Sunday, April 21, 2013

AroarA - "In the Pines" EP Review & Interview

AroarA, a Canadian husband and wife duo comprised of Andrew Whiteman (Broken Social Scene) and Ariel Engle (Land of Kush), bring us a most exquisite debut entitled “In the Pines”. This EP, available now on the artist website, is part of a forthcoming album, an adaptation of Alice Notley’s book of poems of the same name. Each song corresponds with one of the poems and contains words and phrases in the lyrics.

If the E.P. is any indication, the release of the full-length album is sure to be as intimate and haunting. Everything on this 5-song “ballad” is sweet and sad, as if it exists on the periphery, in some other dream-like place that only the poet could have imagined and these musicians could have personified.
BUST is no stranger to this little group, as AroarA stopped by the BUST SXSW Party to play at The Pussy Palace. 

Following up their friendly nature, AroarA kindly spoke to me about the inspiration behind creating this album. Andrew shared his love of the poetry’s sense of self-discovery through confrontation, and how while reading Alice’s work, he felt pulled in by her folky, bluesy voice. As Andrew and Ariel are not, in fact, folk musicians, perhaps tackling the conversion of Alice’s work into song would help him follow a similar journey of self-discovery?

“There is a strong 'gothic' element in the work, and after a while, it occurred to me that 'In The Pines" might be converted back into folk music. What would that music sound like filtered through the words of a woman who is a feminist, a lifelong poet, and a radical in her choices?” The process started with Andrew pulling phrases and words from the poems to build traditional folk songs. Once about 10 or so songs had been written, Ariel and Andrew began to add music to the lyrics. To be sure they were doing the poetry justice, the pair assembled a sample of songs and sent them to Alice. With the poet’s blessing, and acknowledgement that AroarA had built something all their own, thus an album was born.

“We considered ourselves working somewhat in a traditional manner.  So we put constraints on how we made the songs and what instruments and textures to use,” said Andrew. This included “recording in our living room and at our friend’s cottage.”

The folky, homey feel of the recording combined with the cigar box guitar-style, and the way the duo’s voices share the space of the songs makes you want to sink into a big hammock next to the river and drink whiskey late into the April afternoon sun. And doesn’t that sound like a place under the pines to seek and find?

Originally posted on