Known as the home of bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control, and dozens of others, the Elephant 6 Collective was a refuge for popsters who enjoyed the more psychedelic aspects of the genre. Pet Sounds was as canonical as Odessey and Oracle or Silver Apples. Melodies that were as slippery and catchy as anything produced in the late 60s were married to electronic manipulation and folk impulses. It was a sound born from unfiltered imagination and a love for rhythmic adaptation and twisting musical histories.
As one of the founders of this musical sanctuary (and of The Apples in Stereo), Hilarie Sidney has long spent time in the company of musicians whose creativities were slightly askew from their peers. Alongside Robert Schneider and the other Apples, she delved into kaleidoscopic bubblegum pop, tangles of ecstatic melodies, and more than her fair share of oddly gorgeous experimentation. In 2003, she founded The High Water Marks with Per Ole Bratset after having met at an Apples show in Oslo. This led to a run of albums further exploring the ecstatic recesses of her pop influences.
Sidney stepped away from music and from The High Water marks for 13 years, building a family with now-husband Bratset in the town of Grøa in Norway. But you never really leave the music behind, and so the band returned in 2020 with Ecstasy Rhymes, an absorbing set of songs that let her work through the wrinkles and minutiae of her inspirations. Recently, the band announced the release of Proclaimer of Things on February 4 of next year via Minty Fresh.
Recorded partly as a coping mechanism in response to COVID lockdowns, the album took on greater importance as Sidney’s mother passed away from the virus earlier this year. Sidney does hold some measure of comfort as her mother was able to hear the new record before her passing.
“I think my mom would approve of my method of dealing with the grief of losing her. I hope that all of the positive energy and love that went into the making of this record will be felt by all who listen,” she explains.
On their latest single, “Fingers and Trees are Only Temporary”, the band digs deeper into the psychedelic side of their work, bringing out some fuzzy guitar theatrics, thumping percussion, and sweeping vocals that come at you from all angles. The song feels like it’s drawing back to those early years within the E6 hivemind, when the concept of what that community would come to be wasn’t yet set and the music was still free from expectation or tradition. It overflows with a genuine love of sound, a love of pop music unbound by rules or trends. There’s plenty of lovely nostalgia here, but that’s not why the song works so well. This is its own thing – a song created from personal experience and a working knowledge of how best to breakdown and reform the contours of so many years of music.
“I had just come home from a bachelor party when Hilarie said she had a song idea to show me,” Bratset explains about the song’s origins. “She said it was on the slow, psychedelic side. Needless to say, this guy here was excited! The best titles always come from hearing things wrong, but I think it was from a random sound bite on the TV. We were also logging in a nearby forest at the time, so that could also explain why trees are temporary.”
He continues: “But fingers… are they temporary? How? Well, one week later I crushed the tips of two fingers when I accidentally inserted my hand into our snow blower and had to get several stitches. I almost lost my fingers, so they are temporary! I guess I should be glad the song is not called ‘Eyeballs Are Temporary’ or something like that. It felt good to soak in the psychedelia on this one. We’ve heard a lot that we are Elephant 6 without the psychedelia, so it was fun to just streak through the candy store and accept that we are also a psychedelic band.“
The High Water Marks will release their new record, Proclaimer of Things, on Feb. 4 via Minty Fresh. Keep up with the band on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.