To anyone familiar with the Hermit's first album, Flying Out of Solitude, the locally based act's latest release, Wonderment, will seem both familiar and surprising. Familiar because the new disc, like its predecessor, weaves electronic textures together with organic rhythms for a lush, ambient sound; surprising because, whereas Solitude was a largely instrumental outing, Wonderment features vocals on most of its 10 tracks. This nudges the Hermit's aesthetic slightly closer to the atmospheric dance-pop of Nettwerk labelmate Delerium, but Hamish Thomson says this wasn't a calculated move.
"I didn't really set out to do so many vocal songs, but as the songs were being written, I could just hear vocals on them," says Thomson, the Hermit's drummer and chief sonic architect, reached by telephone somewhere near the Quebec-Ontario border. "Some of them could still stand up as an instrumental song, but I'm really, really into evolving as a songwriter. The first time, it was more about getting into the studio and trying stuff, just seeing what I could do."
Flying Out of Solitude was essentially a solo record, but Wonderment boasts performances by singers such as Martina Sorbara, Paper Moon's Allison Shevernoha, the Be Good Tanyas' Frazey Ford, Sekoya's Amalia Townsend, and Shelley Campbell. When the Hermit plays at the Commodore on Monday (June 27), Paula Toledo will be doing the bulk of the singing, with spoken-word hero CR Avery contributing vocals and beatboxing, Jon Frederiksen playing bass, and Robert Mitchell adding keyboards.
As for Thomson, he's happy to be a jack-of-all-trades in the studio, laying down piano, synth, and vocal parts. But as anyone who has caught one of his astounding live gigs will attest, he has never forgotten his first love. "I'm so into being the drummer," he says. "I'm definitely the most comfortable there. I can totally get into the passion and feel inspired behind the kit. As far as all the other instruments in the studio, you know, I'm not a master of any of those things. I can sit down and work out parts in the studio and take my time, but to really, really let loose and lose myself in the song, that happens behind the kit, for sure."