A warm blanket of sound, Scottish artist Siiga’s stunning new album ‘Gemini Rising’ is a stirring indie folk record of cinematic scope and intimate intensity.
for fans of Bear’s Den, Matt Corby, Alex Lleo
Stream: “Gemini Rising” – Siiga
That image of the moon, the idea of time, the isolation I was in, the unknown feeling of connection to everything became like an obsession that I couldn’t let go of.
Wondrous and enchanting, Siiga’s newly-released sophomore album melts itself over the senses like a soothing, all-knowing hug. A warm blanket of sound, Gemini Rising is a stirring indie folk record of cinematic scope and intimate intensity: A record that is somehow for everybody, and just you all at the same time. Unexpectedly intense and unapologetically beautiful, this is the kind of music that takes your breath away upon first discovery.
Time revolved in frozen tidal moons
Stars colliding seconds passing through
As winter wrapped her cold arms around me
Her silent tears fell like snowflakes through the trees
There was nowhere I could run
But these mountains I come from
Silence was the only friend I knew
As shifting darkness orbits out of view
While in this house of walls that shake me down
My will is strong these bare hands will break me out
There was nowhere I could run
Until the Gemini Rising Sun
Seasons change but the sea won’t die
Her oceans sway in perfect time
You see we change flawed by design
We’re all runaways running out of time
– “Gemini Rising,” Siiga
Released October 23, 2020 via Mod y Vi, Gemini Rising is easily one of 2020’s most breathtaking releases – and while it will go sorely underrated and unnoticed by many, those who do happen upon Siiga’s new album will surely come to cherish it, dwell in its deep folds, and embrace its moving sounds. A truly powerful display of the interplay between folk, rock, space, and isolation, Gemini Rising is an exciting introduction to singer/songwriter Richard Macintyre, who first debuted his Siiga project seven long years ago through his first album, The Sea and the Mirror.
Hailing from the Isle of Skye – a small Hebridean island in the North Atlantic sea off the coast of Scotland – Macintyre spent years crafting the soundtrack he has now gifted to the world.
“I remember the exact day I started the album in my mind, which is where it all usually starts. Rather than sitting to write songs, normally what happens with me is that I sort of just go on with my life until I catch a spark or wave of something that triggers an idea towards starting something new,” the artist recalls. “With this record it started in one of the most remote parts of the Scottish Hebrides, where I was part of building these fire stacks in the ocean out of huge rock from the shoreline then burning them through the night and filming them as part of an art project I got roped into! We stayed way off grid in a freezing cold February with no electricity in an old bothy house in what was a deserted settlement with no connection to the outside world, it’s a long story but basically by the end of this thing I was a month in, having been living in the wilds when we finally completed our project. It was about 5 AM and we had been up for days building these things against the unforgiving north Atlantic tides, often having the stacks smashed back down to rubble to start again, up to our wastes in wetsuits trying to keep one of these things up to actually set it alight.”
“We finally got this thing going and it was burning and cracking in the blackness of night out in the bay as the water pulled in around it, we were hours hike from anything in all directions so the night was totally unspoilt by any light pollution and I remember being both mentally and physically shattered then – just laying on the ground wrapped up in layers of jackets to try and warm up and staring out at this incredible moment. This tower of rock we had created burning and reflecting on a black ocean with the silhouettes of mountains on either side and the full constellation of the sky spread out like a map above me with this perfect crescent moon just flicked into the night sky like a moment of elemental perfection.”
“It hit me, and in that moment I suddenly became profoundly aware of the idea that everything is connected and there by what felt like design. Who or what is responsible, I don’t know – but the perfection in design of the natural world, the colours, the cycles it revolves in, the elemental rawness of everything I was experiencing was too much to ignore. That image of the moon, the idea of time, the isolation I was in, the unknown feeling of connection to everything became like an obsession that I couldn’t let go of once I returned home to Skyem and it became the thread that started this whole record.
