May 10, 2012

North of Northwest: Snoqualmie – Snoqualmie

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Snoqualmie‘s self-titled debut is twenty-six minutes long, but it’s a line only a minute five in that’s constantly looping through my head: “River’s arms will gladly pull you down / God knows there’s a million ways to drown.” Delivered in Blake Enemark’s gentle tenor, this line from “clarissa” sounds almost upbeat, and therefore positively sinister. Suddenly the true mundanity of our day-to-day devastations is revealed to casually stupefying horror. God knows there are a million ways to drown, and most of them come silently, free of proclamations and invisible to strangers.

Snoqualmie is at its best in moments like these, navigating the rocky course of our emotional seascapes with honesty (but not always so much brutality). There’s a porcelain fragility to the mysterious “distance.” The opening speaks of cold white rooms and tragedy: “Laura, there are things that outweigh here and now / Vomit on the floor / The fear of letting go.” But the last lines, a scant minute later – it’s a wisp of a track at 2:11 total – are startlingly gentle: “Wonder is a posture that’s held in low esteem / The brownness of your curls will take over the world.” Wedding song “matt & elaina” is bookended by closer “haultain,” a textured and elegiac song made especially memorable by the imagery of the line”When our marriage did end / One million silverfish crawled into my head / And breathed forgiveness back into my breath.”

Enemark, who is formerly of Forestry, also brings in some of their moody and textured instrumentation to set the scene. “midnight playwright” looms like a Northwest gray sky and rumbles like the thunder that always seems to threaten but never comes, while the opening guitar on “distance” has the ephemeral sparkle of a rogue sunbeam on the bay. The gentle, rambling first notes of “clarissa” are the lamb to “haultain’s” roaring lion of a close, the guitar positively wailing and the drums echoing and tumbling like an avalanche.

To make Snoqualmie, Enemark recruited bassist Colin Nealis, pianist Simon Haisell, and drummer Danny Costello and gathered them on B.C.’s Mayne Island in January to record this debut. Harnessing the mood of their surroundings and Enemark’s Twin Peaks preoccupation, they created an album that is richly Pacific Northwestern, wallpapered in fir trees and laced with driftwood like a rain-lashed beach, moody but welcoming in its sometimes terrible beauty. Like the region that is now my home, Snoqualmie has surprised and delighted me by crawling into my heart and staying there, with all its darkness somehow bringing light. ___

Snoqualmie is available now at their bandcamp. ___

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