You don’t have to be born in B.C. to understand why our slogan is “Beautiful British Columbia”—the lichen-padded solitude of our forests, the drizzly dreaminess of our wild coastline, the sharp and breathtaking contrast of mountain and sea, these are the things that make us fiercely defend our pacific northwestern home to anyone who suggests otherwise, the things that make us stick around through the (many) rainy months. In his debut EP, appropriately titled Saltwater, Alberta-born and Montreal-based Noah Cebuliak has proven that he understands the solitary spirit of the Canadian west.
Cebuliak, who goes by the stage name of Ghost Lights, captures a sense of quiet beauty in each of the six tracks on Saltwater, which is his studio debut. The tracks were reportedly inspired by his journeys travelling through the wilderness in both Alberta and B.C., and the influence is undeniable in the lyrically based songs, which read like poetry. Right from the top “Fog Chief” sounds like an autumn bonfire on the beach, as the lyrics suggest: “I am a bowl of winter wine/The hollow knife in burning pine/The valley ghost in northern lakes/September moss on cedar shakes/I’ve sat and smoked with driftwood kings…” These themes of nature, weather, and seasonal shifts are streamlined throughout the album, as one might expect from anything inspired by B.C., yet, while the pace is relaxing and steady throughout, each track is still different from the one before. Where “Fog Chief” has the misty sound of early evening, “A Train Is Coming” is lighter and full of the lazy expectations of late morning. The subtle shifts continue with the soft, jazzy tempo of “Thundercloud” and the dozy, cat-nap suggestion in “Babble from a Beehive.” Ghost Lights balances guitar with his cool, clear voice best in “The Flask,” and closes his debut with the dreamy “Heart of Wind.”
Just as the lyrics were inspirited by the luscious Canadian West Coast, the instrumentals seem to follow the same moss-covered pathway. In addition to the lead vocals, Cebuliak plays many of the instruments—guitar, keyboard, percussion—on the record, and wrote all but one of the songs (“The Flask” was written by Joseph Mcougall). The layered fusion of the collective sounds gives the album an unpretentious, mild sound that matches our climate, perfect for lounging somewhere warm while the early dark of a winter afternoon swallows the world outside—Saltwater is music to unwind to with a mug of tea in your palms and a rug on your knees.
While Ghost Lights won’t brighten up the shivery months, and this isn’t the place to turn if you’re searching for sunshine, the album might make Feb. and Mar. more endurable, and Cebuliak’s EP offers something to look forward to after a long day of battling it out in the damp. Saltwater suggest to our ears what we already know about B.C. from our eyes—we live in the most beautiful place in the world, even if it does rain from time to time.
To learn more about Ghost Lights, and to listen to Saltwater, visit <www.ghostlights.ca>.