Review: Parkland Music Project, “Eminent Ghosts”

Parkland Music Project - Eminent Ghosts

If you are looking for something a little different, a little outside of the box, and take great pleasure in music loaded with exploratory sonic textures, post-rock energy, and impassioned, emphatic performances, then we have something special for you here today.  “Eminent Ghosts” is the latest album (or EP – call it as you wish – but it clocks in at just a little over 40 minutes in length) from Vancouver, BC alt-country rockers, Parkland Music Project (PMP), released last Friday via Offseason Records.

“Eminent Ghosts” is quite possibly the most far reaching and fully realized PMP album to date, another labor of love from lead singer-songwriter Rob Malowany.  “In all, Eminent Ghosts is about acceptance, responsibility, and being present – for yourself, the ones you love, and the world at large,” he shares. “These are welcomed hauntings.  The ghosts are all the friends, family, and inspirational strangers who imbue the present with a depth and range, and act as reassuring guides towards an uncertain, but supported-for future.”

Malowany (vocals/guitar) is joined by his good friend and long-time co-conspirator Robin Hunter (electric guitar/lap steel), along with Paul Rigby (acoustic guitar/pedal steel) and the JUNO-Award winning tandem of Shanto Acharia (bass) and Stephen Lyons (drums), who really bring this collection of five tracks to life.  “Eminent Ghosts” was tracked over two days by Jesse Gander (The Pack AD, Japandroids) at Rain City Recorders, who captures perfectly the chemistry that the band have honed through their live performances and recordings at the now-defunct Vancouver arts space, Merge.  Rob’s vocals are recorded live, as he responds to and inspires the direction of a given performance; with his ensemble’s takes also captured live, complete with minimal overdubbing.

If you have paid attention, and are focusing now on the math, you have no doubt arrived at the conclusion that five tracks spread over forty minutes equals some epic individual run times here.  Indeed, PMP have pressed “Eminent Ghosts” onto a limited-edition blue vinyl, with the opening two tracks filling Side A alone (and combining for a 19:48 run time), while three of the five run in excess of eight minutes.  I’m sure a few Pink Floyd fans just took notice!

The opening track, “Stand Down Olympus,” is a long, drawn out, slow-burning, moody, apocalyptic homage to the prog-rock and psych-rock influences that inspire Malowany’s sound.  The message here is one of urgency; to topple your oppressors, starting with your own fears and self-doubt.  The subdued instrumental moments offer hints of early solo Greg Keelor, before PMP elevate both the intensity and distortion to mind-blowing proportions, simultaneously evoking images of a world being pulled apart. 

Rob Malowany

The pace drops significantly heading into “Float,” underscored by the exploratory spirit of textural improvisations and evoking the sweeping, dreamlike sonority of contemporary chamber music.  Rob’s somber, haunting vocals are supported by moving lap steel cries, unconventional percussion, and eerie, ringing guitar work that does not stray too far from David Gilmour’s playbook.

The first single from the album is “King Is Rising,” which is, per Rob, “track three from the record, or as some would call it, the first song on side two of the vinyl.”  Grounded in deep roots-Americana style, the woodsy guitars and brushed snare paint historical images of Elvis, the 1960s civil rights movement, and a lost romanticism of what modern North America could be.  Combining the light folk-country sounds with Rob’s vocal delivery, itself tapping into the sound and style of vintage Neil Young, leaves little doubt that “King Is Rising” is PMP’s most radio-friendly offering here.

This theme continues across the remainder of Side B, in which “Lottery Life” critiques the illusions that many of us place upon the ideologies of unfettered capitalism; gambling on those false hopes it continually springs as opposed to investing in and taking responsibility for it.  And culminating with “Home,” PMP offer that much needed glimmer of hope; that as chaotic as the world may appear to be right now, if you can create community with your chosen family and honor such relationships that you have, you are there – you are “Home.” 

This final track coincides perfectly with Rob’s own personal journey right now, as he returns to Vancouver following several weeks on a grueling promotional tour. “In lieu of being about to tour the new release, I’m currently driving across Canada dropping off records to people I feel should have a copy,” he shared with us a few weeks ago.  “The Parkland Music Project – Cross Canada Journal is kind of a promotional, social media, YouTube, documentary project sharing the record in a socially distanced way.”

“Eminent Ghosts” is available now – learn more at www.parklandmusicproject.com  

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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