[…continued from last post]
The band planned on recording two songs for a dance single that their label had suggested. The songs in hand were “Symmetry,” and the intended B-side, “Nova Heart.” Producer John Punter arrived in the middle of a ferocious winter storm not exactly uncommon in the Great White North, but he managed to make to his destination and the band had a period of pre-production where they sized each other and the material up and started contemplating attacking the songs.
Punter’s background was initially as a drummer , so he thought that a dance single would benefit from a rhythm box, so the call went out to rent one. What arrived was a new Roland model, the TR-808. A unit which no one was familiar with, but Punter moved on it and began programming rhythms what would be foundational on the new material. Along the way they realized that “Symmetry” was being eclipsed by “Nova Heart” and that maybe they should swap the intended A/B sides. This “Nova Heart” was looking very promising.
The single was initially released on 7″ and it did the trick of giving the band an entry into the Canadian Top 40, albeit at the bottom rung of the chart. But that was still an auspicious outcome for what was in effect their first single, apart from the indie “After The Institution” which they had released themselves in an edition of a thousand copies. With radio primed, the 12″ single was released with both tracks in long six plus minute arrangements. The Spoons had their calling card. The experiment with Punter had been successful and a few months later he was back in Toronto recording with energized band.
Spoons: Arias + Symphonies – CAN – LP 
- Trade Winds
- Smiling In Winter
- One In Ten Words
- No Electrons
- No More Growing Up
- Arias & Symphonies
- Nova Heart
- South American Vacation
- A Girl In Two Pieces
- Walk The Plank
- Blow Away
The album began with a rhythm box drenched in delay. Cinematic synths hummed and throbbed as guitar chords began jangling in a languid seJohn Barry fashion. White noise began swirling across the horizon like the “Trade Winds” “of a new day dawning. Were those BVs or choral synth patch? The pensive mood was broken by a thunderclap. The bass drum kicked in a tribal beat as the synths rose in pitch like the sun of a new dawn arcing across the sky to reach apogee. This brief instrumental served as a perfect launch into what was undoubtedly going to be a new bold adventure. With all of the anxious anticipation of the unknown swirling together with the sort of hope and optimism that suggested that everything was going to work out just fine.
After that appetizer, the first course began in earnest with the next machine rhythm segueing smoothly over the fading embers of “Trade Winds.” Random synth waves resolved quickly into a drone as Derrick Ross’ drum fills pulled us right into Sandy Horne’s athletic, swinging bass line. The rhythm guitar of Gordon Deppe spiraled upward in rondo. The tense vibe of the intro had almost a full minute to cast its spell. Deppe only entered the song vocally at 0:54.
The lyrics were certainly unique, but understandable, coming from a Canadian band. They concerned how winter was no longer an existential threat in the modern world. Quite an unusual notion for a pop song. The driving, intense music had spoken to the traditional, underlying threat of winter weather. The growl of the bass synth drones over the finely etched rhythm box abetted by real drumming was redolent of the power that winter concealed behind a crystalline façade of ice and snow. Punter expertly applied reverb to Deppe’s vocal at the end of each triplet in the verses to suggest the eerie desolation of winter.
The foreboding vibe of the music speaking to the power of winter; albeit now tamed by the veneer of civilization. But the threat was still there beneath the surface. Crisp tattoos of drums danced among the rhythm box while Deppe supplied a rich guitar solo in the instrumental middle eight as the drum machine supplied tattoos that propelled the climax to a rondo with rhythm guitar and the distinctive handclaps of the 808.
This was a song that Sandy Horne brought to the album and it managed the neat trick of having a finely etched, crystalline structure, as befitting a song about winter. Yet it carried sufficient brute force courtesy of the principles’ bass and guitars to pack a muscular wallop. “Smiling In Winter” was released as the third single from the album; reaching the number 30 position on the Canadian Top 40 chart. It remains one of my favorites from an album with no dull spots to these ears and when I first heard this song, I was living in Central Florida, so the concept of winter was pretty abstract to me. Now we live on a mountain and can see as much as a foot of snow and even 1/32 an inch of ice can shut us down; much less the 3/4″ we occasionally get. At those times, this song is never far from my consciousness.
Next: …Electronic Symphonies