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Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011

Canyons of Static Settle Down

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"It's been an intense year for us thus far," remarks Ross Severson of Canyons of Static. "We recorded our new album in late winter and have been mixing and mastering throughout the year in between playing a ton of shows. We went on our first tour as a band in June, right in the middle of a massive heat wave."

Through intense elements, composition and travel, the now-quintet is starting to take root and rest, looking forward to new material and a new beginning on an old path. "I guess we have been embraced enough by the Milwaukee scene to consider ourselves a Milwaukee band," Severson says of the West Bend-formed group's longtime split residency.

After six years together, the band seems comfortable with its style of melding dreamy atmospheres into intricate rock instrumentals; their Twitter account states, matter-of-factly, "Shaking walls since 2005." And while their pedal-laden post-rock might have them also laden with more than their fair share of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai comparisons, Canyons of Static still have no intention of recreating those particular bands' sounds (although similar, there are differences), even with their name being a nod to that genre's kin, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Terrible Canyons of Static." The magnetic appeal of their compositions lies in the variant pushes and pulls of percussion from Nathan Gaffney, bassist Chris Biertzer's ability to find those heartstring lines that so endeared New Order to its fans and Aggie Severson's keys, in turn, echoing a haunting, slow-motion reflection of those ethereal sounds of pop's past.

Providing even more pull toward the band's just-released Challenger EP—their full-length Farewell Shadows is slated for 2012—is guitarist Nicholas Elert, also of Northless and formerly of This Specific Dream. With his background in more metallic-leaning bands, he lends a bit of gentle force and structure to Canyons of Static's gossamer glow.

"This is probably the biggest change of the last year," Severson says of adding Elert, who joined the band when the album was nearly finished. "He came in and wrote parts to the existing songs and helped us wrap up writing the final song for the record.

"I'm actually shocked we convinced Nick to join," Severson adds. "It was a big commitment for him to drive from Milwaukee to West Bend to rehearse with us, and he agreed to it somehow. Nick was one of the first people to come out and see us play in Milwaukee, when we first started the band. We have been friends ever since and have been secretly plotting how to get him to join the band ever since. It just so happened that his longtime project This Specific Dream broke up recently, leaving him enough time to join up with us."

While wrapping up the EP with Elert at local recording engineer Jason Wietlispach's studio, Soutrane, Canyons of Static also utilized Wietlispach's talents to further flesh out their new songs.

"Jason is someone Aggie, Nathan and I have been playing with on and off for the past few years," Severson says. "He hosts amazing improvisational jam sessions at his house. The sessions have really changed the way I play the guitar and my approach to writing music in general. Jason's reed playing blows my mind, so it was just natural to add him into the mix, since he was recording the project."

And Wietlispach's winsome reed-work, in turn, propels the band's music into an unintentional reinvention—a mark of a band that is truly creating for the love of music, not for mere existence.

Canyons of Static play the Riverwest Public House (815 E. Locust St.) on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m.