter beauty and deep emotion. Lyrically, there are few better or more moving artists:

Here
Where the grass is the tallest
Lilacs all done with their blooming
Keeping your eyes closed to see it
Here, in the garden we wanted
In a dream we might not know it
Walking through, minding the old fence
On the edge of an ocean
We won’t look back
And if we don’t we won’t be lost
I won’t look back, I know I won’t
I know I won’t be lost

‘Infamous’ has an ecclesiastical feel in the instrumental arrangement which is magical and adds to the song’s drama. Lyrically, Bulat is at her most transparent:

Saw the pictures, read all your darkest thoughts
While you were waitin’, ready to brush me off
We could be friendly, we could be out of touch
We could be famous or even infamous
If you want
Come back or not but call it off
Come back or don’t but turn me down
Don’t waste my time pretending love is somewhere else
Come back or not but call it off
Come back or don’t but turn around
Stop wasting time pretending love is somewhere else

A strong melody and wondrous production completes another formidable musical package. ‘I Was Daughter’ exemplifies the extensive use of strings on the record with its extending instrumental introduction. Bulat has selected previous songs for the ’stringed treatment’ including ‘Go On’ which goes upbeat with strings swooping into view with pleasing regulatory. Bulat’s voice is at its most expressive communicating lyrics that are introspective and real:

Call this on my awful luck
Skies, they opened wide for us
Oh, what a heavy rain it was that covered all of you
The wind has changed, my boy
I never knew a voice like yours
But I know just what good it was, that lie you hold on to

The string arrangement here is arguably the most adventurous on the record as it follows another strong melody and vocal performance. ‘Tall Tall Shadow’ adds piano notes to another fabulous and moving arrangement. ‘The Pilgriming Vine’ highlights the judicial juxtaposition of voice and instrument to produce one of my favourite songs here. ‘Fables’ is the most recent single off the record and it’s hardly surprising. It opens with whispering instruments as Bulat’s clear vocal dominates, excels and deeply moves. It’s an intimate song that reveals past love and loss:

All fables fail you when you’re older
And still the mirror on your wall
Keeps you from staring into the darkness

And visions keeping you awake
In fairy tales, you try to stay
They echo back at you like a chorus

And you’re still too young to know
When you’re living for a ghost
Spinning fables when the brightest colour’s fading

The record continues to offer up the most beautiful songs and performances and I’ll complete this review with ‘Are You In Love?’ which is another of my favourites. Bulat is at talking pace as the story unfolds and she reveals the thoughts and fears that many of us share in our romantic friendships:

First comes your fear
Your laughter and tears, then you shout
When you need a name for your doubt
You know what’s happening
When you feel free
Something small brings you back to your knees
Reminds you of secrets you keep
Now that it’s happening
Could it be like your visions of destiny?
Golden sunset you saw on a silver screen?
Was it all just a trick played by chemistry?
When there’s no other way out
One voice you hear in a crowd
Honey, now you
Now you’re in love

Bulat has done it again and in the process produced an album that could well be my best-of-year. The instrumental arrangements alone are an object lesson. Essential.

5/5

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