MAN MEETS BEAR - Waagaaskingaa

Man Meets Bear - Waagaaskingaa

24 songs
75:42 minutes
***** ***
Label Fantastic!


Itís only been a few months since Man Meets Bearís last release Buffalo Comets, a more than pleasant lo-fi indie record that somehow managed to push all the right buttons with me. According to the artistís expansive Bandcamp page (more than 20 releases in only a couple of years), there was another one track - twenty minute EP released before itís not time for Waagaaskingaa, another solo album by Soren Little Brothers, the initiator and brainchild behind Man Meets Bear.

As that the last album has been so far the only band album to date, one might consider Waagaaskingaa a more typical album. Twenty-four songs in nearly seventy-six minutes is of course very much to take in, but repeated listening sessions made me realise that it is definitely worth it. Released on the Canadian indie Label Fantastic!, Waagaaskingaa may very well be different from some of Little Brotherís earlier self-released efforts, but the DIY aesthetics are still very much in place.

The songs all vary between two and seven minutes, and donít really share that much of a common concept. For instance the opener A Spell To Remember is a very vague piano track with wailing vocals whose main objective is to lull the listener into a laid back mood for the remaining twenty-three tracks of experimentalia contained on the album. The following Waabgonii Giizis might sound strange in any other context, but on this album it might just pass the test of being a catchy hit song, so donít be surprised that this is the first single off the album. The vocals are rather distorted, most of the music doesnít stand back in that effort, only a synth lead gives the song some kind of structure that will burrow its way into your head sooner than you might have realised. Such catchy moments are rather the exception than the rule, and you might have to wait until Birch Island (track 22 of 24) before Man Meets Bear decide to add some more pop appeal, but that doesnít mean that the hour in between isnít without its merits.

The artistís preceding album Buffalo Comets may have been his admittedly rather successful bid at a more mainstream direction (although it was still much more leftfield than 99% of the music you know), yet Waagaaskingaa feels possibly even more intimate, if you allow the music to penetrate your deepest inner layers. This is of course a purely solo effort, with the songs are mostly orchestrated in a very sparse way, but that doesnít mean that you wonít encounter quite an array of instruments. Itís mostly guitars, pianos and synthesizers, but Soren Little Brothers is smart enough to add enough variation to prevent Waagaaskingaa from ever becoming boring in the slightest bit. From a musical perspective, it sounds a little as if David Pajo and less polished versions of Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens are getting together to write a soundtrack for a future incarnation (forgive me my wishful thinking) of Northern Exposure (and if you havenít seen that TV series, I strongly suggest you do !!!). So do expect lo-fi singer/songwriter patterns with strange, out of this world ambient modules, encountering rare yet pleasant pop moments that encompass ecological topics, frequently with a Native Americans twist (two thirds of the songs have titles in the Ojibwe language). Waagaaskingaa may not be an instant crowd pleaser, but I guarantee if you spend enough time with it, there is no escaping its mesmerising force of attraction.

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