In the dry desert of Arizona that Lost Tribe Sound calls home, a letter is received from guitarist René Gonzàlez Schelbeck who’s eager to share a collection of intimately composed songs, titled “Settlers.” Upon listening, we are immediately enthralled. There’s a timeworn, arid, and almost badlands quality to Schelbeck’s hypnotic, cyclical guitar style. It seems to perfectly capture the lonely, barren landscape of the American West.
Yet, there are curious dynamics at play here as Schelbeck, who makes music under the alias Western Skies Motel, is from Denmark and far removed from any upbringing in the rough-hewn Americana style of folk guitar. Conceivably, his music has more in common with the lonesome, calculated tone of Berlin’s modern classical scene or the rainy day folk of the UK. Those are intriguing parallels since the collective mood of Western Skies Motel’s music would adapt so well to either environment.
Words hardly do justice to the rich, immersive experience of “Settlers;” yet a few may help to set the stage. Schelbeck is a remarkably well-rounded instrumentalist, who spent his early days losing his hearing in local punk rock bands. This youthful love for walls of sound and discordant guitar squalls survives in his modern sound palette. However, a more mature approach to these techniques brings moments of palpable tension, adding in uneasy waves of guitar feedback and droning harmonium.
But ultimately, the truth of what Schelbeck hopes to convey through his music may rest firmly in his subconscious. In hindsight, ‘Settlers’ is about moving between worlds: not in the dimensional sense, but more as a constant change in form. Each influence and sound Schelbeck incorporates into his music feels native to the delicate ecosystem of these songs and each turn feels as organic and nuanced as that of the natural world. Just as a tree’s leaves wither and fall; a fire sparks and expands only to expend its last bit of fuel, extinguished and left for ash. So true are the parallels we find in our own existence, the complex ritual of growing old and returning to dirt. Decay is inevitable for all life, yet through this, it becomes the rich soil for all things proceeding. Western Skies Motel’s weighty instrumental mantras may root in this and other meanings yet to be culled. One thing is clear, this music contains significant power, and, regardless of our conceived themes or geographic locations, it tells a story that is lasting and instantly familiar.
Mastered for vinyl by Taylor Deupree (12k), and with the additional step taken to create the master lacquers with Roger Seibel at SAE Mastering, “Settlers” sees an 180-gram heavyweight gatefold release very similar to the recent Mute Forest debut, “Deforestation”. The acetate and test pressings were scrutinized for anomalies on world-class vinyl setups at Arizona’s esteemed audio dealer, Arizona Hi-Fi. Purchasers of the physical edition of “Settlers” will also receive the six-song bonus EP, “Generations”. Mastered by Kirk Marrison of Kiln (Ghostly Intl.), “Generations” expands the “Settlers” cause.
Western Skies Motel is building upon a busy year in 2015, having released two very different full-length albums “Prism” (Preserved Sound) and “Buried and Resurfaced” (Twice Removed).