Sarah Davachi - Pale Bloom

  • Davachi's minimal composition grows more challenging, but remains emotionally stirring.
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  • The basis of Sarah Davachi's composition is in extended tones, but her multifaceted work contains great depth. Her pieces are as impressive for their harmonics and acoustics as they are for their emotional resonance. She specializes in pensive sounds, ones that feel cocoon-like in their warmth, but below that accessible surface lies complex musical mechanisms that reveal extensive training. She composes long and short pieces, typically reserving extended compositions for the stage, while her recorded works only occasionally top ten minutes in length. I have seen her perform in tiny rooms and vaulted cathedrals, and in both cases the results were stunning. Pale Bloom is Davachi's most intimate work. Its two side-long compositions incorporate some of the expansive qualities of her live performances. These sessions, for example, sound closely mic'd—you can hear the incidental sounds the musicians produce as they interact with their instruments, the way they shift their bodies as they play and the low, warm hiss of the tape. It is easy to imagine the musicians are right in front of you, and that closeness is engrossing. Though the piano has long been an ingredient in Davachi's music (it was her first instrument), it's the foundational element on "Perfumes." On each movement she augments the piano with simple instrumentations, which allow Davachi to approach the piano in different ways. "Perfumes I" establishes a melodic motif that would feel right at home with Philip Corner's glacial takes on Erik Satie, at first completely unadorned. When reversed tape rises between strikes of the keys, like smoke through a church censer, the intensity is heightened. The original melody is transposed to a higher octave, then slowly dies away. "Perfumes II" features vocalist Fausto Dayap Daos, whose multi-tracked, operatic incantations blossom into a swirl of melancholy. It's one of the most climactic moments in Davachi's catalog, even if the resolution still feels ambiguous. The natural resonances of the piano merge with Daos's choral eddies amid complex chord structures, each pushing the other towards greater fervency. On "Perfumes III," sustained, ever-shifting Hammond B3 tones are the bedrock on which she places softly struck piano. The way she is able to develop grand statements out of simple parts is captivating. "If It Pleased Me To Appear To You Wrapped In This Drapery," the composition for violin, viola da gamba and reed organ, makes a case for dissonance as an essential component of beauty. The strings begin the piece with the hesitancy of an anxious public speaker, each holding a single note for up to ten seconds with long passages of silence in between. Davachi's organ appears after several minutes, imitating the long pulses of sound from the strings. It builds to a point where one might expect a triumphant conclusion, but Davachi instead pushes headlong into discomfort. It feels nonetheless like an expression of elegance and enchantment. Pale Bloom is not easy listening. It requires time and patience to parse Davachi's complex compositional narratives, especially on "If It Pleased Me To Appear To You Wrapped In This Drapery." But once you ease into her unique sonic environments, Pale Bloom, like all of Davachi's work, has a transportive, mystical quality. It could be so easy for the composer to recede into the endless abyss of staid ambient music, but this album proves that she has little interest in doing so. The more she continues to challenge herself and her audience, the more rewarding her work becomes.
  • Tracklist
      01. Perfumes I 02. Perfumes II 03. Perfumes III 04. If It Pleased Me To Appear To You Wrapped In This Drapery