Co-founded by Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt, the quartet is comprised of a diverse and accomplished collection of musicians who came together when he moved back to his home province in 2019 after a lengthy stay in Toronto.
The shock of settling into a town of 600 people was softened almost immediately by a care package left on Borcherdt’s front porch. It included the curious juxtaposition of homemade preserves and a circuit-bent keyboard. His interest was piqued. As luck would have it, his new neighbour happened to be renowned folk guitarist Kim Barlow.
“Kim was in the process of organizing an improvisation series featuring over a dozen Nova Scotia-based musicians. The series struggled under lockdown restrictions, and on the second attempt only the four of us showed up.” Borcherdt recalls. “We didn't really know each other that well, were a bit shy and played very quietly. However, we really enjoyed how spacious our jam was.”
One week after their initial jam, Borcherdt was invited to perform a solo set at a Halifax-based experimental festival called Open Waters. He instead volunteered the same lineup: himself, Barlow, distinguished Isle Of Skye harpist (and Berklee professor) Mairi Chaimbeul, and Sahara Nasr, a noted songwriter and player of the rare Indian Sarangi. It wasn’t long before they began recording and soon realized a name was necessary to make the project official.
“When we get together to play music, it's our 'poker night'. That led us to think of other community or 'grown-up' gatherings, similar or antiquated... like barnraising bees, quilting bees.” Explains Borcherdt. “We were sort of quilting: four corners of fabric, texture, sewing threads, telling a story, all making one complete piece while drinking a few beers. We could've also called it ‘Therapy’.”
While providing a necessary distraction from early-COVID life, Quilting also offered a chance to improvise within a uniquely ambient soundspace. This was a welcome change for some of the members, including Borcherdt, who was used to creating music with decidedly more volume.
“Space is welcome. Writing in Quilting is a spontaneous and thoughtful process, very synesthetic and, of course, collaborative. I've only really gotten to explore space and silence with solo music.” He reflects. “With my other bands, even when spontaneous and improvised, the result is dense and cathartic, expressive through pulse and rhythm and volume. With Quilting we get to drift, no beats, no safety net. Every note counts. Yet rather than being stressed or scrutinized under a microscope we all have fun and daydream a bit.”
Sonics aside, Quilting has also given all four members the chance to experiment with the boundaries created by headquartering in a remote area not commonly associated with the avant-garde music community.
“Nova Scotia, unlike other provinces, has basically one city, one place where musicians congregate, play shows and hang out. Anything happening outside of Halifax can be considered an experiment, a test to see anything can get off the ground.” Borcherdt explains. “ In Toronto there's already an infrastructure, whether you play the same venues or build your own new thing- there's an audience, there are friends and like-minded individuals. It's healthier. Here we have to take what we get. But the good news is that it's kind of a blank slate.”
The LP, which features hand-calligraphed cover art from Upstate New York-based artist and musician Sarah Le Puerta, features five songs all recorded live off-the-floor in a single live performance. Moods range from reflective to unsettled, and even at its loudest parts a sense of intimacy persists.
“This album feels like a complete picture, a snapshot of one fun night.” He states. “That seems to me to be a perfect introduction. The listener gets to “attend” the concert, which is an amazing way to discover new music.”
STAFF COMMENTSMatt says: I’m obsessed with Nova Scotia. I think I’ll move there one day. And knowing there’s a growing community of isolated musicians making maritime ambience like this only entices me further. I guess it’s like the Highlands without the whiskey… oh wait. :P
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