CD Review: Virginia Sook and Lake Michigan – Split

Last night I went out and spent any and all energy I could muster in the mosh pit at THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, and here I lay now, a broken shell of what went into that night, destroyed yet satisfied. Suddenly, like a descending angel, I check my email and see Ruined Smile Records have sent through a cure for my bangover. It’s soft, calm, and it hits the heart hard, it’s a split EP featuring two tracks each from Brisbane’s VIRGINIA SOOK and London’s LAKE MICHIGAN. This release fits into the smallest part of my music collection as it’s being physically released on cassette only, a fitting format with as much soul and character as the music recorded on it.

Side one of the cassette stars VIRGINIA SOOK, a mostly acoustic folk four-piece that stands out from all other folk acts I’ve come across in my time because of their interesting array of instruments. The most predominate and unique is vocalist Lindsay Roser’s harp, which has a sound so beautiful it’s rivalled only by her voice and the way she holds her notes as she enunciates the lyrics. Speaking of lyrics, both songs are built around stunning poetry that I found disturbingly relatable yet incredibly impressive in terms of vocabulary (I’m not going to lie, I had to look up phantasmagoric). While beautiful, the music also has a sombre air around it, like a gorgeous Autumn sunset foreboding a long cold night to come.

If VIRGINIA SOOK is that sunset, then LAKE MICHIGAN is the long cold night. It is beyond melancholy, it’s bleak, it’s “Peter Steele sitting in his bedroom with an acoustic guitar singing what’s on his mind” dark. But it’s not Peter Steele, it’s Chris Marks with a guitar in a bedroom, simplicity at its best. While lacking the way with words Lindsay had, Chris’ dreary lyrics cut straight to the points of loneliness and fragility. The lack of production gives a live feel to both songs, as though it was my bedroom it was being recorded in, it’s a different kind of intimacy in music than I’m used to but intimate nonetheless. His amazing guitar work, particularly in ‘Sunspots’, is reminiscent of other great singer-songwriters and brings names such as Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin to mind. It’s much less the artist you’d go see in a venue and more the one you’d find busking on the streets and stop for a few songs then throw all your coins to, maybe even a note if you could part with one.

These two bands are great to have on a split together, one folk act full of surprises like the harp and glockenspiel, and another stripped back to just a man and his guitar. This odd little release won’t smash the charts or bring much notoriety to either band, but it’s quaint and doesn’t feel like it tries to do either of those at all, which is why I loved it. It’s music for the soul made for the sake of making beautiful music, and that purity will always stand out regardless of what the music sounds like.

Calm your soul and buy the cassette or download the split for free here.



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