Tristan Armstrong dives deep into romantic isolation in his gorgeous new single and video Periscope — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
A beautifully bittersweet waltz that gently floats past on rippling currents of guitar, effected electric violin, and lush orchestration — all buoyed by Armstrong’s heartworn lyrics and tenderly intimate vocals — Periscope is both a revealingly personal work and a song with universal relevance for anyone who’s in over their head in these turbulent times.
Periscope begins as an enticing escape from the doldrums of stay-at-home life, immediately transporting the listener seaside with its bobbing opening riff. But this isn’t your average pleasure cruise. Inspired by the isolation of life on a submarine, Armstrong’s lyrics and longing tone are cathartic, capturing the feelings of loneliness and resignation when there is nothing else to do but stay inside and wait for the tide to turn. Closing out the track, a swell of strings and a voice in the distance seem to promise rescue from the cold solitude. You might be hard-pressed to find a reason to believe in times like these. But as Armstrong shows us, one day we will break through our barriers and greet each other once more.
Complementing the cinematic nature of the song, the Periscope video is a mix of present-day and the Before Times, effectively using archival submarine footage to juxtapose the cramped quarters of life below deck with soaring shots of the wide Arctic expanse.
Armstrong is a Toronto guitarist, singer and songwriter. He has previously released music as half of the roots-rock duo The Actual Goners, and under the name Stars Algonquin. His music combines a sense of grand romanticism with poignant introspection, with lyrical subject matter frequently inspired from his upbringing on Vancouver Island. He has performed for several years with Juno-nominated blues artist Dione Taylor, been the backing band for Dan Aykroyd (with special guest Johnny Fay of The Tragically Hip), and shared the stage with legendary drummer Steve Gadd.
While prior releases from Armstrong have leaned towards roots and Americana, Periscope, his first major solo release, sees Armstrong making a distinct stylistic change. Here, the arrangement is stripped bare of rhythm section instruments in favor of a fully orchestral accompaniment. Vocals and guitar are augmented by the cello and upright bass playing of Charles James (who composed the string arrangement), the violin of Hugh Marsh and percussion work from Trevor Falls. Reflecting adaptation to the current state of the world, the work was tracked this past winter in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with all of the parts recorded separately in isolation by the musicians involved.