Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rich Aucoin: "We're All Dying To Live" (album review)

I've avoided it for as long as I could, but I finally have no more excuses for not reviewing We're All Dying To Live, the debut full length album from Halifax's Rich Aucoin.  The reason I've been dodging it is that it is truly daunting to tackle an album as ambitious as this one (ambitious is the word critics have been using, and I can't think of a more appropriate one).

The album took Aucoin years to complete.  That's because he solicited contributions from 500 musicians to include on this record.  Sure, a trio of choirs account for a good chunk of that number, but even 300 separate musicians is an incredible headcount.  Members of Sloan, The Arcade Fire, and Cuff The Duke were among those who pitched in.



Adding to the intrigue of the record is it's very structure.  A nearly seamless player, each songs on the record is book-ended by its own intro and outro.  As a result, the album is musically stronger as a whole than it is if you listened to any of the songs individually.

We're All Living To Die has a sprawling, cinematic feel to it.  That's no accident.  Aucoin cobbled together a film from public domain clips, and composed the album to synchronize with it.

Electronics dominate much of the record.  But these aren't dance beats we're talking about.  Instead they are very orchestral arrangements.  The marriage of inhuman blips and bloops with choir vocals on the infectious "Brian Wilson's A.L.I.V.E." is absolutely masterful.  Highly processed vocals on "P:U:S:H" fit oddly well with it's sweeping arrangement.

The combination of "1929-1971"/"Watchin, Wishing, Waiting"/"Please Give This To Seymour Stein" takes things in an entirely different direction.  That sequence evokes thoughts of Beastie Boys ("Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"), Pink Floyd ("Another Brick In the Wall"), and Flaming Lips ("Waitin' For A Superman").

Aucoin spliced together the performances from 30 separate drummers to piece together "Watching the Ice Station Zebra for the 151st Time".  "Undead Pt 1- Estrangement" includes contributions from two of the brightest Canadian singers today, Jenn Grant and Rebekah Higgs.

The experience of We're All Dying To Live is a difficult one to convey.  It's truly a unique piece of art that everyone needs to explore for themselves.

Best tracks: "Brian Wilson's A.L.I.V.E.", "The Morning Becomes Eclectic Overture"

Track listing for We're All Dying To Live:
  • The Morning Becomes Eclectic Overture
  • All You Cannot Live Without
  • Bring In Need of Something
  • Even If All Your Friends Abandon You SMiLE
  • Brian Wilson's A.L.I.V.E.
  • We're All Slaves To the Two-Four
  • Only the Little Creatures Know
  • It
  • The Greatest Secret In the World
  • Watching the Ice Station Zebra for the 151st Time
  • P:U:S:H
  • We Must Imagine Sisyphus/Ourselves Happy
  • 1929-1971
  • Watchin', Wishing, Waiting
  • Please Give This To Seymour Stein
  • Hope For Flowers
  • Undead Pt 1- Estrangement
  • Undead Pt 2- Reconciliation
  • Watching Herzog and Listening To The Idiot
  • Living To Die
  • Dying To Live
  • 500 People Talking
8.0/10

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