Read between the Lines with Only a Visitor

Photo: Mayan Vered
Photo: Mayan Vered

Vancouver’s very own Only a Visitor embodies the definition of the term avant-garde with their much anticipated full-length album Lines.

Lines marks the quintet’s fourth release as a unit and second under the Only A Visitor moniker. Having released Climb the Glass Mountain (2014) and Of Course the Journey (2012) under the name Fist Full o’Snacks, Only a Visitor has hastily made a name for themselves by reinventing the way we think about jazz-pop music on the West Coast.

The self-proclaimed ‘weird pop’ artists are currently touring Lines across the East Coast of Canada, from Ontario to Nova Scotia. Described as a ‘triangulating The Dirty Projectors, Bjork and Philip Glass’ Only A Visitor’s latest offering is a nine song mastery of visionary jazz. Lines puts a focus on unconventional three-part vocal harmonies and seeks to challenge the traditional utilization of the combination of bass, keyboards, and drums. Through composer and arranger, Robyn Jacob’s lyrics Only a Visitor speaks on human sensitivity and often questions the largely untalked about growing process adults will often encounter.

Using experimental pop fused with jazz,  Only a Visitor touches on subject matters ranging from feminism, immigration, love and the kind of world we will be leaving for future generations.

No album in 2017 is complete without sharing its thoughts on imperialism, and Only A Visitor does just that with their titular track on Lines. Only a Visitor’s use of subjects that touch on the environment, politics, family, expressionism, and an egalitarian society echo the band’s West Coast roots either directly or indirectly. Only A Visitor’s penchant for championing progressive reform provides the city with one of the better examples of the kind of enlightened artistry our city can humbly produce.

Only a Visitor’s use of asymmetrical groove leaves little guesswork to the listener and provides a natural feeling to Lines, making the album accessible to both the musical laymen and trained musicians alike. Kevin Romain and Jeff Gammon (drums and bass respectively) provide a rhythm section that does well to embellish the overall mood for Only A Visitor. Romain and Gammon continue to excel on Lines where that did 2015’s Tower Temporary, with their perspicacious combination of subtle and robust infection that consummately complement the intricate piano playing of Jacob. The ethereal accompaniment that Romain and Gammon exhibit so frequently does well to punctuate the often evocative emotion on Lines and accentuates Only A Visitor’s music as a whole. The rhythm section’s (potentially) under-heralded and unselfish execution adds considerable depth to Only a Visitor’s music that would risk being otherwise uncommunicated (and sorely missed) if cared for by the hands of less astute players.

Jacob is joined by vocalists Emma Posti and Celina Kurz and collectively succeed in creating a full-bodied vocal approach that ranges from haunting to nurturing throughout the band’s first full-length record.

A profound release by a group of West Coast artists that Vancouver should be proud of, Lines indeed gets deeper and more impassioned with each listen. If ‘Avant Garde’ defines Only A Visitor as a band, then ‘genuine’ accurately captures the outfit’s latest record, Lines.

Only A Visitor is currently (only) visiting various summertime concert series circuits, with stop-offs at international jazz festivals in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, as well as the OFF Festival du Quebec in Quebec City.