Rhoneil understands her music may seem a little strange to some people.
“What I’m doing isn’t always really digestible or uplifting,” said the 32-year-old Nelson devotional doom pop musician.
“I try to tap into whatever deeper things I feel are needing to be expressed, and those emotions are sometimes dark. I might be tapping into a collective shadow that nobody wants to pay attention to. But I could also be tapping into a collective joy, or worry, or sense of loss.”
She said this sort of exploration is a key part of her artistic process.
“I’ve always liked to sink in deeper and investigate what’s going on,” she said.
Rhoneil spent eight years playing in the Montreal music scene with the bands Crystal Clyffs and Missing Children, recording one album with each act, before moving to the Kootenays.
Four years ago she decided that she wanted to be closer to natural landscapes, which she considers crucial for inspiration, and to remove herself from her musical milieu.
Shortly after that, she arrived in Nelson.
“I wanted a blank slate. I wanted to work creatively without being associated with a certain scene,” she said. “I find it pretty easy to find my voice in this geographic and cultural location, because it’s pretty low pressure.”
She said this setting has given her the opportunity to explore.
“Primarily what I’m concerned with or what I focus on is removing as many obstacles as possible to expressing the voice of the landscape, or the voice of my experience. It could be a cultural landscape, a human landscape, or even wild spaces. I try to facilitate the sonic expression of that through music.”
This goal, she added, is easier said than done.
“I feel like I could do that forever and never feel like I’m done.”
Her current set is the closest she’s come yet, and she’s found that she no longer has a use for separating one song from the next.
“The whole set I play right now is moving toward that. I don’t think I’ve achieved it yet. It’s not so much about separate songs. It’s more like an entire piece that consists of 10 or 11 movements, that don’t really begin or end. That’s something that DJs do, but bands don’t do as much.”
Rhoneil has been road-testing this set, playing this summer at multiple concerts in the Nelson area. Recently she performed at Spiritbar with the Pack AD, at One Fest in Kaslo and at the Field Festival at White Crow Farm.
She’s been experimenting with a number of different technologies, has been training to do her first live improvised healing performance and has been working with a breath work facilitator and a live drone vocalist.
She currently has recordings from all over the world, including at the Delphi Oracle and Stonehenge, that she can loop as high-quality wave recordings.
Meanwhile, she’s using her artistic pursuits as a sort of personal devotional practice.
“You have to trust a lot of invisible things when you choose artistic pursuits for you life, because there’s no guarantees. You devote yourself to this art form, this ideal, this path, and you have to trust in it,” she said.