By Amanda Nordqvist
Earlier this year, Montreal-based Alex Stooshinoff of Patient Hands released his debut album – a nine track summary of a deeply troubled and taxing experience, where the musician struggled with physical as well as mental illness, and fought to find his way back to his rooted self. After what he calls the “Stoic Summer 2014” he found that that’s just what he had become – Stoic. And though I personally used to only have positive connotations for the word, after taking part in Patient Hands’ album, I found my views broadened. There is a helplessness to shutting oneself in, bearing everything in silence or even in denial – there is a strength in reaching out, speaking up and allowing ourselves to express the pain we’ve felt and continue to feel.
The album is in truth a journey, beginning with At Parting and its beautifully organic piano backbone, repetitive in nature and matched with the soft, airy vocals of a raw voice, growing in clarity and desperation. From this minimalistic first approach we then move on to I Shaved My Father’s Face, almost comical in its crude honesty, and with an aggressively ambient backdrop – ringing, droning, like the unnamed noises behind the sounds of a roaring waterfall. On top of this an intimately close acoustic guitar, plucking away with unfaltering dedication, and Stooshinoff’s young voice pouring out all the hurt and confusion and emptiness. The track evolves into a rockier, grittier sound, with layered electric guitars and expressive drums – it hangs just off the edge of the grandiosity of an epiphany, a burst of energy and newfound wisdom, and suddenly the air goes out and the droning, the ringing in our ears, is all that’s left to listen to – but listen, we must.
Stooshinoff goes on to portray this infinite space of nothingness, the pit we sometimes fall into and struggle to get out of, as Anaesthetic gives us massive echoes, distorted synths and a perfect balance between lyrics and sound, where neither is ever given any less importance than the other. In Envelopment we get a taste of the musician’s affection for field recordings and more experimental ambience (as can be thoroughly experienced in his EP from 2015) – I see the dark corners of a crowded room, one person in the midst of it all, bursting with light from every crack in their façade; the droning almost vulgar in its growing intensity.
After having fought our way through the album, denied and finally embraced the darkness, the clenched jaws, the nails digging into your palms – we seem to start to let go, gently and without haste. Calm brings a transition from grand and gripping to intimately close: innocent little melodies frame the untainted sound, and there’s a lovely evolution throughout the track, a sense of renewal and then a sudden, unapologetic end to the chapter, a clean break to finally start anew. Stoic tells of pain and fear of a time now left behind – Stooshinoff found his way back to himself and dedicated his energy to create this intense, immediate recap of an obstacle he knew he’d just gotten over. His uninhibited way of sharing without shame, paired with this intense blend of acoustic and electric, makes for a beautifully dark, raw and insightful album.