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Rae Spoon’s natural of things 

On the new album bodiesofwater, folk singer Rae Spoon explores human connection, physical bodies and the environment.

DAVE TODON
  • DAVE TODON

Rae Spoon w/Holy Crow and respectfulchild
Saturday, October 6, 7pm
RadStorm, 2177 Gottingen Street
$13 adv/$15 door

In a word, you could say that Rae Spoon's new album bodiesofwater is about nature. But as fans of the prolific singer-songwriter have learned across their decades-spanning career, a Rae Spoon record is rarely superficial: Their magic exists below the surface, in diving into the emotional depths and connotations of a subject.

"I was thinking a lot about and writing a lot about connection—the things that connect people to the land or water around them," says Spoon, describing their new record's genesis over the phone between tour dates. "I live in Victoria now, so I'm regularly exposed to the ocean, and Vancouver Island has a lot of nature on it—there's a lot of eagles flying over you and such.

"And I've been thinking a lot also about bodies," they continue. "The laws are changing in some parts of Canada, the ways gender is controlled or legislated by the state. So I've been thinking about all of that, mixing it together and trying to find that connection between controlling something like the land or a body and then realizing that that's not everything to it, that's not the only way to do it."

Despite their inspiring surroundings, Spoon says, it gets more difficult every day to separate the experience of the environment around them from a heightened awareness of climate change and what's at risk to be lost. And what's more, in other situations the word 'natural' can hold more of a moral significance: To be natural can mean to be just or good, as things are supposed to be. What does it mean, then, when nature is irreversibly shifting, or when nature is submitted to power and control? Is that still natural?

On bodiesofwater, they attempt to offer answers to these questions. Their sound has settled into a natural, vocal-forward mix of folk and pop, and their songwriting attention feels sharper than ever. On "You Don't Do Anything," they question the moral intentions of a politician who refuses to take steps towards environmental protection; on "Bioluminescent," they imagine a future filled with inevitable disaster and climate devastation. They're challenging subjects, but in Spoon's hands the record maintains a soft, almost hopeful glow.

That glow may have been the environment speaking: While Spoon made their last several albums in Calgary, their hometown, bodiesofwater came to life on Gabriola Island in British Columbia's Strait of Georgia. Spoon says the experience of recording was deeply influenced by both the surrounding environment and the small community that worked on it: the record was co-produced by Montreal's Laurie-Anne Torres and recorded with Torres, Vancouver's Terri Upton and Saskatchewan violin experimenter respectfulchild.

"Laurie being from Montreal and Gan [aka respectfulchild] being from Saskatoon, it was cool to have them on the island to see the stuff that I was singing about," says Spoon. "We were spending 10-hour days [working], but we were still making it to the beach for sunset. I think there's a really relaxed feel to this record that maybe I hadn't achieved before, and that definitely helped."

Accompanied by respectfulchild, Spoon has spent the beginning of their fall bringing the new material to cities across Canada—they play at Radstorm's new Gottingen Street space on Saturday night. Unlike many of their previous tours, which were solo, Spoon says that having another person playing with them for this run feels fitting for both the record's sound and its content.

"I adapted the music to bring in other people, and I think that connection between the musicians and with the environment was very important," says Spoon. "It's everything."

You could say, in another word, that it feels natural.

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