Stoic — a new album released by Patient Hands, the alias of former University of Saskatchewan philosophy student Alex Stooshinoff — released earlier this month, and the artist has been making a name for himself with his deeply personal brand of ambient indie.
The album is comprised of nine tracks of beautifully crafted ambient music. It explores themes of spiritual sickness and the search to recover one’s self after a life-altering experience that makes everything else seem monotonous by comparison.
Stooshinoff attended the U of S from 2013 to 2015. He is currently finishing his philosophy degree at Concordia University. He originally went to Montreal to study electro-acoustics. His background in sound led to his current work as the self-produced Patient Hands, but he found the program to be unsatisfying overall.
Patient Hands is a relatively recent change in direction for Stooshinoff. Previously, he was writing and performing under the name Living Room — something he references on the single “I Shaved My Father’s Face” — but he found the name to be too generic, and it made his music harder to discover online.
“I was playing as Living Room, but I was never all that attached to it. You also couldn’t find it online, so I started playing under my own name … because I’m the only one on earth, but then, I wanted to kind of distance myself from it,” Stooshinoff said. “I got a little worried about privacy for a couple years, and that’s when I settled on Patient Hands. It was the name of my second EP.”
The name change must have paid off as Stoic has been receiving positive press from sources like Exclaim! and even a feature on Spotify’s curated “Montreal Chill” playlist. Stooshinoff ’s record has been well-received by the Canadian music press.
The album itself is inspired by ambient artists like Sun Kil Moon and Grouper. It retreads a difficult period of time that Stooshinoff refers to as his “dark night of the soul.” After taking ayahuasca under the guidance of a shaman, he found himself unable to experience life in the same way as he previously had and developed a physical illness that lasted 11 months.
“I was so lost that I couldn’t really say anything about anything. That’s what I’m trying to hint at in the preface to the record where I say that ‘Stoic begins in the dark,’ for instance. The opening track, ‘At Parting,’ is about having lost myself and sort of awoken in some metaphorical darkness, and I’m searching for myself for the remainder of the record,” said Stooshinoff.
The response to this loss of meaning was to adopt a stoic demeanor but not in the way that contemporary philosophical self-help books are quick to recommend. Stoicism was never a choice for Stooshinoff — it was something thrust upon him by unforeseen circumstances.
“When I talk about ‘stoic,’ I’m not advocating for stoicism. In fact, I quite dislike it. It’s just that, for whatever reason, it was foisted upon me, and I fought it for two years, and then, I learned to just surrender to it,” Stooshinoff said.
As a way of recovering from this unplaceable malaise, Stooshinoff made a record for himself, unconcerned with the approval of a wider audience. The lyrics are strewn with cryptic references and small in-jokes, but the overall effect is raw honesty rather than alienation. It’s a wonderfully personal and confessional record.
“It’s sort of fashionable among ambient musicians — [for] some of the people who influenced me — [to] say that there should be no story behind a record and you should remove yourself as much from it as possible because it’s about someone else’s experience,” Stooshinoff said.
As for the future of Patient Hands, Stooshinoff is currently working on a music video for the track “At Parting” and planning his next few records, which will further explore both the ambient and acoustic elements of his sound.
You can listen to Stoic on Spotify or Apple Music. Merchandise and physical copies of the album are available at patienthands.bandcamp.com.
Cole Chretien / Culture Editor
Photo: Alex Stooshinoff / Supplied