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The road to Holy Smoke, Kandle Osborne’s sophomore record, was an intense and winding one. Over three years, multiple producers and studios, burnt bridges, broke living, and heartbreak, Kandle’s relentless drive to deliver her latest album challenged her, transformed her as an artist, and helped create her bravest and most devastating artistic statement to date. Its recording nearly spans the country, from Victoria to Toronto and even her Montreal bedroom, and features an all-star cast of contributors. Peter Dreimanis of July Talk lends his vocals; prolific hired gun Leon Taheny appears on “Child of Fate;” John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth) and Alex Bonenfant produce; and Broken Social Scene’s Sam Goldberg Jr. provides a massive chunk of the album’s instrumentation.

Pared down from dozens and dozens of songs, Holy Smoke is a lean and unflinching collection of chillingly gothic swamp rock that swelters and seethes with heavy magick. Fearlessness is wrapped up in each of the record’s 10 tracks—Kandle tackles sexual assault, abuse of power, life on the road, trauma, and pain with vulnerability and force. Enveloped by vivid soundscapes that create a witchy world of noir soul, shadowy pop, and ghostly rock ’n’ roll, her commanding voice emerges as the lone light in Holy Smoke’s dense haze, leading the listener toward a mysterious, enthralling finale, but no resolution.

Holy Smoke is a courageously honest artifact—staying strong through its bends and never breaking under the profound weight it carries. It strives for purity and purpose in its pain, hungrily seeking a spirituality that might help make sense out of it all, but any clarification is obscured by life’s own divine mysteries. For all the vapour in the way, we may not even be able to tell if that salve exists. But through the trials and tribulations that define her third release, Kandle has endured. If there’s anything visible through the misty darkness of Holy Smoke, it’s her own silhouette, aglow and rising.

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