Departures, Vol. 1, the new album from Toronto duo North Atlantic Drift, is about the journey. It’s an album that sees the trying times in which we live and dedicates itself to searching for an understanding of how we are supposed to react in this environment. The album can be as gorgeous as it is haunting. By the end, you’re left with a sense of wondering what to do next. First, you have to get there.

“Temperance” opens the album. You’re greeted with the smallest dot on the horizon that becomes a blur that will eventually take a form. A blindingly gorgeous wall of light touches down in front of you. You’re entranced by its presence and walk towards it – more interested in discovery than safety, even as the ground around you vibrates. As you gently raise your hand towards the object, you slightly pull back. The light begins to fade and darkness starts to swirl. That’s “Glass House,” a track that isn’t exactly threatening, but it does transport you, not necessarily physically, but mentally and emotionally.

Once you’re locked into this world, “Departure” has a coastal, chilly isolation to it. Yet you’re still captivated. The track is meditative and evocative, giving you time to think, time to breathe deeply. You have to find yourself before understanding the world around you. A spark is then ignited in “Dream Sequence.” Setting a tone of survival, you are pitted against the elements. But the song fosters you to have more of an understanding of your surroundings rather than having you attempt to fight them. With rainfall and a bit of uncertainty as to what lies beyond the darkness,  rest is attempted.

As you slip into the dream state, “Collapsing Empire” follows closely behind. A bit pulsating, a pathway down a darker, narrower route appears. The light has been sufficiently extinguished, and you must now come face-to-face with your fears. But just when it seems like you’re lost in total confusion and frustration, a glowing speck known as “Starry-Eyed” flitters about to coyly point you down the direction you’re meant to be heading.

“Part-time Romantic” is dense, humid, and muddy, but nothing comes easy to those who have strong desires. The darkness eases a bit, but you’re left relying on your other senses – follow the sounds of the water, but not too closely. Understand what you’re touching, but don’t be too cautious. The tension begins to subside on “Pretense.” The sun is coming up, and night is giving way to a bluish grey from within this density.

As you start to come out of this world, you notice a crumbled civilization. “March to the Capital” is vivid, powerfully so. Something that was once mighty has fallen. You can picture the rubble, and any chance of interaction with this empire has passed you by. You’re left standing in an attempt to discern what the meaning of this journey has been.

On the impressive album closer “Older, Not Wiser,” you’re pulled out of this state that you just experienced. There’s nothing jarring, as you’re eased out of it. North Atlantic Drift provide you with a shortcut this time rather than taking you back through the world. You begin to ask what, if anything, has been learned from this experience? How can you take what you’ve seen, relay it, and make something meaningful? At this time, those are questions where we just don’t know the answers to yet.

North Atlantic Drift’s Departures, Vol. 1 is available now on Polar Seas Recordings.