Fiver and the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition Twist Country Music into New Shapes
Published May 04, 2021When a band first starts out, or is looking to take their act to the next level, common wisdom is to learn some covers. Lose the stress of writing and just rock some of your favourites. Fiver (the solo moniker for Toronto indie folk auteur Simone Schmidt) and the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition (a backing band composed of some of the East Coast's best indie musicians) did just that with last year's genre-reimagining You Wanted Country? Vol 1. It worked, and now, the four-piece are even tighter on this self-titled collection of majestic originals.
Throughout the album, the Atlantic School — Bianca Palmer, Nick Dourado and Jeremy Costello, who list Beverly Glenn Copeland, Aquakultre and Century Egg amongst their musical adventures — weave beautifully improvised riffs and purposeful wanderings to create an ideal bedrock for Schmidt to do what they do best: croon powerful, thoughtful lyrics. In their sights this time? The very real idea of 21st century labour struggles and the ethereal concept of living in the now, entangled poetically like only Schmidt can. The band's masterful command of improvisational music complements this well. Stunning interplay between Schmidt's words and their band's music creates the album's most magical moments, especially in those special instances where it all melds into one.
Taking what they learned together on You Wanted Country? Vol 1, the eight songs of Fiver with the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition sit in a country framework without ever feeling constrained by it. At any moment, a song feels like it will lurch out of its Waylon Jennings tribute into a swirling, psychedelic trip. They live up to the spontaneity promised by their name, and the album is all the more exciting for it. You can hear this with the cosmic-slide guitar of "Leaning Hard (On My Peripheral Vision)" that carries listeners to faraway lands, or the soul-stirring melody of "Jr. Wreck." Album standout "Paid in Pride" finds each musician doing what they do best, as you hear the band's country foundation creaking but never breaking.
This changing of style has become Schmidt's calling card; their work as Fiver and full-band project the Highest Order has found them never sitting in one sound for long. Like a Canadian PJ Harvey, Schmidt comes, hears and conquers, before moving onto a whole new project. Fiver with the Atlantic School of Spontaneous Composition is melodic and slow, with the subtleties like to pass listeners by on first listen. With each spin, the album's underbelly is revealed, showcasing a world of activity and adventure begging to be enjoyed. (You've Changed)