Album Review: Fort Worth’s Siberian Traps Set To Release “Infinite Jest” Nov. 16

DSC07937.jpgSiberian Traps | Photo Credit: Jessica Waffles / Johnny Govea

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Siberian Traps Set To Release Shakespearean Influenced Album Nov. 16 At Shipping and Receiving in Fort Worth, TX   

By Caleb Stanisalw

I feel like Mercutio on the fringes of the ball watching the world (Juliet) fall for Romeo (Siberian Traps). True love may or may not exist, but damn, it’s sure fun to witness the raw romance of a rock band hitting its stride–hopefully I won’t be mortally wounded in the process!

Their new record Infinite Jest is set to drop this November 16th at Shipping and Receiving, and it’s going to be the best show in town that weekend. Flanked by hometown heros Son of Stan and sexy rock demigods PolyDogs, the Traps are set to bring their A-game in a set sure to feature mostly new tunes. As for merch, they’re forgoing a physical release, instead opting to offer a t-shirt / download card combo meal. 

The new record features vocalist and songwriter Seth Reeves at the top of his game. Recorded at Audiostyles (“The best studio I’ve ever recorded in,” according to Mike Best) with esteemed engineering by Peter Wierenga and producer with assistant engineer and guitarist Taylor Tatsch (Deep Blue Something, Shadows of Jets), Infinite Jest swoons with the oceanic bass and drum work of power rhythm duo Best and Wierenga. The record was mixed and engineered by Wierenga and mastered by Jordan Richardson, and most of the celestial, reverb-soaked guitaring that you’ll hear on the record is thanks to string wizard Ben Hance (although Reeves also takes a solo or two). Hance (Earthchild Emperius, The Cush) favors a white Stratocaster (We’re not worthy!) but used “an SG and a Jaguar” on a few tracks. According to Hance, “when tracking, we played all at the same time, then we overdubbed extra guitars and everything later. Taylor did a lot too–he played B3 and sang some harmony vocals,” although most of the vocal work was handled by Reeves and Hance in Wierenga’s home studio. 

The Traps have been playing stages in and around Fort Worth since they transplanted out of Nashville six or so years ago. They are a main-stay local band, and they’ve enjoyed modest success on the airwaves over the years, garnering plays and support from college station KTCU, indie public radio station KXT, and local-music-only station KFTW (aaarg, Southside Pirates!). 

This latest release builds upon the successes of previous albums Stray Dogs and Indicator, and the new record really is a tour-de-force.

Album opener “Icarus” is an intoxicating, bubbly track characterized by deep tonal structures and brilliant, shining harmonies. Guitars swoop in from everywhere, each new Stratty sound springier than the last.

The attention to the vocal harmonies and melodic arrangements belies Reeves’ desire to create something beautiful, but perhaps less apparent is his desire to create something meaningful. “The aesthetic of this record hinges on being a better teacher to my students. I got this idea that I was going to write every song as a character.”

In fact, the ten song album draws two characters from each of five different literary works, resulting in five pairs of songs. The first pair (“Icarus” and “Fall of Daedalus”) originate in Greek myth — perhaps less obvious is that myth’s connection with James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The next pair of songs (“Unquiet Slumbers” and “Heathcliff”) were inspired by Wuthering Heights, and beyond that we have three pairs of Shakespeare-inspired tunes. I won’t spoil every discovery, but suffice it to say that Reeves chose to dig into some of Shakespeare’s “b-side” plays, and the result is exciting and provoking. Crafting rock songs about obscure Shakespearean characters is more compelling for Reeves than typical self-centered songs of love and loss, personal experience, or simple first-person observation.

Writing songs from the perspectives of specific characters has helped Reeves to “crystalize my love for [each] book, and also crystalize my understanding of it, having read and taught it.” It could be said that Reeves’ passion for Shakespeare flies in the face of modern American curriculum standards, and the literary connections that Infinite Jest nurtures can be interpreted as an impassioned plea for people to return to Shakespeare for the lessons therein. “I don’t think it’s too hyperbolic to say that Shakespeare invented modern humanity,” Reeves intoned. “If we want to understand ourselves as humans post-Renaissance, then we have to understand Shakespeare.”

DSC07972.jpgSiberian Traps | Photo Credit: Jessica Waffles / Johnny Govea

I want to absorb the Shakespearean connection, but right now I’m gleefully subsumed by the inviting, life-soundtrack feel of this record. Title track “Infinite Jest” (yes, the title of a David Foster Wallace tome, but also a line from Hamlet) is a staccato ooze of lurching, halting vocals set against fierce and beautiful guitar work. This is why I love this band, I think; Siberian Traps take you into the heart of the garden, deep into a verdant copse of musical wonders, where intention and meaning bloom from the speakers; Reeves and company give sounds shape, texture, and color.

Infinite Jest will lull you in with its infectious melodies and enticing arrangements, but the discerning listener will also be challenged by the creative content and lyrical play. There’s plenty of ear candy here, but if you fall in love with it, you’ll be unpacking and discovering the tasty allusions and references for many spins to come. So brush up on your Shakespeare, grab your Joyce and Brontë cliff notes, and meet me in the garden–we’ve got some Rock and Roll to read!





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