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Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso is a collaboration between vocalist Amelia Meath and electronic musician NickSanborn. Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had written a song called “PlayIt Right” and sung it with her trio Mountain Man. She’d met Nick Sanborn, an electronicproducer working under the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small clubsomewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way. He did the obligatoryremix, but he sensed that there was something more important here than a one-time handoff:Of all the songs Sanborn had ever recast ...read more

Sylvan Esso is a collaboration between vocalist Amelia Meath and electronic musician NickSanborn. Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had written a song called “PlayIt Right” and sung it with her trio Mountain Man. She’d met Nick Sanborn, an electronicproducer working under the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small clubsomewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way. He did the obligatoryremix, but he sensed that there was something more important here than a one-time handoff:Of all the songs Sanborn had ever recast, this was the first time he felt he’d added to the rawmaterial without subtracting from it, as though, across the unseen wires of online fileexchange, he’d found his new collaborator without even looking. Meath felt it, too. Schedules aligned. Moves were made. And as 2012 slipped into 2013,Sanborn and Meath reconvened in the unlikely artistic hub of Durham, N.C., a formermanufacturing town with cheap rent and good food. Sylvan Esso became a band. A year later,their self-titled debut—a collection of vivid addictions concerning suffering and love, darknessand deliverance—arrives as a necessary pop balm, an album stuffed with songs that don’tsuffer the longstanding complications of that term. These 10 tunes were realized and recorded in Sanborn’s Durham bedroom during the last year,an impressive feat considering the layers of activity and effects that populate them—thedizzyingly crisscrossed harmonies of “Play it Right,” the gorgeously incongruous elements of“Wolf,” the surreptitiously minimalist momentum of “HSKT.” Sanborn’s production is fullymodern and wonderfully active. He enlists obliterating dubstep stutters and crisp electropoppulses, hazy electrostatic breezes and epinephrine dancefloor turnarounds. But this isn’t a workout in production skills or a demonstration of electronic erudition. Instead,his music syncs seamlessly with Meath’s melodies, so that the respective words and beatsbecome a string of ready-to-play singles. The irrepressible “Hey Mami” webs handclaps andharmonies around a flood of bass, a strangely perfect canvas for a tale of dudes hollering atneighborhood tail (and, finally, finding the chivalry not to do so). “Coffee” sparkles and quakes,patiently rising from a muted spell of seasonal affective disorder to a sweet rupture ofschoolyard glee. These pop cuts condescend neither to their audience nor their makers. Theyare sophisticated, but with none of the arrogance that can imply; they are addictive, but withnone of the banality that can entail. There is sensuality and sexual depravity, homesicknessand wanderlust, nostalgia and immediacy. Sylvan Esso acknowledges that the world is atumult of complications by giving you a way to sing and dance with those troubles, if not to willthem away altogether. When Meath and Sanborn talk about Sylvan Esso, they come back to context—to how, beforethis project, they felt that their solo endeavors often felt short of it, as if they were lacking acrucial component. That is no longer a concern. When Meath sings to Sanborn a melody thatshe’s conjured and captured, he almost instinctively knows how to respond. And when hedelivers to her the backbone of a wordless beat, she adds lyrical bait where he’d only seenwhite space. Sylvan Esso represents the fulfillment of their fortuitous encounter by, onceagain, linking parts that too often come stripped of their counterparts. Here, motion comes withmelody. Words come with ideas. And above all, pop comes back with candor. « hide

Similar Bands: Dirty Projectors, Flock of Dimes, Mountain Man

What Now
2017

3.3
32 Votes
Sylvan Esso
2014

3.7
59 Votes

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