Is that a diamond? No, it’s a piece of melting ice, a symbol of A Common Truth that represents a seemingly undeniable piece of evidence. And yet, in this new era of “post truth” and “alternate facts”, there may be no such thing as common truth. The frustration toward this attitude, as well as concern over climate change, inspired Rebecca Foon (Saltland) to write this album. We can only imagine how it must feel to dedicate one’s life to a cause, only to have the political climate change in such a way as to deny the existence of what one has mapped. Had it been released a year ago, A Common Truth would have been a welcome voice in a virtual choir, calling attention to an essential issue; in today’s context, it’s a peaceful protest, a lament, a war cry.
The cello is such an emotive instrument that it’s hard to hear its low tones without a feeling of sadness or dread. Each emotion is pertinent here. While Foon sings on half of the tracks, her voice is as integrated as that of Deirdre Rutkowski in This Mortal Coil; the music wraps around her words like a cocoon. Warren Ellis contributes violin, pump organ and loops to the instrumentals, while Jace Lasek contributes guitar and synthesizer to the vocal tracks, an unusual separation; yet without the liner notes, one would never guess that the players had changed. The timbre lands between modern composition and post-rock, as might be expected from the artist’s pedigree, the music coming across as somber and cinematic.
No triumph is to be found in this cause; only the closer, “Forward Eyes II”, yields a tiny bit of light. The impression is that even this light is fragile; a cloud may obscure it at any moment, whether a physical cloud, a cloud of indifference or a cloud of denial. At once an elegy and a statement of injured hope, A Common Truth is a quiet yet insistent question raised by a reporter who won’t go away: how do we break this vicious cycle? Foon, for one, will continue to do what she has always done, speaking out on these issues, seeking solutions, and spending time in conservation efforts. The denial of a common truth does not make it disappear. Look away, and the glaciers will continue to melt. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 31 March