New Music: Construction & Deconstruction’s ‘Noli Timere’

In 2013, the world lost Nobel Laureate writer, Seamus Heaney. Reportedly, minutes before his death he texted his wife the latin phrase “Noli Timere”. In English it translates as “Do Not Be Afraid.” Coincidently, 2013 also marked the end of a prolific era of creativity, – five studio albums in six years – for Nova Scotia’s Construction & Deconstruction. Four years later, the dark duo has retuned with a new release titled after the now famous last quote from Ireland’s modern master of poetry.

While ‘Noli Timere’ does not necessarily break any new ground, it is perhaps the band’s most cohesive effort to date. The general vibe of Construction & Destruction has not evolved much over their decade+ of time working together, but that’s not a bad thing; this is the sound of veterans who have polished their craft and pushed it past the limits of what a two piece act should be able to accomplish.

Comparisons to more mainstream groups are bound to come up – The White Stripes and The Dresden Dolls come to mind – but the pairing of Colleen (Coco) Collins and David (Dave) Trenaman, remains ultimately unique. Sonically, visually, and lyrically, they display a true conceptual, uncompromising continuity. To be familiar with their full discography is to vicariously be a part of a personal, yet strangely public artistic journey.

In ‘Running Glass’ Dave officially sends out a new round of fresh invites for us to join them in the next step of their spiritual quest:

Out of the dark:
gleaming eyes and a little face.
Are you part of the house or part of the dark?
‘Little things can die very suddenly,’ you said to me.”

Coco and Dave have always been in a back and forth war for tonal dominance, yet the struggle feels organic: Coco tugging the strings towards the future, Dave hauling us back to an age of the folky roots of rock. Subdued whispers in the ether/shrieks of intensity, rattling the bones. ‘Noli Timere’, while perhaps the slowest paced, most down tempo composition to date, is no different. ‘Event Horizon’ and ‘Rosebush’ (both Dave-centric vocal tracks) are examples of this, utilizing a melodic voice that escalates into a high-pitched, visceral scream at the drop of a needle. Mind you, Coco is fully capable of the same soft to heavy shift with-absolutely-no-warning, as demonstrated in ‘Unfinished Horses’ or ‘Lusus Naturae’ (the later being one of my favourite cuts).

Collins and Trenaman live and record in a small rural community called Port Greville, that is historically known for the construction of sailing ships. The atmosphere of their locale must be paramount to their art and the feeling of duality that their work invokes. They are constructing something new, bold, and soulful by deconstructing the stereotypical genres that are traditionally associated with Atlantic Canadian music. Yet, at the same time they pay homage to their heritage and the cultural implications of the contemporary scene.

Don’t believe me? Listen closely to the radio friendly, hit-single-in-waiting, “One of These,” that totally channels for me, the choral harmonies of the UK group, The XX:

“Sadness comes in on the breeze,
dims the lamplight of your little port streets”

“Oh sleep, you are the boat.
You keep my brain afloat.”

“I belong to this land,
I belong to these trees.
I belong to these brittle little brown leaves.”

There is a pull to their music, always drawing towards the desolate coves, down to the water of their bayside domain; but what do I want to do when I get there? Embrace the hipster-self by nestling on a beach drinking beer with friends and having pretentious poetry talks, or standing on a cliff, or to embrace our gothic leanings draped in a druid’s cloak? Either way, it’s all the same, the sea spraying me in the face as I contemplate mortality. As the opening track, ‘Peace/Agency’ states, there is something of the netherworld at play here:

“I don’t know its face,
I don’t know its shape,
I don’t know how to call it,
I don’t know how to keep it”

‘Noli Timere’ exposes the ghosts that surround us, summoning connotations of what life would be like on the moors of Ireland. The soundtrack, nay, mantra, of a Gaelic castle setting… and I guarantee that I am not afraid of what the supernatural play things have to say.

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