Over four acclaimed albums, The Rural Alberta Advantage has explored themes ranging from hometowns lost and found to tragic Alberta disasters. Some won awards, some were critics’ darlings but all of them showed a frank and forthright style of songwriting that has continued to leave its mark and grab fans around the world. Years of touring have filled rooms with a sound far beyond what any music fan would initially expect from a trio, until they witness Paul's incomparable drumming style live and the number of parts Amy can play at any one time alongside Nils' cathartic vocals.
The Rise (2022) is the first word in a conversation, the first step on a new, unkept trail. It’s the beginning of a new era for the Toronto trio, and the first of three pieces in a year-long puzzle, which will be constructed over three separate releases.
On its own, The Rise tells its own six-track story through Paul Banwatt’s thundering drums, Amy Cole’s hammered keys and crystalline harmonies, and Nils Edenloff’s furious acoustics and soaring, wheaty tenor. At times, it’s literal and visceral, like the blowing dust of “Lifetime,” or the hardy, galloping road trip post-mortem of “3 Sisters,” or the slow, naked march of “Late September Snow.” At others, it’s hallucinatory and surreal, like the vivid, crashing dreamscape of “10Ft Tall."
Discussing this first installment of new music, and The RAA’s return, Edenloff notes, “We just go only based on heart and gut and try to let our minds get out of the way, because more often than not those just trip us up.” Cole adds, “We’re so intrigued by the idea of different perspectives and memories in these songs, and then this ultimate view of ‘Is any of it anything?”
That dichotomy—between what is assumed to be objective, real and tangible, and what is not is explored by Alberta photographer Leroy Schulz’s work that accompanies the EP and lead singles “CANDU” and “AB Bride.” Schulz flew drones over Alberta landscapes and took photos from above, looking down on rows of fir trees, barns, crops, and grass. From this perspective, the settings look unrecognizable, even unreal, like some alien planet. The shapes, shadows, lines, and textures are foreign, yet these are scenes of home.
The past two years have upended all that we thought to be concrete. The Rise, like this period, is a complication of what we assume to be familiar and true and unchanging. It’s the start of something new.