Broken Deer: Polaraura
I first became acquainted with Lindsay Dobbin’s work in 2010, when she released, under the name Broken Deer, a limited-edition cassette on Al Bjornaa’s Scotch Tapes label. The music sounded like it came from some other, remote time and placehushed, fragile, inspired by dreams and memories.
Dobbin then released a track called “White Woman,” said to be from her forthcoming album, Polaraura, planned for release on the more or less defunct 8-track format. I’m not sure what came of that; Dobbin only says that events in her personal life delayed the album’s release. In her words, “It’s been so long to find its way out into the world . . .” Since then, Dobbin has spent time living in a small cabin in the Yukon, with only her dog and a tape recorder, “willfully sucked into the rural, off-grid lifestyle,” she says.
Polaraura is finally being releasedas an extremely limited (20 copies; just 8 remaining as I type), hand-packaged cassette, wrapped in birch-tree bark and tied with moose sinew. Each cassette comes with a digital download and includes a zine featuring album notes and Dobbin’s writing from the time spent in the cabin.
These are low-fidelity recordings of an extremely personal nature, but recordings that nevertheless transport the listener to another time and place. In this music, we hear carefully plucked guitar, gently tapped keys, the sound of winds, wolves, owls, and rivers. The press release states:
As the winter progressed, Dobbin’s waking world and dream world began to merge. Animals started coming to hera lynx, then owl, then a black wolf. The forest and the billowing steam from the pot on the stove seemed to be alive with spirits.
Have you read Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World? The description of Dobbin’s process reminds me so much of Murakami’s book. Listening to Dobbin’s music, like reading Murakami, is an enchanting and often unsettling experiencedistant, lonely, but also alluring.
The press release continues:
Dobbin documented the feelings surrounding this reality (or non-reality) musically. Along with songs of longing, sounds of the river, wolves, snow, wind, forest spirits, owls, and northern lights all appear on Polaraura. Moving from winter darkness, longing and hunger, to the insight and relief of spring, the one-track journey explores the wisdom of a northern landscape and how it might mirror a place within.
Broken Deer’s Polaraura is available now. The album is made of five parts, ranging between four and 10 minutes in length, and including a slightly shorter, quieter version of “White Woman.” You can listen to the entire work here.
Perhaps my favorite track is Part 2, "My Heart's in the Highlands." A video for the song was directed by Heather Rappard and stars Erika Ellsworth.