Siberian: With Me

Seattle-area sad rockers build angsty, echoey castles of sound out of altered guitars; big, booming drums; and emotionally fraught's like the Twilight Sad minus the accents.


With Me

Label: Sonic Boom
US Release Date: 2007-10-23
UK Release Date: Available as import

Siberian emerged in Seattle about three years ago, on the strength of a samizdat cassette demo, four songs long, and followed early this year by a more polished six song EP, Hey Celestial. "Paper Birds", the strongest song from With Me, the debut full-length, also appeared on the EP, but the rest is entirely new material, indicating a band that has, at a fairly early stage of their development, found a cohesive, consistent, compelling sound.

That sound is heavily influenced by the shoe-gazers' love of layered, pedal-altered guitars, as well as the emotional directness and dynamic variety of American emo. You can hear little bits of U2 anthemic-ness, Smiths-ish mope lyrics and post-rock-ish tempo and time signature shifts. And yet, it's also rather distinctive, relying on chiming, shivering walls of distortion, plaintive vocals and pounding drum beats. They sound a great deal like the Scottish band the Twilight Sad, though perhaps without the scathing self-scrutiny that tempers their grandiosity. This is guitar music that aspires to large scale and -- even on a small budget -- mostly achieves it, without any concessions to self-doubt or irony.

The best of these songs is "Paper Birds", its guitar line spiraling out of a buzz of distortion, its beat pushing forward and pulling back at the same time. There's a sinuous, snaky quality to the verse, the guitar undulating in an eighth-note pattern, the bass pulsing ominously, as the drums provide a back-slanting rhythm. Singer Finn Parnell is almost speaking the lines, here, spitting them. It is about as unlyrical as a guitar pop song can be. But hold on for it; there's a really luminous -- almost radioactively glowing -- guitar slide, and you're in the chorus. This section of the song, joined somehow, but entirely different from what's come so far, is as flowery and harmonic and doomedly romantic as any Joy Division song. There's a flutter in Parnell's voice, a massed march of guitar chords, an indefinable upward loft to the chorus.

Of the remaining songs, "Wolf and Crane" is almost as good, the minimally-arranged verse backed mostly by thud of bass and drums, the chorus a dense thicket of sustained guitars. The loud-soft, aggressive-sensitive, sparse-annihilating dynamic has, of course, been done before. It can be a cliché. Yet when done well, and linked effectively by a singer who can find the rock in the soft parts and pathos in the loud ones, it is a very good thing indeed.

Dynamic drama is the key to Siberian's success, but also, over extended listening, its downfall. It's the sort of device that works best in modest doses; over a full album's length it starts to feel bombastic. Too many crescendos is a little like the boy who cried wolf. After a while, you just don't believe them any more. Still, it's a good start album, with mostly solid songs and one or two genuine keepers ("Paper Birds" and "Wolf and Crane"). Siberian's definitely a band to keep an eye on.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.