Evolution doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
It requires other energy, different influences, outside factors and it takes time.
For Calgary alt rock act Raleigh their musical evolution has been one of almost a half decade, plenty of touring, some collaboration, two previous attempts to get it right, and two years of making it just right.
All of it leading to Powerhouse Bloom.
“I think it’s something we’ve been hinting at for a long time, but have only found the means to fully realize it lately,” says singer-guitarist Brock Geiger while sitting in the Wild Rose Taproom.
“I think it’s the direction we’ve wanted it to take but only now have started to just let it happen … not let limitations stop us from going there. It feels finally realized, it feels like the record we’ve been trying to make for awhile.”
It sounds like they’re fully evolved.
The new nine-track offering, which they dropped earlier this month and which they’ll celebrate with a hometown show Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Ironwood, is an astonishingly amazing aural wonderland — a sonic, psychotropic kaleidoscope of pop bombast, ornate ornamentation and soothing waves of wigged-out tripscapes.
And while we could always go back to the very beginning of the band, when Geiger teamed up with vocalist-cellist Clea Anais, the homestretch to Raleigh’s evolution goes back a couple of years.
Having previously used the studio as a place to merely quickly “capture” songs that they’d been working out on the road, they discovered how the environment could be “a major tool” in the crafting of those songs, shaping of those sounds.
That discovery came at one of this country’s most nurturing places for artistic experimentation and discovery, The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where the band — rounded out by drummer Matt Doherty and bassist Will Maclellan — participated in the hub’s two-week Independent Music Residency.
“It was huge,” Doherty says of the program, calling two weeks in that creative space working only on the music was like a “light switch” turning on.
“And the people that were there at the same time as us was super inspiring.”
One would imagine, considering the people they were working with, sharing ideas between, includes Broken Social Scene members Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and Charles Spearin, as well as Grammy-winning engineer and producer Shawn Everett, and Nyles Spencer, the in-house engineer for The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Studio.
“It was insane, the doors that opened to us, just to be able to work with those people and have their flavours sprinkled into this, it feels like a huge step for us,” he says.
It was also important, Geiger says, that they understand that there were “no limits” to what they could do with the songs and where, how far out they could take them when they were allowed to focus only on the material.
That continued in another environment thanks to that open door which led to Spencer’s natural habitat, for a couple of intense sessions at The Bathouse, where they lived, ate, slept and focussed on their music in much the same way as they did up in Banff.
“It feels like we were immersed, too,” he says. “I think it’s reflected when we listen back to this, it feels cohesive to me.”
And, yes, despite its many flights of fucked-up and fancy, Powerhouse Bloom is very much a capital “A” album. It all flows, it all feels connected and right, and even thematically travels a very particular path.
Perhaps the only sort-of outlier is the first single Costume Party, which is a somewhat “tongue-in-cheek” take on those musicians who are more fashion and flash than substance and sound.
That tune, Geiger says, was originally recorded in his apartment with Preoccupations member Monty Munro, where they “opened it up, ran it through some of his gear and destroyed it a little more then pushed it into psychedelic land and then it ended up in Bath and then it got reworked again.”
“It’s weird but it still fits,” he says. “It’s a bit of a relief period … It ends side one, it’s the show-closer for side one.”
The rest of the record?
Geiger points to the title and even the album cover as providing the first clues to its thematic direction.
“It’s a post-apocalyptic journey in a way, but in the sense that something beautiful is born out of destruction,” he says, something that’s carried throughout the record, with personal stories from himself, his bandmates, friends and even from Patti Smith — “Just Kids is a full-on homage to (her) memoir,” Geiger says — used to further the theme.
“It’s all beauty out of sadness.”
As to what was going on in his and the rest of Raleigh’s world that it was a theme that made sense, he points to his own incredibly busy musical world. Specifically, attempting to juggle time with his own band, as well as the two other full-time acts that he’s a member of, Reuben and the Dark and The Dudes.
Geiger says he’s had to come to terms with the fact that the touring schedules of all three make for a life where he’s had to to sacrifice sustained experiences and stability for one that provides experiences that are “insanely enriching even if brief.”
“A fleeting thing here, a fleeting thing there, but if you can grab it in, it becomes part of this larger experience … part of the collage,” he says thoughtfully.
“And I think (the album) is a sonic collage in a lot of ways, it comes from not only a lot of experiences, but a lot of people and their experiences, so it becomes this bigger and bigger thing, but it’s still connected through the shared experiences.
“And that feels cool.”
And it sounds like evolution.
(Photo courtesy Unfolding Creative.)
Raleigh perform Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Ironwood Stage and Grill. For reservations please call 403-269-5581. Their new album Powerhouse Bloom is available now.