- Sarah Davachi's music probes the character of instruments and the subtleties of the sounds they produce. A pretty single-minded enterprise, you might think, but the results are increasingly diverse. The Los Angeles-based Canadian's last album, All My Circles Run, featured a range of acoustic instruments (she has previously favoured synthesisers). A forthcoming album for Ba Da Bing—which, as Davachi recently told the Wire, involves an ensemble of Montreal musicians and is "more densely orchestrated" than past records—might explore ways of scaling up her sound. In the meantime, this one pares things back to a humbler core. The only player is Davachi, mostly on the Mellotron and electronic organ, and the sound palette is foggy and restrained.
The results highlight the romantic potential in Davachi's ostensibly academic method. The record is an "homage" to her background as a keyboard player, which might explain its creeping nostalgia, expressed in sepia colouring and occasional dog ears of distortion. (An accompanying film from the recently deceased Paul Clipson puts Davachi at one remove from another purveyor of shadowy nostalgia, Grouper.) The album title, meanwhile, might refer to the artist's preference for working at night. There's no doubt that its hushed, meditative compositions are suited to the witching hour. Recital boss Sean McCann nailed the ideal listening situation: "A blanket, a cup of wine, a dim bulb, a wide window."
Not that the album's darkness is exactly comforting. There's something unsettlingly gothic in its dusty, gloomy interiors, spidery melodies and unresolved cadences. "Mordents" is the best evidence, an 11-minute sequence of complementary ideas that pass like scenes in a dream. Opening with stilted baroque lead lines, the track becomes ever more static, eventually pooling into organ chords that glimmer like embers. Each section is gorgeous, even with the undertone of angst.
Elsewhere, tracks like "Garlands" and "At Hand," static and hesitant, don't offer much reassurance. And when firmer resolution does come it's on "Buhrstone," whose firmer piano chords toll like funeral bells. (If you squint there's some Twin Peaks in there.) Only on the closer, "Hours In The Evening," does Davachi sweep away the spider webs. Its 13 minutes of wombing drone-chord, swelling, rippling and reforming near-imperceptibly, are Davachi at her best.
03. At Hand
05. Hours In The Evening