A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Broken Deer – Polaraura

broken deerIt was a means of grounding — connecting to the unspoken stories in that particular place. So, in short, I think the aesthetic tie in my art is the process, less than a subject matter or medium. And the process is me interacting with a particular place, and all the materials it offers – whether they be a kazoo, crayons, wool or soil – with the intention of finding some truth. I really hope I have that fresh approach my whole life, and not get stuck in a routine. I think an artist can always discover different worlds, transform as a person but create work that is consistent with who they are, even if it be superficially different.

interview with Weird Canada

Broken Deer is the solo experimental folk project of Lindsay Dobbin, an artist and musician who lives in the Yukon, and explores traditional shamanism and shamanic drumming via handheld tape recorders and field recordings.

Polaraura, released in March of 2013, explores the intersection of folk musick, acoustic instruments, field recordings and electrical tones, and brings the strengths of each to each.

As i’ve mentioned before, Folk Music is strongly rooted in a sense of place, whether that be Siberia or the Appalachian Mountains. Whether its regional folklore, dialect, or instrumentation, the music seems to automatically suggest a particular locale. That’s why i’ve always felt it such a shame that people interested in traditional music have not explored the possibilities of field recordings, and its part of the reason of why we have such an undying interest/affection for what you might call ‘experimental folk’, which is a pretty damn useless tag, which is part of what we’re seeking to rectify.

Broken Deer also helps to redefine what we consider ‘folk music’, as it is music by and for the people, music from everyday life, as opposed to ‘art music’ or music as commodity. When i was reviewing James Ginzburg‘s Faint Wild Light record, i came across an interesting comment from Ginzburg, where he talked about journalists appropriating the term folk music:

It’s become such a terrible word – it’s as bad as ‘trip hop’. It’s such a broadly-used term. If I talked to my grandmother about a folk album, she would imagine it with bagpipes. When I was a kid and only had access to a limited amount of music, I thought Simon and Garfunkel, or Bob Dylan, was folk music. I was a victim of the journalistic misappropriation of folk. So, I may have made a folk album using the already misused word.

Clearly, music made on 4-tracks and dictaphones and cellphones have become part of the folk vernacular, but most people get hung up on the trappings, the idea and aesthetic of folk, which turns it from something potentially powerful and uplifting into a dangerous trap, a deadly nostalgia for something you’ve never known. The romanticization of The Other, cultural appropriation, the Noble Savage, the perils of Exotica, and a whole other thorny nest of Demons that most people don’t even begin to notice, let alone think about.

Instead, Lindsay Dobbin goes the other direction, and has made something vibrant, living, powerful; the opposite of Exotica, she has actually transmitted an atom of the Great White North, which she clearly loves so dear. Wolf calls and frozen rivers meet degraded chamber pianos and Victrola vocals. Rather than dressing in a headband and purchasing some rattle & shaker, she has performed a feat of real shamanism, that is, getting into the heart and dreamtime of a place, and we all care just a little bit more for it. My inner world has been lit up with wolves silhouette on snowy hilltops, and gray spraying whales cracking through ice, even as Portland breaks into a flowery spring.

The last reason i am bringing this record to y’all’s attention is that it is probably my favorite type of music, and there’s just no good name for it. Very intimate, homemade, handmade, analog recordings, laid down to small tape recorders. I love the surface texture, i love the grit, i love the rumble and shake and warbly detuning of the vocals. You can hear it in effect in this I AM THE LAKE OF FIRE tape i wrote about it. You can hear it in the cassette seances of The Ectoplasm Girls (who i wish to g_d would release a new record) and in the slimy grooves of Pye Corner Audio‘s Black Mill Tapes Vol. 1.


It makes me think of chartreuse, of the bottom of the sea. It makes me think of the bottom of some musky, moth-eaten trunk. It makes me think of age, and degradation, but championing it, rather than dreading the decay.

Broken Deer’s music is beautifully aged, but it also stands up as just plain, good music. I like her spirit of investigation and adventure, when it comes to playing instruments. The piano jams are my favorite part of this record, which have transformed my home in a gentle Parisian tea cafe on numerous occasions. I suggest you let her do the same to your office/den/laboratory.

I highly recommend you check out Broken Deer. Fans of Joanna Newsom, Gonzales‘ solo piano records, or the dedgraded Victorian haunted loveliness of Paper Dollhouse (who i will write about here at a later date, as she’s another of our favorites), will get lost in these sounds, and have sweet dreams.

Broken Deer has brought some real loveliness, real healing, real peace to my life, over the past couple of weeks. She’s really something special.

Does anyone out there know of anything else that sounds like this? I’m on the prowl, and it has no name, so i have no way to look for it. If you do, let me know in the comments. Yr knowledge, expertise and general good taste is very much appreciated.


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