Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
There are many wonderful things about being an appreciator of varying styles of music, which is made even the more sweeter when in a position to peruse myriad bands and their releases.
Case in point, being made aware of Toronto’s avant-garde alternative rock trio ACE OF WANDS by way of a PR release back in January. As a connoisseur of countless genres of music, including many sub-genres, offshoots, morphing categories, and sublet secondaries, I never bother trying to account for tastes. There seems to be no formula, no rhyme nor reason, to what any given individual may musically like or dislike.
With a half-hearted justification out-of-the-way, let us delve into the full-length début album ‘Lioness‘ from ACE OF WANDS, released back at the end of February. The band was founded in 2015, by multi-instrumentalist, singer / songwriter Lee Rose, after an amicable 2015 disbanding of Rival Boys, the band she and her brother Graeme enjoyed together. Now joined by guitarist Anna Mernieks and drummer Jody Brumell in ACE OF WANDS, the trio craft stunning, powerful music that ultimately stirs one’s very soul.
That result is achieved through the genre-blending of classic rock with folk music, then adding amounts of indie and alt. rock, with slight dashes of psychedelia. Though all tossed into the pot, it is the flavorful seasoning of instruments like the violin and synth-bass that clearly add textural temperaments to this music. Still yet, there is even more that can be attributed to the profoundly stirring moods that come with listening and absorbing this beautifully haunting, raw heart audio.
Much like the Tarot source of the band’s name, the music of ACE OF WANDS feels supernatural, songs like “10,000 Feet“, “Grown For Good“, or “Tarot Cards“, are intensely otherworldly. Like every song on this record, ethereal qualities derived from varying tones, pop melodies, and mingled vocals, permeate them. Sometimes they are present in abundant amounts, other times they are withdrawn, kept ever slightly simmering beneath the surface, barely covered over but there nonetheless.
I believe it is safe to say that this music, these compositions, their lyrics, and subject matter all originate from the depths of a cathartic spiritual purging. The simultaneous laying bare of both the mind and the heart can be a frighteningly imposing exposing. Here, it became the origin of rousing, emotional songs like “Winter Wind” and the absolute soul-shuddering, melancholy moments of “Wolf Cubs“. Each of these will resonate in the listener for a long time after the music has faded.
Without question, there is one song that is particularly poignant, its stirring riffs striking a sense of urgency as the substance of this number. The title track “Lioness“, rallies one’s soul. This song’s metaphorical lyrics are inspirational, providing an allegorical retelling of a conflicted time for Lee Rose. This is something she herself revealed and has openly spoken about saying:
“The song came from a place of self-destruction while I simultaneously searched for strength and the ability to persevere. The Lioness – a powerful, fierce, nurturing and self-reliant creature – embodied all of the qualities I was searching for in myself at the time.”
If the sum of the magnificent artistry captured on the ‘Lioness‘ album is any indicator or gauge by which we measure a perceived success, this needle is buried in the red area of “triumphant”. There is no masterpiece ever made without internal conflict, infernal pain, and irreversible sacrifice. Oh yes, that’s what this record is, just as I have stated here unequivocally. In parting, just remember this: No good deed goes unpunished, and for some, it feels as if the “punishment” comes, while anything good seems an impossibility.
Not true! Through personal trials rife with doubt and uncertainty for her, Lee Rose persevered and now, with Anna and Jody, ACE OF WANDS‘ ‘Lioness‘ is a cleansing catharsis. One that is greater than just good, as it possesses contents empathetic to those experiencing circumstances similar to those that birthed this heartfelt movement in audio.
For Fans Of: PJ Harvey, Joan Baez, Liz Phair