Ground Aswim — the second album from Sinai Vessel — the band turned solo project of 27-year-old Caleb Cordes (he/him) is out now.
The sound of Sinai Vessel has always evolved alongside Cordes’s life. As the band’s sole constant creator, Cordes wrapped bright indie-rock guitar tones over the wistfully earnest Labor Pains (2011) and paired cathartic punk with a religious falling-out on Profanity (2013) before stacking layers of swooping overdrive on top of spirtual and existential questioning on 2017’s Brokenlegged. With their new album, Ground Aswim, Sinai Vessel has followed Cordes into a wholly new sonic and personal chapter.
Written after the departure of two long-time collaborators reduced Sinai Vessel to its solo-project beginnings, Ground Aswim marks a newly focused effort from Cordes to let his songwriting guide the recording process. The resulting album trades well in space — in contrast to the dense tracks on Brokenlegged, Ground Aswim was recorded live, with some of its tracks left completely free of overdubs. Cordes’ voice has softened, as he delivers the most emotionally cathartic songs of his career in a gentle, tender tone. Cordes, who leads the songs in playing clean, open chords on electric guitar, is joined by drummer Andrew Stevens (Lomelda, Hovvdy) and bass player / co-producer Jarrod Gee in offering performances that are subtle and grounded, leaving ample space for listeners to breathe and settle into the songs as they are.
While it may not initially sound like the Sinai Vessel listeners have come to know, Ground Aswim still showcases Cordes in regular style, setting vibrant, flowing storytelling to familiar and inventive melodies. The vignettes found on Ground Aswim vary more widely in subject than ever, while all touch on the brokenness and confusion suggested by the album’s title.
Vulnerability runs the game on Ground Aswim, which lifts its title from a poem by English author David Whyte. The poem’s narrator describes a peaceful world destroyed by a flooding stream, his fishing line “snagging on thin air,” with “nothing hidden in the flowing world / to catch, or bite, or tug again.” The songs on Sinai Vessel’s Ground Aswim show a narrator similarly swept up in chaos, fighting at times to understand how to regain control of what’s lost, but finding peace in what’s washed away, choosing to swim into newness.