If ever there was an artist that dreamt in widescreen, it’s Alex Henry Foster. Since releasing his debut solo album Windows In The Sky in 2018, this French Canadian has won critical acclaim and an ever-growing following on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to an approach to songwriting and performance that puts emphasis on the emotional, the intangible, and sometimes the overwhelming. In doing so, he draws on diverse influences from post-rock to progressive to avant-garde experimental influences and sweepingly emotive chamber pop.
His latest creative move is as unorthodox yet ambitious as ever: with his band the Long Shadows he has reimagined Lou Reed’s 2008 meditation The Power Of The Heart. The late Velvet Underground icon wrote the song as an unashamedly romantic paean for his longtime partner Laurie Anderson ahead of their wedding, and Foster was captivated by the experience of seeing an artist often associated with inscrutable cool peel back any layers of mystique and express romantic feelings in such a stunningly direct way. “A monument to sincerity,” as Foster himself describes it.
In Foster’s hands, it becomes an ebbing, flowing, orchestrally enhanced expression of the ineffable potential of human connections to transcend all logic and become all-consuming. And judging by his previous ability to explore yet more hidden dimensions of his songs with a live band, you’re well advised to see how it evolves further on the Not All Wonders Have Been Lost UK & Europe Summer 2022 Tour, kicking off in June.
In truth, though, while many a musician starts out by simply copying their inspirations, it took a lifetime of consuming, loving and making music for Foster to feel able to put his own creative stamp on the work of an artist he’d been captivated by since childhood.
He first discovered Lou Reed as a kid when he “found that strange-sounding LP titled Transformer in the prime section of my father’s vinyl collection”.
At first, having been brought up in the French-speaking parts of Montreal, he didn’t fully understand the words Reed was singing in that understated drawl… but somehow he latched onto something more profound.
“It’s Lou’s poignant voice that truly guided me through,” he says. “It’s somehow the emotional undertone transcending his music that captured me. There was an invisible element brightly glowing within his sonic expression that I found utterly moving when I first heard him… like some sort of a shadowing sorrow that wasn’t dominated by any overpowering darkness.”
Reed’s more experimental work, such as Metal Machine Music, then inspired Foster to expand his musical horizons, which would lead him onto other key inspirations such as Swans, Glen Branca and Sonic Youth.
After a decade fronting Juno Award-nominated noise-rock band Your Favorite Enemies, Foster went solo, and the songs from his Canadian top 3 album Windows In The Sky (2018) were expanded into breathtaking new dimensions in live performances, captured on his 2021 live album Standing Under Bright Lights.
The confidence it gave him as a solo artist helped him feel able to take one of his favourite songs and not feel intimidated in its shadow, but summon the spiritual core of the piece…and run with it.
“I began to enfranchise myself through it,” he says. “It is in that moment that it wasn’t a revision process anymore but the result of a total abandonment designed by my own instinctive drift and surrendering. Noises became sounds, and musical arrangements evolved into some sort of spiritual uplift for me, turning it all into a celebration of what can’t be owned, measured, or defined, a boundless and infinite transformative ascension that can only be experienced once shared and given away.”
The result is a stunning emotional tour-de-force, and it will be available both in its full, eight-and-a-half-minute incarnation and a shorter radio edit, on all formats on May 6 2022.
Foster and the Long Shadows will also be performing the song live on YouTube to coincide with its release on May 7. If it’s anything like the enthralling live performances he’s become widely renowned for, you should clear that date in your diary to experience a truly captivating evocation of The Power Of The Heart.
Visit alexhenryfoster.com to find out more