‘Gemini Rising’ came to me as an idea of symmetry, the dark and the light, revolving and dancing around each other rising from perhaps that firestack that night – who knows! – but as a concept, it just connected all the dots I was seeing immediately in my mind, and off I went on a new adventure.
Conceptual without strictly being a “concept album,” Gemini Rising is perhaps best understood as a visceral exploration of existence and being: A journey that encompasses themes of love and loss, healing and renewal while embracing the vastness of our world and its mystifying intricacies.
Through his art, Siiga valiantly engages a host of topics, any one of which could fill volumes. At its heart, Gemini Rising is not meant to be all-encompassing, however – nor does it even attempt to be definitive on a single subject. Rather, it’s a genuine encapsulation of perspective and reflection. It presents itself as a soundtrack for all to undergo their own introspective adventures through darkness and light, life and death, connection and isolation.
Siiga is just the vessel through which these particular ideas and textured tapestries make their way into the world. “I’m not sure if I identify myself so much as a singer/songwriter rather than it’s more just the easiest tag that fits if anyone asks!” he observes. “I’m not really trained in anything musical or artistic even though I make most of what I do myself, it’s always just been a sort of spontaneous instinctual kinda thing without much structure or planning. I can’t read music so I have always imagined music and song in colour, and that is mainly what I work in when I create: Images and memories of colour that I guess I then meditate on and let percolate in my mind until I find the first wave then just follow on from there. My sound, I guess I would describe as the sound of the landscapes of where I am from in the Scottish Highlands, smeared with colours and a haze of fuzziness that comes with a memory, not quite clear and a little haunting and dreamy… I like to imagine the sound is what you hear in those moments between awake and sleep, where things flicker in your mind but aren’t too focused. Sonically I am a bit of a musical magpie, in the sense that I pull from all eras of music in both the equipment I use and the techniques I use to make music, so it’s a bit of an ethereal, tapey, analog sounding mix of colour through dark and light with reverb being my favourite tool, if any of that makes sense!”
I’m a Scotsman and we aren’t exactly raised to show our feelings too much so I think my place to let it all go is in my songs, but I am very proud of the lyrics on this record.
Strange tides peel us apart
Your cast wishes on the flow
As we swim by moonlight
Your body cracked at the seams
Through dark shadows by the firelight
We move on slowly
You hold back my arms but you can’t tame the fire they cast
Lay by my side my wide eyes while you sleep fast
As time stands still and clear oceans slip away
I’m burnt driftwood on the shore just trying to find my way home
– “Sleep Fast,” Siiga
I like to imagine the sound is what you hear in those moments between awake and sleep, where things flicker in your mind but aren’t too focused.
Like the Isle of Skye which Siiga calls home and from where he pulls inspiration, Gemini Rising is its own island: A world unto itself.
One of the album’s most remarkable traits is its effortless cohesion: The record flows seamlessly from start to finish, like its own filmic experience.
“Well that’s really nice to hear, as I am always conscious to try and make a record feel like a journey that once you start is not complete until you hear the final note,” Siiga shares. “People say the art of an album is fading with streaming but I still believe in the art of a whole piece of work, songs with stories that all come from the same time and place in your life and that you can present in a cohesive package that feels like a complete piece of work. How this record captures my artistry I’m not sure, other than it is just an honest imprint of where I was at that time both in sound and in songwriting. It may sound a little blasé, but I don’t really pressure myself too hard to try to create ‘a sound’, I just pick things up and really try to just be spontaneous and not too conscious of what I am actually doing until something natural happens. When I work with anyone I try to create an atmosphere where they feel compelled to do the same, not plan too much just feel into whatever we are doing and trust the best thing will present itself as we experiment.”
‘Gemini Rising’ as a record is just another moment of time where I was lucky enough to feel inspired and find a flow that once on I never really had to second guess or over-analyze.
Siiga notes the color magenta as playing a definitive role in the making and direction of this new music.
