“Our music is meant to reflect the human experience by embracing the full spectrum of emotions that come with it. Channeling these feelings into our music definitely has a cathartic element.”
In a recent discussion with some friends, the topic of the current most overrated postpunk (or coldwave, or darkwave, etc.) bands came up. After the usual 3 or 4 suspects were mentioned, the subject quickly turned to the related topic of who the most underrated current dark bands are. Without any hesitation, I mentioned Oakland’s Silence in the Snow. The dark, ethereal post-punk duo are releasing their long-awaited second LP, Levitation Chamber, today on Prophecy Records. The 7-track album is streaming at the end of this article.
Silence in the Snow is a rare breed of band—they are a duo, but they possess an incredibly full-bodied and well-rounded sound, at times introspective and contemplative, at other times soaring, angelic, even celestial. Listening to the new album, one often thinks of looking up into the night sky on a crisp, Autumn night, watching the stars glisten from afar; there is a distant and gem-like beauty apparent in the blackness above, yet the stars themselves are nuclear infernos. This duality characterizes the music of Silence in the Snow, too: The icy beauty of the music on Levitation Chamber seems fueled by an otherworldly fire. There is an enchanting menace lurking behind singer Cyn M’s crystalline guitar work that compels the listener to fall under the spell of tracks like “Smoke Signals,” one of the stronger offerings on the album—and one ultimately finds one’s pulse throbbing in time to Trevor Deschryver’s beguiling drum work as well.
Some of Levitation Chamber’s songs put me in the mind of acts like Skeletal Family or Strange Boutique—but, interestingly, the band shies away from naming those kinds of classic gothic rock bands as influences (see below). Instead, Silence in the Snow list acts like Kate Bush, Zola Jesus, Slowdive, Coil, and Dead Can Dance as guiding lights. Drummer Trevor Deschryver’s past with black metal act Wolves in the Throne Room has to have imparted some of the vigorous percussive energy to many of the album’s tracks; the penultimate track “Cruel Ends” is as powerful a stomper of a postpunk song as one might hope to find these days. And, although her voice has often been likened to some of the early 4AD ethereal acts—which is not incorrect —singer Cyn’s haunting vocals possess a transcendent power that greatly augments the cathartic effect of the group’s music. Below, I asked Silence in the Snow about their new album and their plans for their upcoming tour. At the end of the article, one can listen to Levitation Chamber in full.
Silence in the Snow were interviewed by Oliver for post-punk.com in July, 2019.
Thanks for doing this interview. Your name, Silence in the Snow, is very evocative. Who thought of it? What’s its “origin story”?
Cyn (vocals and guitar): When I was younger, I experienced the beautiful stillness after a heavy snowfall and noticed the way sound changed as it was absorbed by the snow. The name Silence In The Snow came to me in a subconscious manner years later. It was connected to the peaceful feeling that arose during that time in my life. It seemed to be a perfect fit with the way the songwriting and sounds were evolving when the band first started. It is interesting how, in society, silence has many somber or negative connotations. Internal silence can be quite positive but also difficult to access at times. The mind is constantly seeking stimulation or trying to find a problem to work itself out of. By silencing this mental noise, one can effectively channel energy toward creativity.
Your new album, Levitation Chamber, is out on Prophecy Records. Can you describe the album a bit—when the songs were written, when it was recorded, etc. Are there any primary or ongoing themes in it? How did you get hooked up with Prophecy Records?
Cyn: We started experimenting with different ideas for Levitation Chamber back in early 2017. Many of those ideas were either scrapped or they evolved so drastically that they became
something completely different in the end. The songs that came to us later, such as “Crystal Spear,” which is on the new album, were almost effortless and immediate in the way they emerged. Kay Shelton, who does A&R for Prophecy, saw us perform in Olympia, WA during a Summer tour we did in 2017, and later contacted us about signing with Prophecy. We were intrigued by the wide range of dark music on their roster, as well as their commitment to superior aesthetic qualities. All of this convinced us that they were the perfect fit for us. In early 2018, we had a general outline of what we wanted the album to be, so we compiled a bunch of demo recordings and began incorporating different synth sounds.
