- Delicate, Satie-inspired synth compositions from Portland.
- In the mid-'00s, Mary Sutton, AKA Saloli, was studying at New England Conservatory, where she was composing notated music for instrumentalists. At some point, the Oregon resident began to explore conceptual realms, from field recordings to sound installations, one of which was built using stethoscopes. Since then, Sutton has played in the electro pop duo Cat Mummies At The Louvre and has written a canon for violin, viola, clarinet and bass clarinet with marimba ostinato for Portland's TBA Festival. Inspired by the woodlands around the city, she said the TBA project turned out "strangely"—she ended up performing the piece under a highway underpass. In contrast, the Common Ground Wellness Center, a "clothing-optional spa," seemed the perfect place for her to premiere the music on her debut album, The Deep End. Sutton said she wanted to create something "people sitting motionless and naked in hot bubbly water would want to hear."
But the setting could be almost too perfect: the notion of New Age-inspired synth music as an aural bubblebath is as clichéd as whale song and scented candles. But Sutton wriggles free of ambient tropes as easily as she does her classical training. That said, she credits Erik Satie as an influence here, and his cyclical motifs are most apparent in "Ice World"'s fragile refrain. The composer's spiritual descendant Brian Eno can be heard in "Lullaby"'s mellifluous echoes and harmonic richness.
Describing her approach to writing for synth, Sutton said she was fascinated by the way that "every time you sit down at it you can discover a new sound or alter an old sound to keep it fresh," whereas "the piano always sounds more or less as it did before." You can sense that delight in the instrument's possibilities in the nimble keys across "Nocturne," or in "Reverie"'s gently reverberating cascade of notes.
Though composed instead of improvised, the music seems to progress intuitively. The LP's sense of drift is often in keeping with its aquatic themes. The bright melodies of "Revolver" could be sunlight dappling the water's surface as fuzzier tones bubble below. "Barcarolle" rocks as gently as the gondolas that inspired the title. Sutton has produced remarkably evocative music from a stripped-back set-up, making The Deep End a revitalising listen wherever you experience it.
04. Hey Ahh
05. Ice World