“I always saw the colour of magenta from day one of starting this record, it was a constant. These shades and hues in my mind of pinks, purples, blues and just this golden dusky light like the light you see in Autumn on a clear sunset up north in Skye moments after the sun sets into the North Atlantic. Those are the visions I see before the stories start; I need a colour or mood to get me started, a feeling that kind of lights a little fire inside me that I can’t put out until I am done.”
“Over the recording process things evolved but stayed true to this vision I had initially as we continued and Iain’s input definitely shaped the sound of this album far beyond my own sole abilities as he is just the best musician I could hope to call both my friend and collaborator on this record.”
From the expansive calm of opener “Sleep Fast” to the sweeping glow of singles “La Luna” and “Gemini Rising,” to the rollicking pulse of “Atlantic 252” and the aching fragility of “Lost in the Flood,” Gemini Rising captivate and enthralls. While Siiga doesn’t express any one takeaway, he does humbly recognize the album’s strength and hopes its impact is felt wherever it’s needed most.
“I guess I would just hope anyone listening to the record comes away from it feeling the better for the experience,” he says. “That record pulled me through some of the darkest times of my life; I lost everything in the middle of making that record, my mum died who I grew up with on my own and I had quit everything to become her carer while she was ill, and never thought I would return to finish this – so I think it’s a record that, if you have had a rough time, maybe feel unsure of your place in this world, alone or just want to let it all go and be taken on a bit of a journey through whatever question filled cosmos is swirling around in your head, then you will enjoy it.”
The phrase ‘Siiga, music for peace, music for soul’ started getting banded about in jest as a sort of mantra while I was making this so hopefully we came good on those ambitions.
Gemini Rising is about making sense of that which we don’t fully understand – about that which we may never fully understand. It’s about reckoning with our own helplessness, while marveling at the sheer beauty of life and love and the world at large. Whatever turbulence or turmoil you find yourself going through at present; whatever trauma you’re holding onto; whatever baggage you’re coming in with – they are each just a small portion of the larger masterpiece that is our existence. Gemini Rising is a small reminder to breathe, and to just be.
If you hadn’t heard of Siiga before now, you will never forget him after listening to this music. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Siiga’s Gemini Rising with Atwood Magazine as Richard Macintyre goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his sophomore album!
:: stream/purchase Gemini Rising here ::
Stream: ‘Gemini Rising’ – Siiga
:: Inside Gemini Rising ::
Sleep Fast is a song that started out meaning one thing but the most unexpected and devastating event of my life pulled both it and I down an avenue I never ever saw coming. Living with life on a fairly even keel with clear focus ahead and little concern over the concept of time, I was hit with a brutal and devastating blow, which threw everything I have known and will forever now know into dust and rubble in just one single diagnosis.
The permanent insomnia of becoming the sole carer and night watch guardian over a terminally ill parent sends you into a world that exists trapped in exile and limbo, living endlessly within those flickering milliseconds between awake and sleep while your loved one rests in your administered medicated slumber, while you travel endlessly through all connecting points between your past and your future, questioning the meaning of time and it’s true relevance as the clock is set to countdown without your permission.
Time can stand still or almost evaporate within those moments. The absolute soul shattering helplessness but raw rage of losing someone in front of your eyes as you hold them close is a moment you never fully return from, being the one left awake to move on and face the future while the departed are left behind sleeping fast.
The moon exists as a celestial magnet pushing and pulling on our bodies of dust and water, gently influencing us as we move in cycles around one another.
In the same way as the tides ebb and flow, we as humans can find ourselves pulled down by the weight of the world but then at other times almost lifted clean off our feet with a moment of joy and optimism. La Luna was written about a feeling of isolation and being alone, ‘one times one’ in your own little bubble but suddenly and inexplicably lifted forwards onto your feet again by a sense of an otherworldly presence, awakening your inner care-free and childlike spirit whilst you dance into your future dusting yourself down, determined not to let anyone or anything dim your light or bring you crashing back down to earth ever again.
