Woman Runs with Wolves, percussionist Beverley Johnston’s fifth solo release on Centrediscs, is undoubtedly her most eclectically programmed to date. Pulling from her sixty-plus commissions of Canadian composers’ work, the selections range across two decades of creation to shape a conflicting series of landscapes, from representative to metaphorical, personal to political, and spiritual to technological. An expansive expression of Nunavut fills the opening track in Christos Hatzis’ Arctic Dreams, coloured by counterpoints of Inuit throat signing and jazzy marimba melodie. David Occhipinti’s Summit derives from memories of Banff and the Rockies, evoked through simple melodies and open harmonies. The often irreverent Tim Brady musicalizes a political rant in Rant!, an unrelentingly rhythmic, focused, yet surprisingly quirky work that draws on renowned political comedian Rick Mercer’s words to drive home the point, while Hatzis’ grittily rap-influenced In the Fire of Conflict foregrounds tumultuous moments of personal struggle against a weaving background of almost angelic atmospheres. Alice Ho’s highly virtuosic work, which lends its title to that of the album, commands Johnston to evoke through performance, vocalization, and movement a dramatic space inhabited by multiple characters. Micheline Roi’s exquisitely crafted Grieving the Doubts of Angels takes an interior journey through the difficult transition from a waning phase of creativity to another that’s full of discoveries. Laura Silberberg’s Up and Down Dubstep brings the collection to the present day, with references to recent trends in electronic dance music in off-kilter acoustic-electronic interplays.
There’s little to draw this wide range of aesthetics back to a comprehensible whole, but Johnston’s deft instrumental mastery, power, and virtuosity unite the collection in expressive clarity. It’s apparent the recording process was indeed a “rewarding and cathartic journey,” as she writes in the liner notes, representing a “journey of capturing my soul and expression in a fast-paced and sometimes incomprehensible world.” It’s a journey well worth taking along with her.