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0ne of the strongest memories I have of my childhood is the trees I'd see en route to our cottage in the Kawarthas. Staring out the car window, there was something quite mesmerizing about the seemingly perfectly ordered rows of pines. And on snowy Sunday afternoons, the ghostly landscape looked like how I'd envisioned Narnia. Sadly, Mike Harris and his humbling battalion of handshaking weasels never had the chance to gawk at trees. Why else would his government be so nonchalant about giving away 46 million hectares of the province's public forestlands to the logging industry? In other words, why does the provincial government continue to display total cynicism and ignore the consensus view that public lands are exactly that?
This is the question being asked by the artists involved with Whose Forest?
And although the CD comes unfortunately late in the game -- the Tories' proposed "Lands For Life" legislation is scheduled to be pushed through this June -- their goal is to inform as many Ontarians as possible about the government's plans and encourage the public at large to speak out before 43 per cent of the province turns into Huggies and Taco Bell cups.
Given the politics, anger and dry-stats that sparked Whose Forest?, it could be assumed the album would be a cranky convention of earnest folk singers and dubious Celtic fusion bands beating you over the head with "hey-hey, ho-ho's." But the disc is packed with arresting compositions leaning heavily on the electroacoustic, ambient, world and avant jazz end of the musical spectrum. The esoteric jazz ramblings of NOMA's 'desert doe' are decidedly noir, making Michael Ondaatje, who does dig spoken word thin and sound gruffly Tom Waits-ian. Percussion combo Nexus have come up with a textured composition of found sounds reminiscent of Zoviet France, and the amazing Cinnamon Sphere with Jin Hi Kim contribute "Insect Groove," which takes me to a muggy locale where the birds are free to belt out improv jazz.
Besides the altruistic element of the album -- all net proceeds will go to the Partnership for Public Lands -- Whose Forest? works wonderfully as a sampler of some of Canada's more original musical voices, ones that aren't played on commercial radio. Loves me some sonic wallpaper. - ERIN HAWKINS