Emily Haines isn’t the type to give anything away. With a career that includes such diverse ensembles as Metric and Broken Social Scene, the only consistency that can be counted on is her interest in adventure. After all, her two previous solo outings — Her 2006 full length release Knives Don’t Have Your Back and the 2007 EP What is Free to a Good Home?— were released a full decade ago, leaving little to ponder as far as her own intentions are concerned. So much as far as momentum goes.
And yet, as Choir of the Mind seems to suggest, Haines appears to have little interest in creating a big splash regardless – even with her band The Soft Skeleton aboard. The album is unceasingly mellow, dimly lit and low-key. While her voice figures prominently throughout, it’s used in such a way to suggest atmosphere and ambiance, rather than placing her presence front and center. There’s a delicacy in these designs that makes every move decidedly precise and well considered, precious to the point of allowing reserve to trump resolve. Indeed, the general drift from melody to melody makes each entry simply find its place in the ether. The daintiness of songs such as “Legend of the Wild Horse,” “Fatal Gift” and “Planets” suggest only a tentative tug of emotion, as if anything more emphatic would disrupt the proceedings entirely.
As a result, Choir of the Mind isn’t for those whose idea of satisfaction demands an instant gratification. This is music of the meditative sort, the kind of thing that needs space and distance from which to ponder the proceedings. It’s subdued to the point of sounding elusive. Still, there’s something to be said for a sound that’s both haunting and harrowing all at the same time, an approach that puts so little stock in immediate impressions. Haines is an artist to be reckoned with, and for those who are willing, the aptly titled Choir of the Mind offers an intriguing opportunity.