Only A Visitor is an upcoming Vancouver based avant-pop group that is known for their experimental music. The band consists of Robyn Jacob, Emma Postl, Celina Kurz, Jeff Gammon, and Kevin Romain. Having performed in a number of festivals including the Artswells festival, Campbell Bay Music Festival, The Field, and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the band’s debut of their new full-length album “Lines” aims to explore the possibilities that vocal harmonies posses in breaking the traditional roles of instrumentation in pop music. Their music is influenced by musicians like Bjork, Philip Glass, and The Dirty Projectors.
For all of the songs in their new album, the instrumentation was kept dry to foster a sense of intimacy. The listener feels as though they are sitting in the audience listening to a live performance. The sustain and decay of the instrument sounds and voice were also kept very short to make it sound punctual. These effects make a nice contrast to the bass, and occasionally the xylophone, which had a more sustained sound. The vocals were often kept plain without much vibrato, which helped with making harmonizing the different vocals easier. However, I found that this made it harder for me to enjoy the songs.
Listening through the entire album, I found it interesting not knowing where the next song would lead you. Every song had different harmonies and very different stories to tell. Because every song was different, it also made me think that a lot of the songs and melodies were quite random.
The musical elements in Only a Visitor’s single and title track “Lines” proves to be an interesting listen. The track begins with a haunting piano line that piques interest from the audience. It is at once noticeable that the piano plays a key role in the song as the vocals that join in a short while later seems to take more of a supporting role to the piano. The vocal line definitely has an avant-garde style to it, as the melody is quite unique.
Overall, I found that the arrangement of the song actually subtracted from the vocals and the message the lyrics were trying to express. I found that I was more preoccupied with listening to the instrumentation and unique vocal harmony to pay much attention to the lyrics. The enunciation of the lyrics with the melodic line also made it difficult to understand the message during the first listen as well.
Watching the music video, I thought some of the illustration was a little random. For example, during the chorus “brother, it will come together,” and Asian family dressed in traditional wear is shown. It is not clear as to why this image was chosen for this chorus. However, although there was some confusion with the video, it did help with understanding the lyrics better as some parts of the video reflected the message clearly.
Only A Visitor’s new full album was release to audiences on June 16, 2017 and is available on their iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and their website.
Further Listening: Bjork, the Dirty Projectors