New Music: Kurtis Eugene’s ‘Old Rooms New Light’

Halifax’s Kurtis Eugene has released his debut EP, ‘Old Rooms New Light’. An album written and recorded partially in Milford, Nova Scotia, and partially in Christchurch, New Zealand, ‘Old Rooms New Light’ provides an experience of otherworldly acoustic chill, with haunting vocals over orchestral guitars. With a distinct indie sound that seems the lovechild of Radiohead and Fleet Foxes, or a second generation Bert Jansch,  ‘Old Rooms New Light’ is clearly the product of a long, focused writing and recording process. 

The album opens with the folksy guitar stylings of ‘So Far’, an upbeat track dominated by Eugene’s impassioned lyricism on top of a tapestry of acoustic ambiance and wordless, ghostly backing vocals. Following on this is the more subdued ‘This Love’. Opening with a tranquil tone and a slow, waltzing 3/4 pace, ‘This Love’ has a building intensity that culminates at the halfway point, where it switches gears and shifts into a more driven, rhythmic sound, led by heavier drums.

One of the album’s most notable tracks, ‘For What It’s Worth’ blends blues/folk-inspired vocals with simple piano and swaying instrumental backing. Slow and relaxing, the swelling vocals of the chorus build the song to climax with an understated power and a final, emotional magnitude. While the following track, ‘All Your Words Are Lies’,  starts off typically in the album’s soothing style, it finds itself increasingly punctuated by rough interjections from various instruments, until the halfway point, where the entire track is overtaken by a jarring instrumental breakdown, with Eugene’s vocals shifting from calm crooning to pained, desperate wails.

After these, the two most powerful songs of the album, comes ‘Every Stone’, which opens with a simple, quiet despondence laced with lyrics of depression before a midway shift that introduces a sudden, plodding musical intensity, accented by a haunting choir of backing vocals. The album wraps itself up with the eponymous ‘Old Rooms New Light’, the perfect conclusion. Opening soft and slow, it quickly rises in a sentimental fashion, with each element of the song building to a dramatic finale and ending with a sense of musical closure.

Though only 24 minutes, Old Rooms New Light is a complete musical journey from start to finish. From the soulful blend of emotional vocals and celestial instrumentals to the sudden halfway reinventions that Eugene gives many of his songs, each track is a thoughtfully crafted audio experience. As a debut album, ‘Old Rooms New Light’ is a strong showing, demonstrating Eugene’s talent and musical style, and is a welcome addition to the Maritime music scene.