If you go see the early work of any abstract or experimental painter, odds are that you'll find some well-rendered and stylistically indistinctive drawings of faces and bodies. All the greats—from Picasso to de Kooning—started with the pared-down, no-frills basics.
The same often goes for music. Traditionally, people opt for a guitar, often acoustic, before they go for the loop pedal or synth, mastering at least few simple strums on G, C, and D chords or a folky ditty before venturing into the realms of the experimental. Of course, many artists opt out of that track, particularly with today’s availability of cheap technology—and sometimes that works well. For the most part, though, I tend to put more faith in those who start from the basics and work their way up.
Old Man Canyon is one of those. The moniker of Vancouver’s Jett Pace, Old Man Canyon released a debut EP in 2013, Phantoms & Friends, in a singer-songwriter style (at least one song boasts a banjo and a few have harmonies that sound somewhere between Fleet Foxes and The Lumineers). The songs hit all of the markers of good folk: solid structure, well-crafted lyrics, and melodies to grab onto.
From that foundation, Pace has now moved onto his more experimental phase. In his debut full-length, Delirium, he takes his brush and carves out lines of vintage-sounding synths, washes the canvas in spaced-out reverb, and splatters it with drops of percussion. The resulting songs are lush and vibrant compositions, richly layered with texture and warm colors. Largely a blend of dream-pop and psych-rock, the songs flow through the soaring, dazzling choruses of “Learn to Forget” and “Back to the Start,” the quiet funk of “Always Love,” and the electric dirge of “Sugar City,” all propelled by a swirling, trippy motion. Merging the electronic and the organic, the pop and the weird, Old Man Canyon creates an exuberant hallucinatory space akin to that of Tame Impala (Pace has named both that band and Unknown Mortal Orchestra as bands he admires).
But underneath all that psychedelic reverie Pace’s origins are apparent. Though he’s added band members for tours, he still writes and records as a one-man operation (an impressive feat considering how filled-in Delirium is), a process that results in the hitting of the same successful song markers as his last EP. Songs such as “In My Head” bear out what’s in the title—that it all stems from the reflections of a single artist.
Even among dreamy imagery, his roots keep coming back. “Oh my got me floating on the moonlight / Always glow just like sunlight,” Pace begins on the chorus of “Hollow Tree,” lyrics that place us in a celestial headspace—but he continues, “We’ve got all we’d ever need / Hollow trees underneath my feet,” an image much more at home in folk music. With solid songwriting chops underneath his own feet, Old Man Canyon has all he needs to takes to take off.