Seismograph’s new record Tundra Divine shines like the sliver of light that peaks its head through the perpetually darkened winter sky occupied by huddles of buildings all vying to be the tallest in a city stretching at the seams of every littered corner. Still, groundhogs are far from determining the impending length of the seasons; after all, the name of the record references an ecosystem defined by its frigid temperatures, gusting winds, and lack of trees, though nothing here possesses the possible cruelty suggested by the title, and instead, lead and only man, Jonathan Loviero, channels the grandeur and occasional power of the great expansive openness of the tundra through a lens aged nearly a decade in the scope of spacious indie rock.
Loviero’s list of influences span from logical to spit-take confounding: Phil Elvrum the Washington native known for The Microphones and Mount Eerie, sure, Dayve Hawk, the guy behind the dormant Memory Tapes project, mmhm, Mew and Claudio Sanchez (yes, the lead singer from Coheed and Cambria)—every now and then Seismograph ventures into vaguely emo territory—along with Joanna Newsom (?), salt, as in NaCl… and Yanni (!). As absurd as the last assertion sounds, Tundra Divine wears the Greecian pianist’s mustache with youthful pride and without the accompaniment of a goddamn twenty-piece string section.
Each song traverses a journey all its own, plotting across Loviero’s conceived landscape, searching for moments big and small. The album’s single, “In Holy Abyss”, clocks in at over nine minutes, so calling it so seems frivolous, and rather should be considered a suite of songs, beginning with an acoustic guitar fit for a car commercial where everyone receives a pat on the back no matter what, transitioning into a folk-kissed ballad sung in an icy nymph forest led by the beats of the Beta Band, eventually turning full Technicolor with a set of bells and a smear of Sigur Ros-ian reverb before landing in an isolated and serene quarry filled with synthetic strings and a piano played from the drops of Loviero’s tears. “Inuit” and “Polar Divide” share equally chilly guitars reminiscent of the midnight-hour chorus licks of the Cocteau Twins, while “Wide Earth Choir” seeks warmth in the lining of Ben Gibbard’s puffy jacket.
Scope and sonic ambition aside, what is most admirable about Tundra Divide is Loviero’s lack of consideration for how people might think of him and his music. On his Bandcamp, he claims: “just a guy making music,” and through the clouds of questionable influences and his reliance on nature imagery, his authenticity shines through; Loviero is the sun while everyone else is a darkened sky, posing and pretending.
Tundra Divine is out now via Snowbeast Records. Stream and download the record below.