Megan Bonnell w/ friends
In dreams, the real and the surreal interweave in a dizzying dance; elements of one exist within the context of the other. Indeed, the foiling of these forces is and has always been truly fascinating, and because of the parallels they share, so too is Hunt & Chase, the debut long-player from Ontario’s Megan Bonnell.
Dropping Fall 2013 through Nevado Records, Hunt & Chase showcases sonic textures and lyrical themes that greatly belie her young age. The album is rooted in the real and organic – a very transparent take on subtly strummed guitar chords accompanied by a smoky, sophisticated voice; however, that core is often enveloped in a surreal, dream-like space that boldly and beautifully blurs the lines between asleep and awake – sometimes from song to song and sometimes within the same one.
Now based in Toronto, Bonnell’s roots trace to rural Ontario, where she grew up surrounded by forests and fields. She began teaching herself piano at only four years old, and has been making music ever since. She continued her studies in an arts-focused secondary school, this time in voice, and at the same time began creating her own compositions. “I really just haven’t been able to stop,” she says of the time since, and we should thank her for that.
Hunt & Chase follows Megan’s previously released Maps EP – an aptly named effort that captures the poise and potential of a young artist navigating her way towards a signature sonic niche. Her journey there seems to have been a short one, though, as her latest is a lush, beautiful burgeoning into something powerful and particular.
“It’s always been just piano and voice for me,” Megan says of her songwriting. “I hear all of these other things, other elements, in what I write.” On Hunt & Chase, those elements were enhanced by producers Chris Stringer and Joshua Van Tassel. “They brought it to life the way I’d envisioned it,” she says. “It’s almost like a dream sequence to me,” she says of this newest collection. “I weave in and out of the place I am and the place I imagine to be.”
Often, that place is a snapshot from her somewhat isolated upbringing. “There are so many emotions and things you find in that kind of environment,” she says of the rustic, pastoral setting of her youth. “There’s an overwhelming sense of love that you get from nature and the wild, but there’s also an inextricable loneliness there as well.”
Loneliness and love: the enigmatic pairing of emotions that explain her seduction by the surreal. While some songs are very pure in their delivery – beautifully sung and wonderfully succinct in structure, some, like lead single “Coming Home” and “Off The World” wander from lucidity in their atmospheric arrangements while anchoring the listener’s focus thanks to Bonnell’s delicate, almost divine vocals. Others, like the title track, invite you “down the rabbit hole,” leaving one world and streaming to another.
“Inspiration and introspection,” she says, listing the components she most wants to elicit. “Anything challenging we encounter that brings that out in people, to me, that’s the ultimate feeling.”
The challenge inherent in Hunt & Chase isn’t enjoying the experience; that comes quite naturally. Instead, it’s trying to tell where you’re being transported in time or in space; whether you’re awake or dreaming. But really, the journey is so charming and captivating that you quite simply won’t care.