Snake River’s fifth album, Tread On To The Unknown You out September 21, 2018, is an excursion into previously unknown sonic territory for the group. Like the last three albums, TREAD ON… is also set in the fictional town of Snake River Mountain, and features some of the same characters astute listeners of the band will recognize. Author Reginald McKruski is back, in a somewhat-less sordid form, his wife Jeanie reappears, and their kitty, Gerard, the cat receives some screen time as well.
Snake River began as a home for singer/multi-instrumentalist, Christopher Sleightholm (The Lonesome Weekends) to release his homespun psychedelic-leaning recordings. Snake River has since released four full-length LPs, two singles and have contributed to a number of compilations; as well as toured Canada extensively. The band’s most recent LP Sun Will Rise (2016) showcases the amount of growth the band has made in four short years. The record was “one of the most exciting Canadian rock albums of the year; Snake River is one of the obvious masters of the psychedelic highway” (Dominionated). Sun Will Rise continued the story of the fictional town of Snake River Mountain and its inhabitants, including fictional author Reginald McKruski, who has been making appearances on record since 2014’s McKruski LP.
Now back to the beginning of the story: Sleightholm released Songs No One’ll Hear in 2012. After a jaunt through western Canada as a touring member of The Besnard Lakes side-project, The Soft Province, Sleightholm decided to expand Snake River, asking members of the band to perform with him. In came veterans John De Gennaro (Geronimo, ex-Despistado) on guitar, Dustin Gamracy (Spoils) on drums, and Whistlin’ Jeff M on bass.
Back to the beginning of the story: Snake River’s sophomore album McKruski (2014) took the folkier side of the debut recording and cloaked it in more reverb and fuzzed-out guitar. Sleightholm had many of his ideas for the songs down before recruiting the live band, so rather than having the guys play on the album, he opted to perform and record everything himself in order to re-examine the songs throughout the recording process. McKruski’s eight songs draw inspiration from the fictional town of Snake River Mountain: a town inhabited by normal people – normal people who do strange things. They have dreams and see visions, and argue with their loved ones. The album received strong national recognition on Earshot! and CBC Radio. It was listed by Saskatoon’s Verb Magazine as a “top Canadian record of 2014” with Alex Macpherson saying, “The town may be fictional, but Christopher Sleightholm knows that the truth often gets in the way of good storytelling. On McKruski, the bespectacled songwriter uses shifting perspectives and swirling, reverb-drenched guitars to create a multifaceted, deeply complex narrative…As it unfolds, from cosmic country to corroded rock and roll, McKruski points to a difficult truth: that life can be both futile and unrelentingly beautiful.”
The group toured McKruski throughout summer 2014; once home they immediately began to work on follow up recording, Songs From The Adjacent Room. This time, Sleightholm opened up to contributions from all band members during the recording process, resulting in the dusty remains of Mckruski’s folk side with shiny layers of hidden kaleidoscopic sounds. Songs From The Adjacent Room, was released in September 2015. The album is a song cycle that revolves around Snake River Mountain’s main characters, author, Reginald McKruski and his wife Jeanie McFeven-McKruski, and is set on a single day in February 1989. Each song describes moments and pulls together snippets of their conversations throughout the day, as well as flashbacks of their sixteen-year marriage. The record was promoted with a cross-Canadian tour. A short story written by Sleightholm, The Adjacent Rooms was also released separately as a companion piece to the album.
CMJ.com says, “Snake River sounds like your favorite band when you first got into quality indie rock. While maintaining an Americana-type feel, the band is familiar but refreshingly nuanced. At times sounding a bit like Pinback, the band has a folky feel.” Jay Allen, program director CFCR raves over the new album saying, “Snake River’s Songs From The Adjacent Room picks up where McKruski left off. The album lifts you up with its expansive guitar riffs and psych-twang rhythms, and brings you back to earth with its ethereal, melancholic tales of the people of Snake River Mountain. Total reverb bliss.” Grey Owl Point: “I’ve not felt so excited by the Joycean levels of story and characterization in a set of recordings since I listened to Arthur by the Kinks over and over and over again… Every track glistens with beautiful recording and production. Christopher Sleightholm, man of many talents (including guitar) within Snake River, holds the blame for the fine sense of balance and warmth found all over the record. The drums hold it all together, rocking steady, mixed in like hearty stock for the folk soup of sound. The vocal layers are played to perfectly, never dominating the scene, but evaluated as another instrument in the bunch.”
Work began on their latest album Tread On To The Unknown You in 2016, before their previous one, Sun Will Rise was released. One of the visions for the new album was to write shorter songs, and to broaden the color palate of the band, by adding new influences. Taking cues from The Incredible String Band, and Richard Wright’s organ on Pink Floyd’s Piper album, with many of the songs featuring elements of the mixolydian scale. The guitars are as twangy, grinding and jangling as ever. TREAD… gets darker and heavier than previous works (like an acid journey through a dark desert), but also is full of light and a certain hopefulness that there is something better than now, which as the album title suggests: if you’re unhappy with yourself, you should find a new you.
This album also features contributions by a plethora of guest artists from around the prairies. There is the windy and static guitar of Christopher Laramee (Shooting Guns and Radiation Flowers); there are exquisite vocal contributions from Lizzy Burt (Basic Nature and Juniper Bush), as well as Shelby Gaudet (Radiation Flowers); sexy saxophones by Karl Valiaho; as well as some trippy pedal Steel played Lucas Goetz (The Radiation Flowers), along with other surprise guests.
Snake River has shared the stage with the likes of Swervedriver, Crocodiles, Yonatan Gat (Monotonix), Rah Rah, Jay Arner, Library Voices, and Shooting Guns. They have performed at various music festivals including MoSo, Electric Eye, Real Love, and Gateway.
