Album Review :: Status/Non-Status :: Surely Travel & January 3rd

by Mykhailo Vil’yamson

There is an Anishinaabe story about the Aandeg (a.k.a. the Crow), who is said to have once been without purpose, but who uncovered their raison d’être by helping others. In this way, crows are seen as exemplars of finding meaning through the process of continually seeking, deliberately pushing forward, and tenaciously not giving up; this bird is also suitably regarded as a welcome travelling companion. Perhaps there is soul resonance here between the flyer and frontperson of the band Status/Non-Status – community worker Adam Sturgeon – whose latest album, Surely Travel and its companion EP/B-Sides January 3rd, dive headlong into such themes. After all, most songs from this project deal with life on the road in the contrived nation of “Canada” and one’s distance from feeling at “home.” 

Previously known as Whoop-Szo – with their 2019 debut getting a long-list nod from Polaris – the name change is apt given the refashioning of their sound. Whereas Warrior Down was defined by a thick fusion of the grisly and the beautiful – with a wall of fazed-out distortion throughout – Surely Travel is significantly more stripped back, dampened, and just passingly hints at what once was (in songs like “Has It Been So Long,” “Bineshiinh,” and the title track). In fact, the album is much more reminiscent of his 2022 collaboration Ombiigizi with Zoon’s Daniel Monkman (i.e. Sewn Back Together) – reflective, mellow, and less edgy than either Warrior Down or 1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years. Surely Travel is a hybrid of indie and hard folk, while January 3rd careens into the realm of folk rock. However, this new music is just as heavy subject-matter-wise, as it delves deep into questions of rootedness and disconnection, of family, friendship, and loss. Ultimately, these songs seem to be about profound feelings of separation – because of touring (e.g. “Blown Tire,” “Mainly Crows,” and “Surely Travel”), bygone connections (e.g. “Bineshiinh” and “What Am I To Do”), relocation (e.g. “North Adelaide”), and death (e.g. the winsome yet heart-wrenching ode to Kirsten Kurvink Palm’s late mother Molly on “Glide”). Perhaps what these tracks sonically communicate the most – despite the messiness of our past, the incompleteness of our present, and the uncertainty of our future – is a tempered/cautious optimism, or in Sturgeon’s words, a celebration of “the small wins of human-sized approach to resilience and healing.”

Status/Non-Status also laudably does what many other bands don’t do and have sought to explain the meaning of their songs (via descriptions on Bandcamp). What’s more, their website includes a cache of content in their “Hide and Seek Archive.” So – be sure to visit, and click on the ripe half of the strawberry.

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