Fargo - 2004 - 50 minutes

A notable debut from Toronto songwriter and guitarist Tony Dekker, 'Great Lake Swimmers' is an homage to lost love. With little more than a guitar and a fractured voice, the singer lays bare a destroyed heart. This is the kind of music that will either drag you down to the depths by the scruff of your collar or console the unrequited through the empathy of a fellow sufferer.

Sounding like an unplugged and broken Neil Young, Dekker's brand of desolation folk employs minimalist instrumentation. By turns a piano, accordion, lap steel and the ambient sounds of nature (a chorus of background crickets gives new meaning to grass roots music) accompany haunting vocals.

The fact that the album was recovered in an abandoned grain silo in the Canadian countryside helps explain the hushed and echoed rendering. As a recording method, Dekker has proved that singing in a giant tin can works wonders. The entire piece has a seamless, nostalgic quality as if you're being sung to on a back porch at sunset. Stand-alone tracks include 'Moving, Shaking' where Dekker sings: "I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't think straight", and the slightly more lively 'I Will Never See The Sun'.

The down side of 'Great Lake Swimmers' is that it is relentless and perhaps should be avoided if the promise of summer has yet to melt the residue of your Seasonal Affected Disorder.

Elizabeth O'Neill

Tracklisting: Moving Pictures Silent Films - The Man With No Skin - Moving, Shaking - Merge, A Vessel, A Harbour - I Will Never See The Sun - This Is Not Like Home - The Animals of the World - Faithful Night, Listening - Three Days At Sea (Three Lost Years) - Great Lake Swimmers