Canadian Landscape Trilogy Press

III. SCREENDEATH SUMMERSONG Screendeath.Summersong

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Album of the Week                

Maybe the louder drums are a sign that Woodland Telegraph has transformed itself into a rock band. In the past, the band has been more rural, or folk oriented, and softer, but its Screendeath Summersong, which can be interpreted as parts one (Screendeath) and two (Summersong), is more aggressive, more urban. The third part of a Canadian trilogy,  that might be the intention — the first two celebrated the mountains then the Prairies, so the third LP could be about city life. It’s still a folk hybrid but the drum heavy Factory Work suggests a rock edge.”  Tom Harrison 

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 Fresh and local: Woodland Telegraph self-assured and thoughtful

A lack of ambition isn’t a problem for Woodland Telegraph, with Screendeath Summersong the final installment of a Western Canada–inspired trilogy.Singer Matthew Lovegrove was previously fixated on the Rockies and the Prairies for Sings Revival Hymns and From the Fields. On the ruminative Screendeath Summersong technology and the way it interconnects with nature is the inspiration, which explains song titles like “Forests on the Edge of Factories”.

Lovegrove’s vocals are sweet and self-assured and the playing is beautiful, with mandolin, lap steel, and fiddle fleshing out songs centred around warm acoustic guitar.While diversions include soundscapes (“Into the Future [Shop]”) and gothic-lite Americana (“Factory Work”), Woodland Telegraph doesn’t exactly reinvent the modern folk wheel here. And that’s okay, because if you’ve ever heard Iron and Wine’s Ghost on Ghost, you know that staying the course isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Mike Usinger

 

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BC outfit Woodland Telegraph has returned with a brand new LP titled, screendeath summersong. A concept album about screen culture and the big-box landscape in and around the Cambridge­–K/W area, it’s also the band’s final release in a trilogy of Canadian landscape inspired records. For a taste, checkout “Pixelate”––it’s a beauty.   Juliete Jagger 

 

hh   “Woodland Telegraph, Matthew Lovegrove and a cast of collaborators, have released the final component in their multi-year odyssey to define and refine our relationship with nature. Screendeath Summersong is a departure, less obviously folk in nature, with the natural world presented in our relationships dedicated through technology.

Similar in spirit and conception to Shuyler Jansen’s recent The Long Shadow, Screendeath Summersong is ambitious in scope and execution. I’m certain I don’t grasp its philosophical motivation, but I do appreciate it as a recording project.

Unified in sound and vision, the fourteen songscapes reminds of a time when artists—be they David Bowie, Ohama, or Bauhaus—experimented with ambient qualities to construct mystical music that challenged, confounded, and enlightened. Similar to those artists’ recordings, the album works singularly as a forty-minute opus, as well as individual pieces encountered randomly. “Fighting For The Feeling,” a male-female duet, works most assuredly as a pop song, as does “Screens.” Instrumental interludes allow for aural set changes between pieces.

“Forests on the Edge of Factories” captures the push-pull duality of the natural and technological worlds we inhabit. As once XTC did, Woodland Telegraph hides introspection in rock n roll verse: we may not grasp the significance today, but eventually enlightenment will be revealed.

“Summerblood” and “Breathing the Numbers Out” do not belong beside the banjo-charged “Follow Free,” but it all works given the breadth of the recording. Tension builds achieving fruition in the crescendo that is “Springtime Computers”: “Instead of seeing birds perched on fire escapes I’m seeing what the April showers really bring; there was a forest of wires in my mind—there was a change coming down the line.”

Screendeath Summersong will not replace …Sings Revival Hymns and From the Fields as my favoured Woodland Telegraph recordings. It is cooler than those recordings, more abstract certainly. Despite this distance, I can appreciate it for what it is—a mirror of our time, a portrait of who we have become as pixels, bytes, and http:// replace bark, stream, and soil we once touched, heard, and smelled. Or something like that.  Donald Teplyske 

II. From the Fields

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Anti-Hit List“Remember Sufjan Stevens’ fanciful plan to write an album for each of the 50 U.S. states? This Alberta band’s “Canadian Landscape Trilogy” could be our characteristically modest equivalent. The first, Sings Revival Hymns, was devoted to   the mountains. The just-released second entry concerns itself largely with farms and prairies, though those settings extend beyond geography into metaphor”  John Sakamoto

“A labour of love for Matthew Lovegrove and friends, From the Fields is the second volume of the Canadian Landscape trilogy, following 2009’s beautiful, mountain-inspired Sings Revival Hymns. That album topped year-end lists as well as CBC Galaxie’s folk/roots annual chart, ahead of folks named Cockburn and Tyson. Using the western prairies as a backdrop,  Lovegrove and his cohort have crafted a brilliant tribute to those who have forged a life within a harsh landscape, and give fair measure to the land itself. Most of the instrumentation is of an acoustic and gentle-electric nature with banjo, guitar, and strings conveying the melodies. When “Move to Town” fades, the journey concludes as naturally as it began.”   Donald Teplyske

