Bernice have been an experiment in constant evolution. Composed of a handful of musicians from Toronto’s experimental scene, working under the wide-eyed vision of singer Robin Dann, the band, especially live, has swelled and shrank as members have left to fulfill duties in other projects. But Puff LP: In The Air Without A Shape brings everyone together.
At a compact seven songs, the album has just a couple more than last summer’s Puff EP, and most of the material – Glue, David, He’s The Moon, Passenger Plane and St Lucia – has been in Bernice’s repertoire for the last three or four years. But they’ve bottled it with the same breezy looseness and whimsy that they’ve used to enchant even the chattiest audiences for years.
Album opener Glue starts with a moment of studio session laughter, and as the chuckles dissolve, the carefree sense of child-like wonderment remains. Daniel Fortin’s bass meanders like a sticky trail of handprints dotting a hallway, while Phil Melanson and Thom Gill add embellishments. Then Dann pours honey all over it before she and Felicity Williams coo an evocative series of pat-a-cake incantations: “Red and orange and yellow and blue / I am rubber and you are glue.”
Elsewhere, Dann and Williams invoke the Galleria Mall on He’s The Moon, and a new recording of St Lucia (Dann’s ode to her great aunt) zigs even harder left than the EP version.
With that spirited eclecticism permeating the album, the pitch-shifted thinky sadness of Passenger Plane and the downcast character study David sting in a good way.
The album is a delightful access point to the cloudy emotional zones Bernice have always occupied, from a warm place of Snuggie-bound safety.
Top track: Glue
Bernice play the Drake Hotel on June 6.
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