As part of the duo Nassau, Jeffrey Silverstein makes music that we’ve previously described as having “a sidewinding tropical lilt, suffused with peach-pink evening light… folk [music] but not as we know it, drawing on ambient and dream pop to transcend the earthy constraints of guitar and percussion, conjuring a sense of space and texture.” Finding himself with too many ideas for just one project, Silverstein took part in an artistic residency at the Sou’wester Lodge in Washington, a move that resulted in not only his first solo performance for a decade, but also a collection of new songs. He then worked with Jeremy Reinhold at the latter’s home studio in Portland, and this EP, How on Earth was born.
Fans of Nassau will be happy to hear that the band’s lush atmosphere is retained, a fact that’s apparent from instrumental opener, ‘Given the Light’. Location plays a big part on How on Earth, and the song makes this clear from the very beginning. Sou’wester Lodge is located in Seaview, a small town near the Oregon border, and this landscape leaves an indelible mark on the sound. Green and grey and misty, the songs are cut from the same cloth as Silverstein’s work with Nassau but less sun-blushed, instead enveloped in fresh air and drizzle. Think Yo La Tengo’s Old Joy soundtrack pushed into dreamier ambient territory. ‘Make Yr Peace (and have it too)’ is a great example, beginning with sounds of the rainforest before unfurling into a beautifully unhurried ambient pop song, the simple lyrics taking on a mantra-like quality as Silverstein repeats them in his gentle and understated manner.
I want to know the truth
I want to make peace and have it too
‘All Hands Raised’, a song named after the Portland non-profit, again drifts at its own pace, but at its heart holds a steely message. It was written in response to, or in honour of, the young people across the US who have spoken out to demand gun control. “All hands raised
to say,” Silverstein sings,”I am warm and brave, I am more than okay.”
The album closes with ‘Finds You Well’, a heartfelt ode to Silverstein’s grandmother who passed away as he was driving across country to relocate to Oregon. “We were on our way to beginning a new chapter of our life,” Silverstein tells Stadium & Shrines, “she was doing just the same. It felt like she was coming along for the ride.” It’s a fittingly poignant end to an album that’s infused with a sense of both geography and human feeling.
I hope that this finds you well
though there’s no way I could ever tell
you’ve given so much of yourself
at least we’ve got our health