When I was a child, I used to pretend that my bed was a ship taking me off somewhere. I didn’t particularly have a destination in mind, but in my years of uneasy sleep I’d soothe myself with the notion of drifting off with the comforting pull and push of the ocean beneath.
In making See Your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard, Toronto’s Megan Hamilton had a co-producer explore the sonic qualities in different rooms on a variety of ships. Studying sound characteristics, such as the properties of voices breathing in cold air, led Mark Vogelsang to construct a theme for the record. “The original idea, similar to the other albums, was to create an environment for the listener to reside in during the entire album,” he says.
Trying to create “music from another room” appears to be a lost art in a sea of popular music infused with that fresh, in-studio quality.
See Your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard, however, is a record that serves as a surreal vehicle of transport. The lonesome, unfathomable hulls of massive ships standing in the low waves provide lingering imagery as they wait to return to the sea.
As a child, the exercise of mentally transporting myself to a craft was perhaps an exercise in escaping solitude and of feeling part of something more than it was an exercise to get some sleep.
Hamilton’s record inhabits the immense structures of wood and steel, invoking both love and misery. Her voice meanders through the intimacy of an odd room and the span of a colossal deck, pacing the course with reflection. The instruments draw near and far, bowing and increasing their drift in time.
“Throw It Down the Drain With Your Morning Coffee Grinds” opens the album. Hamilton, who has written plays and short stories, shares with neat phrases and nomadic statements. Craig Browne’s guitar deftly punctuates, while Adam White’s bass and Steve Puchalski’s keys live in the shadowy corridors.
The music works clearly because Hamilton’s voice presents the stories with such openness. Soul-baringly sweet, the cracks and upper edges of her tone offer vulnerability and truthfulness.
“I ❤ Computers” sways with a sluggish step. “Speak to me rationally,” Megan sings before going off the rails with greatly entertaining lines like “My floppy disk appreciates your hard drive.”
She’s also not afraid to rip the doors off, with the scorching “Sprout Through the Load.”
The sprawling, gorgeous and splendid “Wherever You Are” is perhaps my favorite song. Guitar pushes Megan’s coated vocals along, granting them nerve as the piece picks up momentum. She holds onto notes, playing with them in mid-air until you think you could shed tears.
As a child in a dream ship, perhaps escaping loneliness or perhaps just trying to get some sleep, Hamilton’s See Your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard might have been the ideal soundtrack. Its sincerity, natural emotion, skill, and stunning consistency are hard to resist, but it’s the magnificent ache of these songs that made me cry.
Check out this MP3 of “I ❤ Computers” from this album.