Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies

It’s not all that uncommon for eager fans to start bands in the hopes of someday connecting with their heroes. In the 60s, mop-topped hordes picked up Rickenbackers with dreams of getting props from John, Paul, George or Ringo. A couple decades later, dreamy brooders invested in synths, black hair dye and loads of eyeliner, and conjured up songs about gothic heartbreak, aiming to strike a chord with Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux. Art inspires art, and tons of brilliant tunes have been written because some musical snippet – a thunderous chorus, a soaring vocal – sparked an unsung songwriter to start creating his or her own epic symphony. But most of the time, no matter how great their talent, those underground heroes never make it out of the basement – let alone make an impression on the folks who’ve inspired them.

Then there’s Daniel Victor. The Windsor-bred and –based savant was born with music in his blood. The son of a local rock celeb and former CBC personality, Daniel grew up playing with mixing boards and faders instead of Lego and Tonka trucks. At age six, he laid down his first mix, shaping guitar riffs and snare lines into the perfect track-by-track balance. In elementary school, while most kids were blowing their allowances on baseball cards and comic books, Daniel was saving up for his weekly visit to the Windsor Woolco, where he and his dad would pick out one coveted cassette tape every week. He got his mind blown by Run-DMC and learned how to sing along to Kenny Rogers records. Before he’d finished kindergarten, Daniel was plinking out piano arpeggios under the watchful eyes of strict nuns at the conservatory, who tried to break him of his love for popular music. Lucky for us, by age 13, after his attempts to mimic the chords of Prince’s When Doves Cry were shot down as trash and nonsense, Daniel finally escaped from the nuns’ stranglehold. He went on to teach himself how to master pretty much any instrument you can name – guitar, bass, drums, organ, strings, E-bow, mellotron – all of which, we should note, he plays on his stunning debut album.

That brings us to almost to the present. Fast forward through years of fronting locally successful, but personally unsatisfying rock bands, crossing the US border to absorb the Detroit music scene, overseeing tons of recordings for everyone from death metal outfits to pop/punk crews, and earning a degree in communications and world views/world religions (which helped shape the profound philosophy that echoes through his songs). Having fallen in love with electronic/ambient music at the tail end of the 90s, Daniel decides to translate his affinity for constructing vivid mood-shifting soundscapes into putting together a ground-breaking recording. Ever the perfectionist, our man realizes that he wants to make an album that people will talk about for decades to come. His brilliant revelation: to create a series of records, each one better than the last, which will feature collaborations with a continuous cast of different artists. The mood, the songwriting, the lyrics and instrumentals will always be orchestrated by Daniel, and the artists will be chosen based not only on his respect for their talent, but also out of his desire to challenge well-known musicians to go beyond the boundaries they’ve set for themselves and try something mindblowingly new.

He dubs this concept NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS, a lyric that constantly pops into his head during middle-of-the-night stream-of-consciousness writing sessions. A name that perfectly captures the ghostly, spiritual vibe of Daniel’s songwriting ethos, it stands for life and death and eternity, for the ethereal glow given off by spirits and by stars glimmering through the stratosphere, even after they’ve exploded in stunning supernovas. And now, four arduous years after lighting on this pioneering concept, Daniel is releasing the first volume of his glorious blood-sweat-and-tears project – Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies.

It would be impossible to convey the work and passion that went into creating this record. We could regale you with horror stories of insomnia, major-label fiascos, songs shelved after being honed to a perfect finish, and a 50-pound weight loss. But we won’t. You only need to know two things: first, the breadth of the talent on the album. Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies features an astounding cast of international collaborators: Nick Hexum of 311, Dallas Green of City And Colour, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace, Jimmy Gnecco of Ours, Sharky Laguana of Creeper Lagoon, Judah Nagler of The Velvet Teen, Scott Anderson of Finger Eleven, Marco DiFelice of SuperGARAGE, and more, doing things you never thought they would. Second, Daniel convinced these individuals to participate in the NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS project by himself (contacting most if not all of them through a network of emails, cold calls, and backstage maneuvering), based solely on the strength of his phenomenal musical compositions. That a relatively unknown songwriter-slash-producer, with nary a recorded release to his name, could solicit contributions from this caliber of artist, is a testament to the strength of Daniel’s own talent.

Need more proof? Just listen to the finished product. From the understated resonance of the piano chords that somberly introduce opening track From What I Once Was, in which Daniel’s self-harmonized vocals invite you in to his thoughts, “wrapped up in neverending white lights,” over cascading beats and subtle string swells, to the heart-grabbing quiver in Nick Hexum’s voice in the shambling, heavenly Age Of Consent – which shows a different side of both the New Order classic and of the singer/guitarist best known for 311’s bouncy rap-rock antics, from the low-key programmed beats and angelic backing chorus on Of All The Things You’ve Done Wrong, spacey soul with an antiwar subtext, to the explosive, skittering climax of Liar – a track that showcases one of Raine Maida’s finest and most restrained vocal performances – Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies is a gorgeous, moody masterpiece so expertly written, produced and executed you’ll have a hard time believing it’s Daniel’s first official recorded release.

Beautifully melancholic and painstakingly textured, Act 1: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies is an exploration of life, death, and the liminal space between the two that’s as heartfelt as it is philosophical. It’s a powerful debut from Daniel Victor’s NEVERENDING WHITE LIGHTS project that will leave you holding your breath for Act 2.


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