As the title of their third album, Cruisin’, suggests, Bernice are in no rush. They know that time marches forward without relent. “Time feels like it’s moving too fast / But I know a good thing will last,” Robin Dann sings on the shimmering “Underneath My Toe.” To stretch out the contraction of time, the Toronto ensemble centered their album around one question: “Can you cruise to it?”
Cruisin’s mood reflects the environment in which Bernice created it. In spring of 2021, the band retreated to a farm in Bond Head, Ontario. There, they luxuriated in each other’s company, cooking, knitting, and exploring their musical curiosities. Bernice’s spirit of togetherness guided their writing sessions, nudging them towards Cruisin’s themes, namely communal care.
So, what about Bernice’s question? Can you cruise to its? The answer is not an emphatic “yes” but rather, given the album’s genial temperament, a leisurely “yeah.” Cruisin’ is a spiritually uplifting listen. Hear the floating “Entrance Music” or “Are You Breathing,” on which Dann asks, “How can I push you back into the light? How can I puff up your halo?”
This tenderness ties Cruisin’s 15 sonic sketches together. And Bernice radiate that warmth not only outward, like on “Are You Breathing,” but inward, too. The relaxed, immersive nature of Cruisin’ makes for a regenerative listen, especially with the repeated affirmation, “I begin again,” on “Begin Again.” Though Cruisin’ is an album that quietly searches for answers without ever sounding outright distressed (and certainly never panicked), it is not all smooth and serene. The hypnotic “Always a Lover” resembles a Velvet Underground rehearsal demo. The wonky, disjointed “Second Judy” evokes a sense of physical displacement. That said, the song is subtly playful, alive with whistling and the sounds of chirping of birds.
Subdued funk briefly wafts in on “Underneath My Toe.” The moment comes as a welcome respite, but it is relieving that Bernice stay the contemplative course. It is also relieving that even Cruisin’s most experimental, active moments are short. “Little Miss Timmy,” featuring Panteen, and “I am Brave” last less than 50 seconds each. With such brevity, they never distract from the rest of the more even-keel album.
Cruisin’ is too restless to exist in the realm of relaxation tapes, yet it is too subdued to do much more than pique curiosity, spark intrigue, or at the very least raise an eyebrow. No matter how bare bones or animated Bernice become on Cruisin’, every song on the album possesses an undeniable allure. It is easy to get lost in their spell but difficult to find a reason to snap out of it.
Pre-order Cruisin’ by Bernice HERE
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