Burnley, Lancashire native Tim Crabtree has finally landed. After coming to Halifax in 2004 to start a masters program at Dalhousie, Crabtree spent his first few years in academic circles, quietly studying and home-recording in his spare time. "I didn't really know any musicians around town. I was just sending things out into the ether, putting posters up looking for musicians," he says of his attempts to start a new project in Halifax. "I met with a few people, but nothing clicked and that sucked me back into the solo thing. It was a case of necessity being the mother of invention, I suppose."
Seven years on, Crabtree has experienced a coalescence of identity. After years of repeated paperwork and frustrations, he finally earned his Canadian citizenship in late 2011 by travelling to the border to perform an official landing. In tandem, Crabtree was putting the finishing touches on his first proper album as Paper Beat Scissors; a masterfully realized, self-titled record due out on Forward Music on March 6. "I feel very proud of it. I thought I might as well put my name to it twice," Crabtree says cheerfully of his decision to self-title.
Hearing the rich sonic landscapes on Paper Beat Scissors, it's clear that Crabtree has found a loving home amongst like-minded Canadian musicians. Co-produced by Snailhouse's Mike Feuerstack (who'll join Crabtree on stage for the release shows) and mixed by Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara, the album features tender string arrangements, touches of french horn and subtle flecks of vocal loops. Recorded partly at the homes of both Feuerstack and Crabtree and partly at Riverport's Confidence Lodge, Crabtree credits in-house engineer Diego Medina for the record's warmth.
"It was such a treat for everybody to get away to the countryside for a bit and Diego gave of his time, knowledge and experience and brought a lot to the project," he says. "It meant a lot more than just going to a cold, soundproof room in the middle of a city with some grumpy engineer."
Since releasing a debut EP in 2009, Crabtree has toured his adoptive home country twice over, and spent this past winter touring Europe extensively. Crabtree explains that this time and experience has proven instrumental in striking a sought-after balance between comfort and discomfort.
"I used to sit at home and sing in strange ways by myself and really enjoy it, but then feel really uncomfortable about performing them and just letting my voice do what it wanted to do. But I found that when I did do those things, there were really special moments created. Those are my favourite moments," Crabtree says. "It's just nice to be really present in something. Skirting discomfort like that is maybe a way to make myself and other people more aware."
This self-confidence and attention to detail adorns the new record, making it both expansive in terms of texture and singular in vision. Amidst full arrangements, Crabtree is careful not to lose his unique voice: "There's little ways to poke the listener, to catch them off guard. I love rhythms playing against each other, but I don't want them to be shouting for attention," he says. "Any extra complexities you bring into things are most beautiful when they're understated. I want to do things that interest me, but I also want it to have a strong emotional core."b>Paper Beat Scissors w/Nick Everett, Sunday, March 4 at The Khyber, 1588 Barrington Street, 8pm, $8/$10
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