Imaginary Heaven

Dressed in Gentler Days

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For their part -- as the title Dressed in Gentler Days aptly suggests -- Imaginary Heaven offers an ingratiating anachronism, a throwback to a kinder dimension in time. Spawned in the small rural village of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, the trio exudes a gentle simplicity that transports the listener to the same gauzy mindspace evoked by the recent spate of Jane Austen movie interpretations like Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.

Without any overburdening, the new outing is more instrumentally ambitious than the previous, self-released, ...Distant Is My Weather. Tabla, fiddle, violin, bass and gentle electric guitar strains fill out, ever so delicately and elegantly, the group's basic menu of harp, acoustic guitar, keyboards, flute and cello. The traditional "Pat-A-Pan" makes best use of these more exotic, world influences.

If left as just another beautiful instrumental texture, the siren-call interplay of vocalists Keri Steele and Nina Loretto is difficult to resist, their caressing tone enveloping the listener in lullabies for adults and visions of simpler days. However, some wispy lyrics tend to reveal cracks in the illusion, especially repetitive choruses ("I Saw," "Le Dernier Jour," "Can You See the Border?") that strive for a hypnotic effect but begin to irritate after multiple auditions. The group fares better with historical/mythical narratives like "Melusine" and "The Sleeping Gypsy."

Early Loreena McKennitt has always been the easy Imaginary Heaven descriptor, and I'm not sure they've yet managed to elude that shadow with Gentler Days. Still, if finding an hour of serenity is a priority on your "To Do" list, this is a choice soundtrack.

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