Elizabeth Anka Vajagic: Nostalgia/Pain

More a mini-album than EP, Elizabeth Anka Vajagic's Nostalgia/Pain pairs two haunting epics (recorded during the Stand With The Stillness Of This Day sessions) with a gentle coda captured at home in the dead of winter at the end of 2004. The 17-minute “Nostalgia” slowly comes to life with the creak of Fluffy Erskine's bowed objects, Sam Shalabi's guitar scrapes, and Michel Langevin's tribal tom-toms. The trio conjures a meditative dirge until Vajagic appears four minutes in, her voice initially recalling the gothic shudder of PJ Harvey before turning progressively more disturbed. By the midway point, the Montreal chanteuse is wailing ferociously, with the musicians shadowing the twists and turns of her possessed voice until the song reaches a peaceful close. Though hard to believe, the second song, “Pain,” is even more powerful with Vajagic entering almost immediately, the restrained backing of guitar strums belied by the barely controlled intensity of her voice. Following this quiet intro, the music slowly builds until it erupts into a blistering roar with Vajagic's wails hurtling over a hellish chorus of guitars and drums. Coming after such exhausting performances, the quietly brooding “Beneath Quiet Mornings” arrives as a welcome relief. Call her folk-blues sound chilling, raw, wrenching, gothic—whatever term you choose, it's the timeless sound of breathtaking music brought vividly to life by passionate musicians. And might we also spare a moment to mention the distinctive packaging? The metallic copper-green ink embossing on the deep purple cardstock is simply beautiful.

May 2005