Artist: Julie Gladstone
Album: Life Line
Label: Sonic Peach Music
Release Date: 14/09/2022
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Julie Gladstone is an interdisciplinary artist based in Toronto Canada. This EP accompanies the book and exhibition entitled Four Corners, Four Angels, Ten Stones, Ten Veils produced as an MFA thesis through OCAD University in 2022. The album is inspired by anecdotes about Julie’s great grandmother Julie Bejarano, who would sing ancient Judeo-Spanish folk songs. Two songs in particular, Durmé Durmé and Nani Nani are Ladino lullabies that have been adapted and re-interpreted for a contemporary electro-ambient sound.
The album serves as a way to connect Julie and her ancestor’s lived experiences with that of the Anishnabee, the Haudensaunee, the Mississaugas, Huron Wendat and the Chippewamusic peoples in the region of Canada where she currently lives. It is an acknowledgement of the impact of the Spanish Inquisition and the Doctrine of Discovery. An acknowledgment of the colonization of the America’s and the destruction of Indigenous culture. In order to further connect the two worlds, the songs on this album contain live field recordings at the meeting place of Lake Ontario and Etobicoke Creek, the site of the signing of the Toronto Purchase Agreement in 1805; as well as along the Rio Cuerpo del Hombre River in Béjar, Spain, the medieval village from which Gladstone’s own ancestors were exiled in 1492.
Personally, I find the concepts and intentions that drive this album to absolutely fascinating, particularly due to my passion and education in the areas of history and anthropology. The idea of using music to bridge the gap between two different peoples’ shared experience despite being separated by a continent and hundreds of years is a truly groundbreaking one.
As far as the music itself goes, the album is a stunning offering. Julie crafts soothing yet haunting soundscapes that conjure a wide range of emotions in the listener. Minimalism is the key word here, as each element on display shines clearly in the mix and is given room to breathe and be absorbed. As state the album was inspired by lullabies and that essence permeates the very fabric of the music itself. It has a somewhat nurturing tone to it, one of care and soothing as a lullaby should. However, there’s more at play here than that, feelings of loss, displacement and mourning can be felt in the undertones of these tracks.
Track 4 River Lullaby Ritual really helps to set the scene of the album with its spoken word elements. It paints a picture in the listeners mind and helps them to more clearly picture what the other tracks on the album are trying to get them to feel. This track has a somewhat haunting quality to it and the reason for that is hard to pin down. It should be relaxing but there’s something there that leaves me a little unsettled (in a good way of course).
Nani Nani and Durme Durme were as stated the original lullaby tracks that have been adapted for this album’s sake. I need to state how stunning these songs are and praise Julie for the tasteful way in which she has modernised these songs while retaining a sense of heritage and tradition.
Overall, this album was a very unique experience and that I suggest all readers take. Before you do though take some time to understand what you are listening to. This isn’t just some casual piece of music slapped together for the sake of it, this is a deep and meaningful undertaking that forms part of a multi-faceted, multi-medium offering.
Listen to and order the album: