The Armoires – Great Distances
Humanity has a universal language that we need to use as often as we can-the language of music. Music speaks to the soul, reminds us who we are to make us better people, healing wounds, providing a catharsis from fears, anger, love loss, and more. Bands have a tendency to create themselves within a formula and then, whether they like it or not, that formula can bind them to it forever. That can restrict the universal impact of their music and even the enthusiasm the band has for it. The Armoires took the pandemic-induced time off, to explore how they fit in and who they were as a band. They did this by renaming themselves many times and providing singles as undiscovered fictional bands. It released them from their formula so that they could rediscover and uncover any musical urges hidden from sight. The result is one amazingly beautiful collection of songs that is full of hope and happiness, and yes, discovery. Let this be your introduction to Incognito, the aptly named LP, released April 1, 2021.
This release also features a veritable treasure chest of Big Stir Records label stalwarts, tapping these additional talents for everything from backing vocals and extra instruments, to mixing. Included in the liner notes are the fictional band names that each single was released under during the past year. The Armoires are Big Stir Records label leaders, Christina Bulbenko (vocals, keyboards) and Rex Broome (vocals, guitar), joined by Larysa Bulbenko (viola, violin, backing vocals), John Borack (drums), and Clifford Ulrich (bass, backing vocals). Throughout Incognito, other artists are sprinkled in, adding flavor where needed.
Incognito features both covers and original material that are so eclectic that it might be hard to fathom how it all works together, but it does! Leading off the collection is the John Cale penned Paris 1919, featuring backing vocals from Karla Kane and Khoi Kunynh of The Corner Laughers, which is very fitting as Paris 1919 has the sort of melody that The Corner Laughers create often on their own offerings. Released under the alias October Surprise, (Just Can’t See) The Attraction is a lilting mid-tempo number filled with pleasing textural additions. Vodka had to laugh at the inclusion of the Jeff Christie cover, Yellow River. It will be immediately recognizable to anyone over 55 or so. 1970 seems like a long time ago, but Yellow River is covered without any apologies, true to the original. Bagfoot Run changes things up completely, featuring the entirety of The Old Corn Lickers as guest musicians. It’s a fun romp! Continuing the style change, Homebound is a slow country-Esque ballad, released under the alias The Chessie System back in November of last year. Included, too, among the 18 tracks, is Great Distances (seen/heard here), a wonderful bit of pop-rock jangle that will have your toes tapping and your head bobbing in no time!
It would take too many pages to cover every single track on this magnificent, diverse release, but you can get a feel for what’s coming by seeing how different each of the above tracks are. All tracks have been carefully placed to ease the transition between styles and types of music, much like a professional club DJ would do to keep things from being too jarringly different. It’s this attention to detail that makes this collection feel so cohesive. The LP also includes something from the early days of CD releases that I always loved: the inclusion of ghost tracks – three tracks that don’t detract, but also provide a bit of humor. There are other thoughtful covers that should be mentioned here, too, if for no other reason than to emphasize the diversity this collection has to offer. There’s the 1980 vintage 20/20 power pop of The Night I Heard A Scream, XTC’s Senses Working Overtime from the same time period, and Bee Gee Andy Gibbs’ 1977 work, Words And Music. All this combined with a plethora of The Armoires original content, released under fun aliases or as themselves, means a full catalog of fun without switching CDs!
Incognito is a masterful collection of music and musical influences that seeks to redefine The Armoires, or at minimum, release them from the confines of their tried and true formula. It has allowed the band to be someone else, or as Larysa Bulbenko explains in the liner notes,
“Eight different someones, in fact!” Within this playful discovery, they have found more than an LP’s worth of beautiful, eclectic, diverse music to perform for you. The end result can’t help but influence the band’s future musical offerings in some way, adding a new depth of character. This music should stand as a statement to other musicians seeking to re-imagine themselves and as a road map of how to do just that!
You can find more information on The Armoires by heading up to the Big Stir Records label page for them, which includes all of the social links for the band. You can pick up the record in your desired format, either from that page or from the bandcamp.com site for Big Stir Records here.
Big Stir Records has a lineup of artists that continues to break ground and challenge the musical status-quo. That is even more true today, with The Armoires, Incognito. Pick up a copy of this great LP now!
Note: With Covid-19 still around, probably to be with us for some time, artists like The Armoires and many others need your purchases to keep their heads above water. If your situation allows it, consider purchasing more in these tough times. –Vodka