Basia Bulat plays Sugar Nightclub Dec. 4.

Basia Bulat plays Sugar Nightclub Dec. 4.

Beyond Basia Bulat’s Tall, Tall, Shadow

Singer-songwriter brings her new sound, along with a charango, autoharp and synths, to Victoria Dec. 4.

In a van outside of Carborro, North Carolina, Basia Bulat hears her words coming out fast and loud, an effect of over-caffienation and wavering cellphone reception.

If the Toronto-based singer-songwriter seems edgy at all, it would make sense. Along with fielding questions related to her musical offerings, she has become somewhat of an unofficial commentator on her hometown’s now notorious political landscape across borders.

“People are asking all sorts of crazy things. They’re curious,” she says, punctuated by a string of laughter. “But I just don’t know. I’m not there.”

Since the beginning of October, Polaris Prize nominated Bulat has been taking her latest musical offering, Tall, Tall Shadow, a deeply personal and more electronically-informed, disc on the road. The third record to date for the 29-year-old is a departure from her first two indie-folk albums, which were recorded in the fully analog Hotel 2 Tango studio in Montreal. Tall, Tall Shadow was produced by Arcade Fire’s Tim Kingsbury, along with Mark Lawson and captures Bulat’s newfound fascination with a more plugged-in sound, of synths alongside her electric autoharp.

“I’ve never really been attracted to synths and electronic music in the way that I am now, so that’s been really exciting, learning this whole other language.”

And then there’s the Andean charango.

“I’m not very good at playing it the traditional way, but the people who are, the traditional players have given me their blessing,” said Bulat of the instrument she first came across while in residency at the Banff Centre in 2009.

Bulat, classically trained in piano and known for her use of the autoharp, took time away from piano before returning to write at the keyboard as an adult.

“I never felt confident in my piano playing and now I’m playing two keyboards at once, live, which is really exciting and scary. I feel like now, I’m really back in it. That’s what’s neat about all these synthesizers. In a way it’s new, but it also feels very familiar.”

Charango, a stringed instrument in the lute family, is not as loaded with history for Bulat – yet scary in a different way, for the lack of classical education with the instrument and desire to create something new in her own way.

“I hope I’m not offending professionals and traditional charango players because there is a real traditional method and there is a real traditional and canon of music. … It is a bit difficult in Toronto to find a charango teacher – and I’ve looked. My YouTube history is full of charango videos.”

From a colourful palette, Tall, Tall Shadow paints the image of a difficult time in Bulat’s life following the passing of friend just two months prior to when she was slated to enter the studio. She scrapped the original songs and rewrote the record.

“When I look back at it now, it was about trying to reach out in a certain way and trying to lift myself up. It’s about me. I can only write from my own experience, but I was hoping that the people I was thinking about when I wrote it would like it. I was really making it with the hope that certain people would hear it. That’s already been done for me. Everything else on top of that is wonderful.”

Tall, Tall Shadow is about joy and heartbreak and ultimately, looking forward towards the light.

“I try to limit saying what the songs are about, because I want to give people the space of feeling what they feel for the songs,” she says. “I hope people will see themselves in the songs.”

Bulat plays Sugar Nightclub (858 Yates) at 8pm Dec. 4, along with the surreal woodsman tunes of Jonas Bonnetta in Evening Hymns. Tickets, $18 advance, ticketweb.ca.

Just Posted

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read