Silver Firs, the Bernese Indie-septet around Raphael Elmiger and Belia Winnewisser, released their first collection of songs in over five years via Oh, Sister Records. Despite the hiatus, the band hasn’t lost any of its joy in playing and experimenting, which can really be witnessed on ‘Lake Hypoxia’!
Although the new EP ‘Lake Hypoxia’ may sound like a manifesto for the pandemic in places, it is still equal parts retrospective and reflection on the now. In the end, however, it was the lockdown that brought everything to a halt and gave Silver Firs the time they needed to finally finish the accumulated songs and sketches.
Raphael Elmiger, the band’s songwriter, recorded the instruments in his project studio in Bern largely on his own – a way of working that went well with the new reality. Regular meetings with singer Belia Winnewisser in the studio were a welcome change for the otherwise lonely working method. While Silver Firs perform live with seven musicians, the writing and producing of new music has always been concentrated to a large extent on Elmiger, who, however, never wants to put himself in the foreground alone.
As with previous releases, ‘Lake Hypoxia’ is a lovingly assembled mosaic of genres and idiosyncrasies. You can sense that Elmiger was socialised early on by his older brother with bands like Ride, Yo la Tengo or Sonic Youth. The psychedelic folk and dreampop, as well as the preference for sprawling percussion of the earlier albums still shimmer through. The new songs, however, seem more direct and less obfuscated; the repetitive beats, the saxophone and the percussion insertions discreetly refer to Krautrock and No Wave. At the same time, Silver Firs never want to fall into simply quoting these references, but try to mix their influences anew with an ear for current pop music events and with a lot of stubbornness.
Elmiger’s lyrics take this idea further. Small hints of autobiography can be heard, but the intention here is not to tell stories or ego-related texts about states of mind. Rather, ‘Lake Hypoxia’ wants to be understood as a documentation of contemporary events and the state of mind of a larger whole.
The cover shows a ceramic by Sara Gassmann, an artist who lives and works in Basel.
Elmiger says the following about the work itself:
“It wasn’t a conscious decision that ‘Lake Hypoxia’ sounds a bit like the soundtrack to my musical epiphany. I grew up at that ‘Lake Hypoxia’. Still, these are not stories about me, I’m just the observer here. But then why this nostalgia? Is it perhaps due to the fact that the EP was created in a rather solitary way of working? Even before the Pandemic I missed the band, the ease of us being together and suddenly it was there, this desire for more guitars and boreal, instead of equatorial romanticism.”
Silver Firs is preceded by a long band history. The band formed back in 2011 and have since followed a strict DIY credo when recording and producing their songs. In a time before playlists, their previous releases met with great blog and college radio love. Their songs have been played on numerous US radios alongside Couleur 3 and SRF3, and have made the top100 of the CMJ (Collge and Non-Commercial Radio) charts several times. All EPs were featured on Bandcamp Weekly, cult station KEXP did a feature on the “Music that Matters” podcast and German Vogue used the dark Heartland for a fashion video. The song Motherland reached number 1 of the “Most Popular Tracks on Blogs Now” on Hypemachine, a kind of barometer for music blogs. These successes did not go unnoticed in Switzerland either, so that performances at the Bad Bonn Kilbi, the Paléo Festival and Zurich Openair followed.