Any Light LP
Last Gang Records/MNRK

On their new album Any Light, Loving share a set of songs born from moments of serendipitous inspiration: a spontaneously composed poem, a long-forgotten voice memo, an uncannily pertinent book unearthed in their studio space. The British Columbia-based musicians Jesse Henderson and David Parry brought these songs to life by surrendering to a prolonged process of free-flowing experimentation, often dreaming up several entirely distinct iterations of a track before deciding on a final version. Through all that unhurried exploration, Loving arrived at a body of work that invites a similar sense of charmed receptivity, even as its songs examine such complex matters as romantic love, depression, existential uncertainty, and the psychic consequences of living in an increasingly digitized world.

Any Light took shape at Risque Disque studio on Vancouver Island, with Loving greatly expanding their sonic vocabulary and repertoire. Produced by the duo and mixed, mastered, and engineered by Parry, the 10-song project encompasses a far more elaborate sound than its predecessor, layering its lush arrangements with trumpet, timpani, vibraphone, strings, and organ—all new sonic territory for the band. Despite diverging from the finespun indie-folk of their past work, Loving imbue every song with the poetic introspection first shown on their 2016 debut EP, as well as the disarmingly warm presence they’ve brought to the stage in touring with the likes of Tennis and Alice Phoebe Lou.

On the album-opening title track, Loving offer a gloriously sprawling piece that fully reflects the fluid creative energy and nuanced emotionality at the heart of Any Light. The song came together like a puzzle: a propulsive chord progression brought in by Parry paired with a small song fragment that Henderson refers to as “a letter to myself—the light being the generosity and care I can extend to others, but often fail to give myself.” “When I looked at all of these songs together, I realized that the concept of light was threaded throughout the album,” adds Henderson, who serves as Loving’s vocalist and lyricist. “For me light signifies awareness or insight, which ties into how many of these songs document a shift in perspective.”

While a number of songs on Any Light are meditations on the nature of the mind, much of the album muses on the metamorphic nature of enduring love. “No Mast,” graced with Parry’s spellbinding performance on slide guitar, presents a searching and sweetly hopeful love song informed by Henderson’s reading of James Hollis’ The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other  (a Jungian look at the psychodynamics of relationships). “The book made me reflect on the power or magic of very stereotypical ideas of romantic love and how they had shaped parts of my life ,” says Henderson. “I found myself thinking and writing about love in a different way, more attuned to how relationships —with self and others—transform over time and go through a continual process of development.”

In a playful deviation from Any Light’s more contemplative moments, “Medicine” unfolds in a fable-like narrative whose enchanting quality is infinitely heightened by the track’s ethereal textures and hypnotically lilting rhythms. “This was playfully based on our friend’s transcendental experience exploring plant medicine,” Henderson explains. Loving close out Any Light with “Blue,” a song that began as a stripped-back piano ballad but soon took on a quiet grandiosity, thanks to the use of a Hammond organ. “About halfway through recording we forklifted a Hammond and Leslie to the live room on the studio’s second floor, which was a huge pain but ended up adding so much to the album,” Parry recalls. “The Leslie itself is such an incredibly loud and inspiring instrument, and brought this crazy bass sound to ‘Blue.’” The result: an exquisitely unfettered expression of longing and desire. “Some of the songs on the record play with the distortions and grandeur of romance, giving in, pushing back,” Henderson points out. “This one gives in.”

Longtime friends who first met while tree-planting in Western Canada, Parry and Henderson first launched Loving via a playful recording session that resulted in their eponymous EP. Henderson’s brother, Lucas, left the project after working on and touring their debut LP, If I Am Only My Thoughts. Loving has since crystallized as a duo, embracing a deliberate lack of premeditation in the creative process, and preferring to follow the wholly unpredictable course of impulse and intuition. “I’m always rushing to record our ideas and see what comes from them, without really worrying what anything might turn into,” says Parry. “A lot of the time we just keep cycling through different versions of songs until we find the one that we love most.” Although Henderson and Parry handled most of Any Light’s instrumentation on their own—with Henderson playing piano, Wurlitzer, guitar, and organ and Parry’s contributions including guitar, bass, drums, percussion, and additional keys —Loving also shaped the album’s richly detailed tracks with the help of several musician-friends, including singer/songwriter Evan Cheadle on guitar, multi-instrumentalist Colin Nealis on strings, and Keenan Mittag-Degala on percussion. “With the EP and first record everything’s really close and dry-sounding, so the spaciousness of this album feels very new and exciting,” says Parry. “We were using a lot of reverb in a way that I’d shied away from in the past, [as well as] working with vibraphone and timpani and other more orchestral elements. None of those ever dominates the song, but they’re in there and they each have a place.” 

Looking back on the making of Any Light, Loving point to the dreamlike “Gift” as a reflection of their devotion to the strange magic of creative discovery. “In the case of ‘Gift,’ it felt like we could have kept on recording different versions for the rest of our lives. In general we tend not to bracket off our curiosity about all the forms a song might take; we’re always subjecting it to new experiments. Most of our process involves being caught in a state of unknowing where we’re constantly asking, ‘Is this it?’ And then when we finish the song, it feels miraculous.”