The Soil & the Sun, a band native to Grand Rapids, has a unique way of describing its music, but one that suits it. The band describes its music not as belonging to a specific genre, but as “Experiential Spiritual Folk-Rock/New Mexican Space Music”. It does not really fit neatly into any label, but takes elements from various styles to create a new sound. The way they describe the music is easily seen in their lyrics and performance.
It is true, there is a strong element of experience in this music. The lyrics often include pieces of a history that contain strong descriptors that spark the imagination enough to make listeners feel that they shared this experience. The song “Through These Walls” is an example of one such descriptor that adds to the feeling of experience,
Our mother draped sheets over our heads
Warm lines cross her face
Our father made trees grow from his hands
Dark lines, empty space
There is also a thread of spirituality present in the music. Biblical imagery, whether hinted at or used more freely, is present in many of their songs. The aspect of spirituality that appears in their music often contains questioning and confusion, but layered above it is an overwhelming sense of awe. In the song “Raised in Glory”, the confusion is about the brokenness of humanity, but the awe comes with the revelation of God’s continued involvement with his creation. It says,
Root of Jesse
Root of Blessing
Bring the remnant back to you
Seek the Lord you shall be called
“Repairer of Broken Walls”
So too does the descriptor “New Mexico space music” ring true through the music. The accompaniment that sometimes takes the forefront tends to be experimental, with a low bass that lends a feeling of grandness and a melody that sounds distant and somewhat distorted. The layered harmonies and extensive use of strings are what give it the space-y, yet still grounded sound associated with this style.
On their own, each of these elements add something interesting, but when they work together, they create music that is greater than each of these attributes individually. Listeners feel that they are a part of the experienced confusion, but also connected to the awe and grandeur that comes with it. Audiences are able to identify with these feelings and connect their own experiences to the ideas presented in the music of the Soil & the Sun.
- Avery Johnson