Electroacoustic composer Sarah Davachi has undertaken her sophomore album Dominions in a more reserved way. Her debut, Barons Court was a much weightier affair in texture and tone. She recorded the album at her home in Vancouver using vintage synths and the beloved lo-fi sampler the Orchestron. Davachi’s talent as a composer seems to re-energise these old machines producing delicate and softer sounds.
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“Nothing worse than half-arsed drone” -- Kim, 2016
Sarah Davachi’s 2015 record, ‘Baron’s Court’, may well have been the most quintessentially drone record I’ve ever heard. Released on Students of Decay, a banner tone label that sounds like what would happen if you transposed the silences between talking and music on BBC Radio 3, it sought to tribute and condense the longform works of Eliane Radigue. Davachi’s work took note of Radigue’s often wavering but everstill tones and made them even more glacial, using her icy synths to create sharp but soothing pieces that felt as long as fifty minutes in only five. Radigue herself has disputed “drone” as a genre construct, insisting that her work is defined by what moves and trembles between the stillness -- somehow, though, Davachi manages to marry a busy ambient music with complete and utter static.
‘Dominions’, with its lovely and informatively blurred landscape artwork, sees her continue to prepare pieces for highly vintage, old-school synthesizers, the kind that screech but do so with a pleasant mundanity -- while basically bubbling and never boiling, these pieces sound nearly violent but never deliver on it. Any climax is wrought of minute layering decisions, as on “Burgundy”, whose glitching synth sounds start to cover one another like a robot choir. “An Orchard” begins on a muted tone that rises incrementally, much like the sharp, ear-shattering works of tape ‘Qualities of Bodies Permanent’ -- Davachi proves, once again, that her forte is mustering a tone, holding a sound in place and letting it live its full life.
There are surprises, here -- “Ordinal” has an almost warm production to it, cosying up to the listener’s headphones and striking a melancholic sort of kosmische as it parts. And then there’s “Soi-Meme Comme La Matin”, the record’s closer, which sounds like no Davachi piece I’ve heard yet -- using her synths and Orchestron, she makes drone like a foghorn and peters in effects that sound like panicked strums. The piece unfolds into something massive, a screeching drone medley full of faux bagpipes and wiry strings worthy of Godspeed. On ‘Dominions’, Davachi makes true on Radigue’s drone conundrum -- she keeps her sounds contained, but also contains sounds within them.
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