Sylvia Siemens first introduced us to Carmen Braden two years ago on Roots Music Canada, and we’re thrilled to hear she has a new album coming out.
Study after study has shown that women have borne the brunt of stresses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Carmen’s new single “Menu” — available now — captures the sentiment.
Viscerally, at that.
“Menu” is sparse and industrial, with dark synth and artfully disjointed beats. Carmen speak-sings throughout; her voice, matter of fact.
“You’ve got me all carved up like a menu” is the song’s refrain, and early on Carmen gives us an image of meat falling off the bone.
“’Menu’ puts forward the idea that someone’s whole being is tied to another’s needs,” Carmen said. “I’d say it’s about the grind of day-to-day life. The demands on your physical body, and on your energy, on your time.”
Producer Mark Adam helped Carmen shape the song so that it was, in her words, “dark and gritty, with a shimmer around the edges.”
The song lurches in some moments, and floats in others — mirroring the emotions and the ebb and flow of demands in a day without defined boundaries. “An internal monologue of someone trying to keep things calm and in control,” Carmen said, “while in reality they’re teetering on the edge.”
“Menu” is the second single on Carmen’s third album, Seed Songs.
“Each song has a core — a ‘seed idea’ — I tried to capture,” she explained. “They’re each a kind of vignette, a moment in time, a snapshot of joy or struggle, fragments, phrases, edges…
“Through this past fall and winter of the pandemic, the minutiae and small details of everyday life were my focus. I wrote dozens of these short ‘seed song’ ideas — all connected to moments of beauty I encountered, or struggles of the day-to-day. I strived to share things that may seem ordinary or simple at first, but are actually profound, fulfilling, and nuanced.”
“Most of the songs are very short,” she continued — noting the shortest track clocks in at just 38 seconds. “I feel there is beauty in miniatures, in brevity. If I can say something meaningful and musical in one minute, then that’s all the time it needs to take!
“I chose 18 of the strongest ‘seeds’ to bring together in this album, and it was a journey in releasing expectations, allowing each song to have the sound or length it needed.”
While the album’s inspiration was gleaned somewhere between the ebb and flow of navigating Covid, the tangible construction of the album also presented a creative curveball, given social restrictions.
“I worked through the writing and recording of Seed Songs all by distance from my home in Yellowknife with my friend and producer Mark Adam in Nova Scotia,” Carmen said of the process. “Working that way meant I brought the music to life with Mark in ways I hadn’t done before.
“Mark encouraged me to embrace the rough while not sacrificing the concise. I also used instruments and technologies that were new for me — guitars, synthesizers… This brought a process of freedom and exploration to the recording process.”
Carmen Braden is long familiar with the process of exploration. Her debut album, Ravens, was released in 2017 combining her songs and compositions, and her sophomore offering, Songs of the Invisible Summer Stars, followed two years later as a deep dive into her contemporary works for chamber ensemble.
Carmen won the Western Canadian Music Award for Classical Composer of the Year in both 2019 and 2020, and received nominations for ECMA Classical Album of the Year (2020), WCMA Classical Artist of the Year (2019), and WCMA Classical Composition of the Year (2017).
Seed Songs, Carmen Braden’s third album, is set for release this fall.