Silence in the Snow — “Crystal Spear,” off the new Levitation Chamber LPCyn: As far as recording Levitation Chamber—when that time came, Jack Shirley brought us into his new studio in Oakland, The Atomic Garden. We initially tracked the album in 3 days, but then continued to work on it and refine the mixes periodically for almost a year! It was a long, torturous process to finally finish the album, but in the end, it was worth all the time and energy we put into it.
About the way the album was recorded, the opening track of Levitation Chamber, “Time Will Tell You Nothing,” has a very solemn, ritualistic feel—like an opening incantation. What inspired this track? (And I notice the band THIEF is going on tour with you all soon, and that they work with Gregorian Chanting.) What are the spiritual beliefs you all have, if any? Is there anything that attracts you to this more ritualistic style of dark music?
Trevor (drums and samples): We like to incorporate ritualistic and repetitive elements in our music to create a mesmerizing effect, which can result in an uplifting and meditative experience. “Time Will Tell You Nothing” was indeed meant to be an opening incantation, relinquishing the sense of temporal existence. It was inspired by an experience we had together, when we felt truly in the moment as we watched sparks fly into the night sky. Moments like this are deeply spiritual to us, and we connect on the idea of transcending everyday life in search of deeper meaning and connections.
Why did you choose the album title “Levitation Chamber”?
Trevor and Cyn: “Levitation Chamber” represents a place within yourself that allows you to be transported to a higher state of consciousness. It means finding the power to break free of mundane patterns and restrictions of the past or present.
Listening through Silence in the Snow’s catalog so far, it’s easy to make a comparison in some instances to maybe acts like Skeletal Family and Strange Boutique. I’ve seen some writers reference early 4AD ethereal bands. So, who would you say are SITS’ primary influences and guiding lights, and who are your favorite bands?
Cyn and Trevor: Our sources of inspiration are limitless. There is so much to take in at every moment. So much more than we realize. The world is full of mystical beauty, devastation, chaos, and stillness. The pain that we go through and the vibrant mystery of nature are integral parts of our songwriting. Certain albums that inspired us over recent years include The Ape of Naples by Coil, Okovi by Zola Jesus, and Remain by Them Are Us Too. Other artists that we both connected on when we first met include David Bowie, Kate Bush, Elliott Smith, and SWANS. Early 4AD releases certainly are inspirations as well, such as Head Over Heels by Cocteau Twins and The Serpent’s Egg by Dead Can Dance. Visual mediums can also serve as guiding lights, such as films directed by Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining), David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Alejandro Jodorowsky (Holy Mountain), and Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker).
Trevor, how did it happen that your drumming in Wolves in the Throne Room and Deafheaven led you to this project? Are there similarities in any of the messages or themes in Silence in the Snow’s songs and those of the other bands?
Trevor: Drumming has always been about emotional expression and catharsis, regardless of what genre it may be. Basically, I am inspired by music that moves me. At the time that I came in contact with Silence in the Snow, I was looking to expand into a new territory outside of the metal realm. It was refreshing and freeing to strip everything down to a minimal set-up and find new ways to be creative. I think the underlying similarity between the different bands is the genuine, heartfelt nature of the music.
There seems to be an increase in the number of bands that are duos, especially synth-based duos—two people playing keyboards without a guitar and with a drum machine. What are your thoughts on this; why do you think this is happening? You all sort of go against that, in a way, with a live, acoustic drummer and Cyn playing a six-string.
Cyn and Trevor: It seems like there are many reasons why duos are becoming more common these days, but being mindful of the delicate creative chemistry that exists between people is what dictates the live presentation for us. There is something very intimate about being a duo. We initially thought we were going to be a three-piece, but when we experimented with playing live as a duo, there was no denying the experience we were having was more powerful and substantial for us.