Praise for Sun Will Rise:
"The narrative perspective is accompanied by a slight musical shift as well, with the band taking things in a "darker and heavier" direction than the breezy psych-infused cuts on the last album." - Exclaim!
"Sun Will Rise is one of the most exciting Canadian rock albums of the year and positions Snake River as the obvious masters of the psychedelic highway.” - Dominionated
"Snake River revels in reverb-soaked, angular vibrations all while presenting ethereal, melancholic tales." -Label Obscura
"Truly wild mindbending stuff. Recommended. We love it."- Babysue
"...a band lyrically hooked on fictional characters and increasingly heavy psych-pop." - CBC Music
"Unique and fascinating." - Grayowl Point
"Fantastic stuff. Sounds like: Staring into the darkening glow." - A Journal of Musical Things
"...more existential and poetic...electric folk and psychedelic vocals, distorting the source material into something otherworldly and strange." - Ride The Tempo
"...[un] métissage patient entre le rock roots et le post-punk...marquée par des détours et des progressions hypnotisâtes." - BRBR
"Almost like a novel set to music." - Saskatoon StarPhoenix
"The songs pack an emotional punch that deepens with a greater understanding of the storytelling, but is not dependent on it." - Ominocity
Reviews for Songs From The Adjacent Room:
"These are the type of classic songs that would be played on the stage of the Twin Peaks Roadhouse most nights of the week, everyone singing along. The mood is blatantly optimistic, yet subtle tension mounts in dissonant noise through multiple effect pedals. At different moments throughout the album, the tempered force is crushing. Both musically and lyrically, Songs from an Adjacent Room is a feat, seeing especially that its narrative is so flexible. Is this story one tragic couple’s demise or a telling of triumphant spousal reconciliation? As it contains both, a listener’s interpretation of any recent Snake River release will likely depend on whether they hear the music after grey, dark, or sunny skies." - Earshot! Review, Sean Warkentine
“…new album follows in the storytelling tradition of traditional folk that initially elevated McKruski to its current success [offering] a glimpse of the everyday, humming with thoughtful lyrics and ethereal vocals set against the backdrop of eerie guitar riffs and reverberating drums. The album opens with “Hours III: Jeanie Says,” a spirited track where the coalescing vibrations of drums and guitar are coupled with Sleightholm’s harrowing lyrics. This song, along with the closing track on the album, “Hours IV: Don’t Want to Wake You,” is emblematic of Sleightholm’s full lyrical prowess.” McGill Daily, Alexander Bullis
“Snake River sounds like your favorite band when you first got into quality indie rock. While maintaining an Americana-type feel, the band is familiar but refreshingly nuanced. At times sounding a bit like Pinback, the band has a folky feel.” – CMJ.com, Nicole Haloboff
“I’ve not felt so excited by the Joycean levels of story and characterization in a set of recordings since I listened to Arthur by the Kinks over and over and over again… Every track glistens with beautiful recording and production. Christopher Sleightholm, man of many talents (including guitar) within Snake River, holds the blame for the fine sense of balance and warmth found all over the record. The drums hold it all together, rocking steady, mixed in like hearty stock for the folk soup of sound. The vocal layers are played to perfectly, never dominating the scene, but evaluated as another instrument in the bunch.” – Grey Owl Point, Jack Derricourt
“The melodies are both lilting and melancholic. Lyrically, it’s the creation of an imagined past, glimpses of dreams, thoughts and recollections. It’s music you can lose yourself in. Multiple listens through each album and I’m still discovering new complexities within the layers of sound.” – The Carlion Brett Neilson
“We were introduced to psych rockers Snake River via their McKruski album last year, and came away highly impressed… Songs From The Adjacent Room confirms our approval. It has less of the subtle western twang of McKruski, as they go with the psych full-on. The results remind us a little of Black Mountain, always a good thing.” – New Canadian Music, Kerry Doole
Reviews for McKruski:
"On McKruski, the bespectacled songwriter uses shifting perspectives and and swirling, reverb-drenched guitars to create a multifaceted, deeply complex narrative. His characters are grainy and indistinct, like figures in an old family photograph. The narrative is similarly obscured: complex actions are reduced by time and distance to simple gestures. As it unfolds, from cosmic country to corroded rock and roll." - Verb Magazine Top 10 Canadian Records of 2014.
“Somewhere in the blend between country and folk scene mainstays and post- hardcore regulars, they found a sweet spot of intensely heavy psychedelics that didn’t lose any of Sleightholm’s solid songwriting in the transition.” – Mckruski Vinyl Release Concert Review, James Brotheridge, Exclaim.ca
“McKruski is a deeply satisfying, idiosyncratic and thoughtful album that’s equal parts rock and folk, shoegaze and psychedelia — all delivered with a gentle western influence.” - Amber Goodwyn, Prairie Dog Magazine
“...’He Still Dreams Of You’ is, for me, the standout tune. Its guitar parts echo the wails of long-lost loves while the vocals of Sleightholm haunt the listener.” - John Kapp, The Carillon
“…McKruski is likely too noisy and/or blissed-out for the folk scene, but those elements meld nicely with the meandering psych rock meltdowns.” - Chris Morin, Ominocity
“4.5 (out of 5) stars” - Alex J Macpherson, Verb Magazine
“Take the long walk down the dusty road to the town of Snake River Mountain for a tumbleweed trip on prairie peyote. With McKruski, Regina’s Snake River deftly blends country and folk with spacey psychedelia to create an interesting and engaging new chapter in Saskatchewan’s book of music.” - Jay Allen, Program Director & Host of Pirate Radio, CFCR 90.5FM