“Gemini, the twin sign of the Zodiac, a mystical and infinitely powerful representation of the dual nature held deep within all of us, a symmetry entwining the higher and lower self, connecting the shadow to the light, a mirror within the soul. Some believe this mirror can split in two and ascend to a higher frequency landing in two different bodies creating a twin flame resulting in an unknown and inexplicable pull like a magnet leading you through life and into the arms of a stranger you have somehow immediately already known since time began. Losing everything, when all hope feels lost and with nowhere left to run we await and awaken this fire from within, drawing upon it’s strength to pull us from despair and isolation, to soar onward into the horizon like Gemini Rising.”
“Walk through the fire and breathe”. Who could have known the way in which the word breathe would adopt such a heavy and tragic weight in everyday conversation as we pushed on into the year 2020. This primal, mechanical, core organic movement of nature lies within all living things, processing the fuel of life in silent clockwork we only ever notice is happening when we are forced to think about it. Inhale, exhale, the rhythm of the human body which now we all live shielding from an unknown attacker as we try and continue our day to day lives with as much normality as we can. The devastating words “I can’t breathe” shook an entire planet to it’s knees as it played out to a backdrop of endless stories of ventilator shortages and a basic human fight for survival across our planet.
To breathe is our basic instinctual birth right, which will always be our very first and last movement of life in this world from the beginning until the end of time, it is a word which should be held as a point from which all life flows and never ever be treated as a disposable commodity to be given or taken by the hands of another. I wrote this song during a time when I felt like the world around me as I knew it was burning down in slow motion around me as I tried to maintain my basic human instinct to be still, stay calm and breathe through it all as I worked through my own recovery.
The Isle of Skye is a rugged and mysterious island of haunting landscapes that sits out off the North West Coast of Scotland in the Atlantic ocean. Growing up there before a time of digital radios it was difficult for us to pick up anything other than a shipping forecast on the ‘wireless’ radio but there was single radio station called Long Wave Radio Atlantic 252 which somehow we were always able to tune in through the analogue squelch and interference whistling around it, playing rock music that in my imagination was somehow being broadcast from this small ‘outpost’ I would picture hanging out there on some wild wave battered rock as a beacon of hope broadcasting sound, love and song to anyone who could tune in. It was where intrigue and imagination met as a small islander into the world of what would become a musical path that I took into my life ahead.
What is time? Seemingly moving in a cyclical returning motion, clocks running round endlessly over and over again as seasons and dates spin forward only to begin all over again, the universe feels like this endless web of clockwork moving in perfect time and synchronicity, with us hanging on for the ride as a small passenger. The concept of time and what it actually means fascinates and confuses me every day. Does time even really matter? You can only ever actually be in the moment you are in so maybe the rest is all just imaginary. We seem to just revolve through our moments locked together hanging out in space until we come to a conclusion but the Earth carries on spinning out there in her infinity, watching us come and go, welcoming new arrivals as she waves off old friends departing, time just an incidental happening to her infinite motion.
Lost in the Flood
Life can throw you headlong into what feels like a car crash moment from nowhere at any time, sidewinder of an impact leaving you dazed and laid out on the roadside where you wait for a moment to find strength and clarity to work out what just happened and pull yourself back up to rebuild the debris left around you. When you lose everything familiar in one single moment you can feel left outcast, adrift at sea where you are left to silently gather your thoughts in the haze and mist, lost in the flood of the ocean where you learn the lessons of letting go and must make a decision to scream and let all the pain out of your system before you can make the gentle return back to begin building your unknown path ahead once again carrying lessons learnt.
Take It All
Love is something to hold both as tight as you can but as loose as a leaf in the wind at the same time. It can come from nowhere, fresh and vibrant like a new summer full of unknown adventure and joy but can also lead you into the starkest of autumns and coldest of winters if you don’t work hard to keep and protect that spark that started it all off glowing at the centre.
Take it all is a song about a relationship that was once so full of this hope, love and joy but has now come to be a monotonous threadbare existence hanging two now intimate strangers together where they both know deep down that things have come to an end and there is only one last thing they can do before letting each other go and taking the last of what each other has left before throwing their individual lives to the stars to start all over again.
:: stream/purchase Gemini Rising here ::
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