Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Constellation
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
A decidedly Vancouver-sounding record that invokes names like Frog Eyes, Mother Mother, Destroyer, and anything related to Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade, Swan Lake, Moonface), the third long-player from ex-Great Lake Swimmers Colin Huebert and Erik Arnesen, better known as Siskiyou (a Gold Rush history-rich county in Northern California), is a brooding, nervy, and darkly satisfying slab of overcast alt-pop that flirts with dissonance, yet remains ultimately committed to harmonic agreement. Those melodies are solemn, however, and the aptly named Nervous serves them up repeatedly encased in barbed wire. Nowhere is that predilection for pop necromancy more apparent than on the evocative opening cut "Deserters," a densely packed, bottom-heavy dirge that deftly utilizes the talents of the St.
Sensory impairment often forces the afflicted to rethink their entire existence. In the case of former Great Lake Swimmers drummer Colin Huebert, a mysterious inner ear condition eventually resulted in him retreating into silence; his therapeutic rebound has taken the form of Nervous, a lush, stunning baroque rock album that delicately balances Huebert's inner auditory tension with an expansive orchestral palette. Whereas Siskiyou's first two albums were more folk-inclined, Nervous takes a different approach, with hushed, haunted art rock as a sturdy — but eerie — sonic base upon which the orchestral elements stand fully supported.
It's unfortunate for Colin Huebert that he was ever labeled as former drummer for the Great Lake Swimmers. Maybe he doesn't consider that to be the case, since Great Lake Swimmers releases one beautiful, pastoral album after another. But drumming for Great Lake Swimmers' Tony Dekker isn't exactly an impassioned gig, and Siskiyou, Huebert's own outlet (along with friends like Great Lake Swimmers' Erik Arnesen), deserves to be heard apart from any previous associations.
Siskiyou have always been a pretty quiet band. Their songs are delicate and gentle, often played at a volume best described as “hushed”. Whilst the band’s previous work was quiet primarily by choice, Nervous was written and recorded in such a way by necessity. After the release of 2011’s Keep Away The Dead, the band’s focal point Colin Huebert began to suffer from an inner ear condition that caused hyperacusis (essentially being unable to tolerate everyday noise levels, due to increased sensitivity to sound) and panic attacks.
Although the peak of my love for such things has probably passed, I’m still kind of a sucker for both lushly arranged pop albums and North American indie bands. So if you too enjoy the sounds of Menomena, Sunset Rubdown, Broken Social Scene, the first two Arcade Fire albums and about a dozen other bands I could name then you’ll most likely find plenty to enjoy in Siskiyou's Nervous. That Siskiyou hail from Vancouver shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: there seems to be something in the Canadian water that grants extraordinary songwriting prowess.
When the second Siskyou album came out in October 2011, an accompanying statement appeared on their website: "Siskiyou is not a folk band. Sure, behind the distinct shiver of Colin Huebert's whisper/wail you'll hear pleasantly plucked acoustic guitars, banjos, slide guitars, and gently brushed drums. But listen closer — there's something more sinister here, in the sound, in the words." Though it may sound obvious listening to the band's latest work, Nervous, at the time Huebert and his bandmates (Erik Arnesen — also a Great Lake Swimmer — Peter Carruthers, Shaunn Watt and Andrew Lee) still indulged in winter-long songwriting sessions locked up in some secluded ancient building in British Columbia.
The new Siskiyou album is thing of quiet beauty. The Vancouver project by former Great Lake Swimmers members Colin Huebert and Erik Arnesen has become much more fully realized since 2011 second album Keep Away The Dead. Just the right amount of pressure is applied throughout: Huebert's vocals are hushed yet beat with intensity; the acoustic and the electronic coexist easily; arrangements balance spacious simplicity with whorls of sonic miscellanea that pull it open and upward.
Colin Huebert’s first two LPs under the Siskiyou moniker were notable for their intimacy and austere instrumentation; they seemed almost as likely to fall apart as finish, and that was part of their charm. There were discernible sonic upgrades from Siskiyou’s self-titled debut to sophomore release Keep Away the Dead (2011), but nothing to really suggest what was coming with Nervous’ ambitiously broad palette. But then much had happened to Huebert in the interim, chief among them the debilitating inner-ear infection (and its side effects) that paint these songs in anxious, claustrophobic tones.