Penguin“Sparkling, energetic, sometimes breath-taking acoustic arrangements underpin frontman/lyricist Matthew Lovegrove’s paeans to the pleasures of rural livin’ […] From the Fields is an honest counterbalance to the infiltration of roots music by corporate influence, even if such efforts will likely never stem the tide of insidiously slick professionalism.”   Scott Lingley

 “Delicate and sung with genuine amazement- These      melodies live in cabins and farmhouses, deeply breath the  winter air, and share a spirit of community. These songs are                                Canada, seen in her  finest light” Bryan Acker 

“Woodland Telegraph’s togetherness is undeniable throughout their songs. The open and airy “White Pelican” gives bassist Eric Mosher a perfect opportunity to shine, while “Wind Out On The Prairie” owes it pleasant mood to some cheerful strings. Every instrument played, from banjos and guitars to the drums, is rich with precision and fluidity {…} This is definitely worth a listen.”     Alec Ross

province“The second album sounds fuller than the first and more focused. Woodland Telegraph is a folk group that is fueled by banjo and other acoustic instruments and appealing vocals. As the album title suggests, the group gets its inspiration from the land, specifically the flat geography of the Alberta prairie. The geography is its trampoline to comment on culture and the music is as expansive as the countryside that has shaped it.”                      Tom Harrisson 

I…sings Revival Hymns Press & Reviews

Reivial.HEADEROn my ballot for this year’s Polaris Prize      

Woodland Telegraph- Sings Revival Hymns (Northern Folklore) “Woodland Telegraph comes out of Lethbridge via Kananaskis Country, where Matthew Lovegrove spent the winter of 2007 writing the music that became Sings Revival Hymns; his intention was to re-create the Canadian Rockies and their history in song. Lovegrove’s deep, melodic voice takes some getting used to, but once one accepts it the magic flows from the speakers. The music is charged, and sweeps away musical inertia through challenging melodies and time signatures.”  Donald Teplyske

Anti-Hit List   Anti-Hit List, Toronto Star                                                WOODLAND TELEGRAPHFlood Those Spirits  “Matthew Lovegrove writes songs that are Canadian in the way that, say, Blue Rodeo’s “5 Days in May” or The Tragically Hip’s “Locked in the Trunk of a Car” are Canadian, which is to say you’ll twig to a certain something in the music long before you get to the lyric about the Kananaskis River. On either level, this is a particularly potent exploration of forging connection out of isolation.”   

CBC CBC Galaxie Folk/Roots Newsletter   “…Fresh and startling. Imagine dark-grass band Elliott Brood being kidnapped and brainwashed to join forces with The Polyphonic Spree, and you get an idea of the vibe: earthy and mournfull merges with the  passionate, ecstatic, almost orchestral.”

 

herohillHEROHILL “Woodland Telegraph opts to let the picked banjo and strings roam (and soar) and you quickly settle into the listen and want it to repeat over and over. It’s the feeling you get when you get out on the open road. It’s a pensive, inspired gaze across the vast opennessthat is the Midwest of Canada. Most importantly though, it’s fantastic music.”

NXEWNXEW “The Rocky Mountains are truly one of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes. Matthew Lovegrove’s Woodland Telegraph sets out to capture the beauty of the Canadian Rockies landscape as well as its history in Woodland Telegraph sings Revival Hymns. This is the first in a trilogy of albums based on Canadian history and landscape. Lovegrove wintered in an old cabin/research station (the Barrier Lake Field Station) while writing and researching material for Revival Hymns in the Kananaskis Valley. Having also spent some time living in the Rockies, and also being a huge fan of Canadiana in song form, I was eager to hear the history and landscape of the mountains translated to music. Woodland Telegraph sings Revival Hymns did not disappoint.

The album captures both the loneliness and wonderment of mountain life, especially in tracks such as Lantern on the Mountain which conjures images of haunting solitude as it tells the story of someone snowbound alone in a cabin, imagining glimpses of life while waiting for death. Revival Hymns also features atmospheric musicianship with Lovegrove playing the banjo, guitar, and mandolin, and guests playing harmonica, lapsteel, viola, and violin. Many of the songs feature Rockies locales such as Deadman’s Flats and Oil City Hotel.The second of the trilogy from Woodland Telegraph, From the Fields, is centred on farm and prairie landscapes. Matthew Lovegrove is currently recording in prairie locations in Southern Alberta. The locations include an old prairie ghost town church where Lovegrove hopes to further capture the prairie atmosphere.From the Fields is set for a late summer 2010 release date.

But you don’t have to take my word for it on how great Woodland Telegraph Sings Revival Hymns is, you can listen to and purchase here. The CD itself is well worth the purchase, featuring origami artwork and cases sewn by Lovegrove himself. Revival Hymns also topped The Galaxie Folk/Roots Channel’s Top Spins of 2009 charts”  Danielle Palmer 

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“Not religious as the album title implies but as serenely bucolic. It is like a view of the great outdoors from a forest ranger tower, there is that much scope and fresh air in writer Matthew Lovegrove’s evocation of understated folk”                                                                                                                  Tom Harrison