It’s not very often that you hear an album that was written and recorded entirely on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In fact, the album in question was the first time I had ever even considered the possibility of creating music on a train. But, for Sweden based Vanbot, (aka Ester Ideskog) the Trans-Siberian Railway was the perfect backdrop for her dreamy landscape of music, culminated in the eleven track Siberia.
After feeling overwhelmed by recording in a studio, Vanbot needed a change of scenery. Recording in the studio left her so bogged down, she even trashed an entire album before creating Siberia. She recruited Johannes Berglund (who has worked with Lykke Li and FKA Twigs) and Petter Winnberg, and they began their journey on the railway. Working from the train, with limited technology and a looming end date forced the three to step outside of their comfort zones, and create the bold, powerful tracks included on the album. Siberia constantly exudes futuristic images, akin to the color palettes of dark(er) horror films like Beyond the Black Rainbow and It Follows.
In a teaser video for the album, we are treated to a glimpse of their 17 days spent on the train, traveling from Moscow to Beijing. Beyond their time traveling, the three took full advantage of the varying landscapes they experienced, between riding horses and walking by nearby lakes, they fully immersed themselves in the cultures they traveled through. More importantly, it is clear that their travels outside of the train influenced the creations made on the train. “Close Enough (Ulan Bator)” is a bit more upbeat and optimistic than other tracks, and it is probable that it was written after the trio visited Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. Just like Mongolia’s spanning mountains, the track valleys and plateaus through rising synths, with a forecast of Vanbot’s translucent vocals.
“Collide (Krasnoyarsk)” listens like an FKA Twigs demo, with delicate vocals and a booming bass accompaniment. Krasnoyarsk, Russia, is Siberia’s third largest city, and is also regarded as Siberia’s most beautiful city. It’s no wonder it inspired one of Vanbot’s best tracks, with luminous synth lines weaving in and out of her powerful vocals. On “Louder (Ulan – Ude)” we can almost feel time passing on the train, and that overwhelming sense of starting anew that travel can bring. A melancholic backing synth brings to mind images of staring out the window, as Ideskog and Winnberg’s vocals create a cocoon around us, leaving us free to daydream of travels to come.
Siberia is the perfect album to revive your hope in modern music. The three innovative minds behind it are paving the way for fresh creations, both on and off the railways.