What is the songwriting process like for Silence in the Snow? Are either of you the primary lyricist? What do SITS’s songs tend to be about and are there any common themes or motifs that are dominant in SITS’s songwriting?
Cyn: Our music is meant to reflect the human experience by embracing the full spectrum of emotions that come with it. Channeling these feelings into our music definitely has a cathartic element and provides a way to recognize and process them. Both of us connect on an emotional and subconscious level, which is really important to the creative process. There needs to be mutual trust between us in order to conjure the right kind of energy. It begins with a mixture of feelings or ideas that rise to the surface as we are playing together. It is very much ‘felt’ rather than ‘thought’.
We can usually tell right away whether or not the song contains the kind of spark we are looking for. If it does, then we begin to pursue ways to enhance the emotional resonance by adding specific details and layers. Sometimes it feels like a fire being ignited, and we can feel the warmth of catharsis as the songs take shape and the energy is exerted. Trevor brings a dimension of artistry and drive to the music. The drum machine on the first record was very minimal and incorporating Trevor’s musical sensibility has definitely enhanced the visceral dynamic, making the overall sound more powerful. The lyrics can often express deep-rooted feelings that go unspoken throughout everyday life. They reveal what is going on in
the subconscious, and as they become solidified, they begin to paint a picture of what is being accessed about the interior state.
Trevor: With the exception of “Crystal Spear,” which we collaborated on lyrically, Cyn writes all of the lyrics. We would say that Levitation Chamber reflects euphoric, beautiful dimensions as well as dark, internal struggles in order to capture what is happening in this human experience.
For that matter, when did Silence in the Snow start, and have you two always been the only members? What are the band’s origins?
Trevor and Cyn: Cyn started the band as an outlet for a more interior expression and focus for songwriting. She worked with Andy Z, conjuring up different ideas for the first record, Break In The Skin. He contributed organ, synth and beats to a sound that was centered around minimalistic, spacious soundscapes and intimate reflections. Our first performance was in June of 2015, with Emily Jane White at The Lost Church in San Francisco. Trevor joined in January of 2017 and we expanded the vision to include live drums. The music began evolving as a natural progression of our musical chemistry and individual backgrounds. Andy’s musical interests shifted towards solo experimental music, so we began collaborating with Nick Bassett on synths for the new album, Levitation Chamber, which represents a new chapter of the band on personal and musical levels. The band now consists of Cyn on voice and guitar, with Trevor on drums and samples.
A question I like to ask all bands I interview: If you were transported to a desert island and, through some magical and improbable means, could take 5 albums to listen to, and only had those 5 albums, forever, what 5 would they be, and why?
Cyn and Trevor: These are all timeless masterpieces that transport us into different realms, traveling further with every repeated listen:
Slowdive – Souvlaki
Swans – White Light from the Mouth of Infinity
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
The Doors – Strange Days
Leonard Cohen – The Best Of
What do you all do when you are not in SITS? Day jobs or hobbies or other interests you pursue?
Cyn and Trevor: Time spent in nature is energizing and inspiring. Exploring the work of film-makers, artists, and writers is not only entertaining, but also feeds our creative impulse. Physical activity, such as running, is an effective way to cope with anxiety and depression.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up? Any shout-outs, promotional bits, etc., you’d like to get in? Thank you for your time!
Cyn and Trevor: We just want to say thank you very much for having us, and thanks to the readers! We’re looking forward to touring the United States with THIEF this summer, and we hope to create many new experiences and friendships along the way. It is important to follow your passions and believe in your art.
SILENCE IN THE SNOW – “Levitation Chamber” LP – full album – July 26, 2019:
Track 2: Smoke Signals
Track 3: Crystal Spear
Track 4: Garden of Echoes
Track 5: In the Dark
Track 6: Cruel Ends
Track 7: Dread the Low
Levitation Chamber can be ordered from Prophecy Records here.
Silence in the Snow’s late Summer 2019 tour info is below: