- Hazy compositions that feel like sitting in an empty church or watching the embers of a campfire.
- There's an elemental quality to Sarah Davachi's music that sets it apart from similar works. Thus far, her minimalist approach has been largely based on deep exploration of specific instruments. In the past, she's said that her studies at the National Music Centre in Calgary cultivated her desire to have a "dialogue" with various instruments.
Davachi's earlier albums have mainly focused on pulling a range of moods out of only one or two tools, like 2019's Pale Bloom, in which the subtleties of an intimately recorded, unprocessed piano took center stage—or its final track, a 20-minute piece focused on the sonic interplay between two violins. Just last year, Davachi released Cantus, Descant, a sprawling opus informed by her Master's work at Mills College and defined by the ethereal drones and deep resonances of the organ. But Antiphonals, her latest album on her recently minted label Late Music, takes a broader approach.
On Antiphonals, oblique compositions are strung together like one long breath, instruments glacially shifting tone and timbre, subtly distorting the passage of time. Washed in tape hiss and echo, the movements flow in and out of focus like the statues and landscapes of their accompanying videos, creating a quasi-spiritual reverence akin to sitting in an empty church or watching the embers of a campfire.
Davachi recently said that the music on Antiphonals is "as concerned with the vertical experience of texture as it is with the elongation of intervallic progressions across the horizontal realm," an idea most evident on tracks like "First Cadence," which dwells on a muffled horn progression long enough to put the listener in a trance. These longer passages are not static, rather they contain visceral dynamics, like when the harpsichord in "Chorus Scene" hammers down with surprising weight, or when "Abeyant'"s piano expands into warbling ambient drones and sub-bass, transforming into an overwhelming, full-body experience.
Compared to Davachi's previous albums, Antiphonals is almost jarringly varied in its range of instruments. With each passing track the focus changes: mellotron, organ, acoustic guitar and a variety of synths all take turns in the spotlight. It's also a departure in its treatment of space. For example, Cantus, Descant was directly related to Davachi's explorations of specific organs (some dating back to the 15th century) and their relationships to the acoustic spaces in which they are housed. In contrast, Antiphonals' instruments frequently feel distant, divorced entirely from their settings and washed in a blurry haze of effects that obscures and changes their natural timbres.
Paradoxically, this obscuring of context makes Antiphonals feel more immediate. Free from spatial or historical associations, these songs now feel modern and ancient at once. The album's undulating textures can distort familiar surroundings and plunge the listener into heady contemplation. It's a defining work for Davachi that once again demonstrates her uncanny ability to draw new and arresting shapes and feelings from familiar materials.
01. Chorus Scene
03. First Cadence
04. Gradual Of Image
05. Border Of Mind
07. Rushes Recede
08. Doubled Flutes