‘Atmospheric chamber string folk’

The Wilderness of Manitoba loses one lead singer, but gains three more for their new album

Amanda Balsys’ s vocal talents were lent to The Wilderness of Manitoba for their third studio album. Balsys is also part of Kingston-based band The Gertrudes.
Amanda Balsys’ s vocal talents were lent to The Wilderness of Manitoba for their third studio album. Balsys is also part of Kingston-based band The Gertrudes.
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The Wilderness of Manitoba’s third album features three different lead singers.
The Wilderness of Manitoba’s third album features three different lead singers.
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It’s not often that you lose a tour van.

But when you’re over 5,000 kilometeres away from home on a U.K. tour, things happen.

“It could have been so much worse — we could have lost everything,” said Will Whitwham, lead singer and guitarist of The Wilderness of Manitoba.

Despite having their tour van stolen while abroad, the band remained calm — a sense similar to the ethereal sounds of their music.

Lead singer Melissa Dalton departed amicably from the band after they completed their tour with their second album When You Left the Fire last year.

“I think when you’re in a band, it’s that ebb and flow of living and breathing — we were on the road a lot at that time and ultimately, she decided touring wasn’t for her,” Whitwham said.

After losing Dalton, the group opened themselves to the opportunity of having not one, but three female vocalists alternate as lead singer on their third album.

“It was something we’d never done before,” Whitwham said. “It showed us that we can keep changing direction if we need to.”

Amanda Balsys, vocalist and violinist for popular Kingston indie/folk band The Gertrudes, does the majority of the heavy vocal lifting on the new album Island of Echoes.

According to Whitwham, she’s a perfect fit.

“The singers we asked to participate were our favourite female vocalists we knew,” he said. “I’ve wanted Amanda in the band for a few years now, so it’s pretty great.”

The Wilderness of Manitoba first got together in the summer of 2008, when Whitwham and Scott Bouwmeester, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the group, began writing songs together in the basement of their Toronto home.

Both musicians started recording more melancholy folk tunes, then recruited Stefan Banjevic to incorporate the layer of cello harmony they were craving.

“We had a bit of a mini choir on the song ‘Evening,’ which my mum wrote in the late sixties,” Whitwham said. “It was a cover I wanted to unearth and we wanted to dive in and out and swim around the harmonies.”

He described the band’s current album, Island of Echoes, as “atmospheric chamber string folk.”

The steady drum beat and haunting group vocals on “The Island of the Day Before” is an example of the whole album’s calming folk feel.

And the band will bring this calm feeling and intrinsically wistful sound to the audience in Kingston this Saturday night at The Mansion.

“All audiences are great, but it’s a great demographic when you go to a university town like Kingston,” he said. “There’s a youthful, carefree vibe that derives from student audiences.”

The Wilderness of Manitoba plays The Mansion on Saturday night at 9 p.m.

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