“Supergroup” is an odd term. Who has the grounds to consider something as such? Is it something said just to entice people to listen or is it really super? For the progressive rock/experimental scene, there’s been a big whirlwind of talk surrounding Sianvar, the new “supergroup” featuring Will Swan (Dance Gavin Dance), Joe Arrington and Michael Littlefield (A Lot Like Birds), Donovan Melero (Hail the Sun), and Sergio Medina (Stolas). While each band has their own twang or sound, Sianvar is a grand culmination of each band’s high points, thus making their debut self-titled EP something to hold on to and not something to shove aside, whether you’re a fan of the genre or not.
When a team such as this is assembled, one would expect a welcome in a grandiose, dramatic fashion (I’m lookin’ at you, Isles & Glaciers); Sianvar aren’t quite partial to approaching things that way. EP opener “Chest Pressure” enters with Arrington’s exceptional drums and Melero’s high croon behind Littlefield’s bass and the combined assault of Swan and Medina’s guitar combination. Everyone comes in line and builds up together and it just works.
What follows next is “Sick Machine” and right off the bat, an assumption can be made about Melero’s vocal delivery, which is that he draws inspiration from experimental casanova Anthony Green. An assumption as such can call for debate after debate, but if you don’t hear even the slightest hint of Tiger & the Duke-era Sound of Animals Fighting in his voice, then maybe you ought to revisit the record and compare it for yourself. “Sick Machine” delivers the most chaos on the EP, offering the dystopic landscape of a post-apocalyptic war zone of sorts. The lyrics offer that from the get-go as Melero chants the repeated words “shrapnel spraying!” and closes with the lines, “We’ve succumbed to parasites! / We’re carried under parasites!”
Something that Swan and Littlefield are both masterful in doing is bringing the funk to the prog-rock scene by way of their anchor bands, and they have done just that with “Your Tongue Ties”. It’s the one track on the EP that you can bob your head and snap your fingers to while also internally (and externally) shredding your air guitar until those same fingers actually start to bleed. What follows next is “Virtual Vain”, which acts as a look into the ups and downs of vanity and its lasting power, or lack thereof: “Damaged ego / Broken stitches / Nothing gold can stay.”
Sianvar’s maiden voyage comes to port with “Substance Sequence”. The track is an overall crescendo, beginning intricately and calm and ultimately transforming into a different kind of monster altogether. Complete with delicate interludes within the track, every member’s talents shine through until the track closes with Melero building up to a howl: “Everybody’s listening. / Coming down, coming down. / Lesser now, lesser now! / Smashing! Smashing! / Substance Sequence!”
The beauty of Sianvar is that everyone involved is able to do things that their core bands won’t allow. It’s not about any “rules” to abide by, but rather an outlet to prevent artistic differences. Sianvar is the result of an idea birthed between friends and will prove to be vital for fans of its community. All you have to do is listen and bask in the awesomeness of it all.