ABOUT JESSE SYKES AND THE SWEET HEREAFTER
Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter (jessesykes.com) follow up 2007’s critically acclaimed Like Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul with Marble Son, their fourth release from Paris’s Fargo Records and the first on their own U.S. imprint Station Grey/Thirty Tigers.
Sykes and guitarist/vocalist Phil Wandscher took on full production duties for Marble Son, recorded entirely in and around their hometown of Seattle (engineered by Mell Dettmer and mixed by Martin Fevyear). Marble Son exemplifies a band at their creative pinnacle—heavier and more complex than previous records, the music resonates among the parallel worlds of the avant-garde and the timeless. Sykes’ voice and sometimes-mystical leanings (the former described aptly by Magnet as “sounding less like a performer and more like a sage”) and her band’s incomparable musical rapport culminate in what the New York Times has described as “spellbound music, rapt in fatalism and sorrow.” Syke’s trademark thematic darkness and acclaimed songwriting have never been more present; yet Marble Son speaks of evolution, which Sykes describes as, “a sonic mirror of the most chaotic, turbulent times of our lives, where beauty triumphed, and the tears that spilled became this record.”
The album begins with ‘Hushed By Devotion,’ an 8-minute, swelling, rock opus — reminiscent of 1960’s San Francisco inspired psychedelia, which provides Wandscher (who co-wrote more of this record then previous) the sonic space to explore the depths of his guitar genius. Characterized by an emblazoned guitar solo, ghostly layered-vocal murmurings and trademark lyrical poignancy, it’s a brilliant, ambitious statement of intent that commands attention.
The record is an extension of their previous work, influenced in part by an association with the art-metal movement centered around Los Angeles label Southern Lord. This “unlikely” musical friendship between Sykes and influential underground bands SunnO))) and Boris was immortalized on the 2006 album Altar (in which Sykes sang and co-wrote the much beloved underground classic “The Sinking Belle”) culminating in a headlining performance of Altar at the ATP festival last summer. The band has also toured with Earth, a group commonly acknowledged as one of the major progenitors of heavy-doom (and another member of the Southern Lord roster), psych-rock maestros Black Mountain and recently appeared at Holland’s Roadburn Festival, curated by SunnO))) themselves, this past April.
Their musical kinship is audible in Marble Son — an utterly unique, yet subtle genre crossover. Marble Son is a journey—a gutsy romp laced with moments of shimmering, retro beauty, underpinned by pastoral images of Syke’s interior world unfolding. Listen to the standout track ‘Pleasuring the Divine,’ a gritty roar of a song, fed by Wandscher’s frenetic riffs and sludgy feedback and combined with frantic drumming—it’s entirely unexpected and totally mesmerizing.
That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of hushed acoustic wonder amongst the 11 tracks. ‘Be It Me, Or Be It None’ is a glorious four minutes of hazy, Tim Buckley-esque folk, while album closer ‘Wooden Roses’ is an ethereal meditation on finding love only too late—guitars sparkle, strings stir and Sykes’ voice swells and creaks beautifully right up until the final second.
Marble Son is the sound of a band evolving—urgently expanding to mirror the chaos of modern culture while not forgetting the beauty of the tender and mercurial world that exists within us all—the result is more relevant than ever … and, as Jesse puts it: “We have never been closer to sounding like ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ then we do here.” What a sweet sound it is. V.K.
“I liked the idea of something beautiful that may or may not be appreciated in its own time … of course a statue comes to mind … they seem to last forever in human terms, and they still are considered beautiful and viable even as they disintegrate. Some were built so well that their dissolution is almost more powerful than the pristine form—as it disintegrates, it exposes the creative process, the bare essentials … and in the fragments left — an arm, a torso, speak volumes in their decaying state. There’s a line in the song that goes “Oh marble son, why can’t I love you more? I wish I’d found you beautiful before.” That line reflects where I’m at in life … many things I didn’t appreciate when I was young, I find beautiful now and vice versa. I think about relationships and how people can ‘miss the boat’ in their lifetime, but if we need to wait another lifetime to understand a certain kind of love, then so be it. For some, it might take many lifetimes to discover, for others—well … they luck out and have a love that transcends time! We all have our evolutionary path to understanding our capacity to love and to understand beauty. The idea or image of a marble son just spoke to me on all these levels … strong, forgotten, loved, beautiful, sad … eternal.” — Jesse Sykes
PRAISE FOR MARBLE SON
“Alternative country, no … more like alternative universe … a sprawling psych rock vision …” — Spin
“This is a complex, fascinating record that punches the shoulder for attention. As subtle as it is hypnotic, mixing delicacy with confidence and hope with fear …. unlock your senses, and wrap yourself in this intricate web of aural imagery.” — Consequence Of Sound (4-star review)
“It’s the child of some Faustian pact between Karen Dalton and Jimmy Page born at some secret southern crossroad. The counterculture furies of ‘69 reborn, eternally ‘hiding from the daylight.’ You’ll be drawn to the glow of their bluesy-country embers, but eventually you’ll find yourself miles from home, dancin’ into the flames, out of your head, covered in warpaint and doing a witchdance. It’s true, throughout its hour-long spell, I had the unmistakeable feeling I was being groomed for some devious southern death cult and what’s worse, I liked it. Come, join us.” — Matt James, PopMatters
“A country-western, psych rock, shamanic, folk masterpiece.” — The Stranger
“Flush with cavernous sonics and complex soundscapes, it’s 58 minutes of aural cinema for the ears and mind.” — TONE Audio
“Whether the sonic setting is one of doomy distortion or fragile fingerpicking, Sykes remains a truly unique vocalist whose dusky voice is capable of imparting a transcendent, almost spiritual quality to almost any tune it touches.” — All Music Guide
“Terrific … A roaring, psychedelic tempest.” — Uncut (4-star review)