New Hermitage
Halifax, NS
RIYL: François Houle; John Zorn; Peggy Lee

A survey of the song titles from New Hermitage’s latest album, which include “Boiling Off, Collecting Vapour,” “Skeletons,” and “In Amber,” reveals a preoccupation with uncovering what lies beneath the earth – that which has been abandoned by, frozen in, or ravaged by time. New Hermitage reward patience, and Unearth is a demanding work. Saxophone, clarinet, cello, guitar, and harp respond to one another in the chamber quartet’s 11 crackling, reedy, mostly improvised compositions like organisms in an ecosystem. Unearth is weighty and tactile. “Light Through the Rubble” wedges you under the rockpile. “Moss | Rust” presses your cheek against a damp, grown-over surface. On Unearth‘s eeriest piece, “Stalkers,” distorted footsteps stir up an illusion of being pursued through a tunnel. Respite follows on “Desertification,” one of the album’s most desolate moments, like the predator has lost its prey. Stay alert when listening to Unearth, and it, too, will bring you relief.

Leslie Ken Chu

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