Music

'Pale Bloom' Is an Assertion of Sarah Davachi's Stature as a Composer

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Sarah Davachi asserts herself as a composer rather than a mere ambient artist on these four ghostly tracks that comprise Pale Bloom.

Pale Bloom
Sarah Davachi

Superior Viaduct

31 May 2019

Much of Sarah Davachi's music could be called "ambient", but that's a nebulous term even some of its OGs, like Harold Budd, despise. Ambient is less a genre than a set of traits developed through convergent evolution. An artist who came out of the conservatory, an artist raised on dance clubs and chill-out rooms, and a reformed punk could all feasibly channel their influences into near-identical, droning, beat-free music if they stumble across the right mindset. Though Davachi shares more DNA with drone masters like Phill Niblock and Éliane Radigue than the Enos and Budds of the world, it didn't seem too much of a disservice to slap the term on her music. Pale Bloom, which tells us exactly where Davachi stands. Though it sounds great swirling around your head like leaves in a gust of wind, Pale Bloom is composer's music, precise and formidable.

The piano-centric record consists of four tracks: three "Perfumes" and the drone piece "If It Pleased Me to Appear to You Wrapped in This Drapery", which matches the length of the other three tracks by itself. This is not the kind of album where every piece is part of the whole; its four songs are islands in themselves, each showcasing something Davachi can do. "Perfumes 1" is all spidery piano melodies that resolve in odd and unexpected ways, her playing always returning to a portentous half-note plod on a single key. Halfway through, the back-masked ghost of the piece joins her unadorned instrument, and the two incarnations of the music—one corporeal, one weightless and otherworldly—sing an eerie duet together.

"Perfumes 2" is based on the same repeated single note as its predecessor. The difference is this time around, the voice of singer Fausto Dayap Daos appears, androgynous and ghostly, hovering at the margins of the piece. As on "Perfumes 1", the melody is doubled by more distant, processed layers of voice until we seem to be hearing a small choir, or perhaps one sad song echoing endlessly in space. At the dead center of the mix sits the piano, like the vessel from which these spirits spring.

"Perfumes 3" is dense and misty, all organ chords and light piano pinpricks. It's the shortest of the "Perfumes" tracks, and it feels like a breather before what comes next: the 21-minute "Drapery", which seems to be played on some type of bellows instrument. Davachi cites the soundtrack to Tarkovsky's Solaris as an inspiration for Pale Bloom, but "Drapery" more closely resembles the ancient pagan magic of the Third Ear Band's soundtrack to Roman Polanski's Macbeth. Davachi's influences from liturgical music, prominent on last year's excellent Gave in Rest, means her work has a way of sounding somehow greater than itself—as if it's conjuring a presence whose size and power dwarfs that of the actual music being played.

Usually, that's enough. The appeal of Pale Bloom, though, is as much in the way the notes move, resolve, and jostle against each other as in how they add up to a listenable whole. Pale Bloom might be alienating to ambient fans who aren't familiar with how classical music works and would prefer appreciation not stand in the way of simple pleasure. It's easy to enjoy, a little harder to lose yourself in. It's above all else an assertion of the Canadian's stature as a composer, a purveyor of serious music, rather than a piddly ambient artist. If that means we have to stand back a little more to get a good glimpse of her music, so be it.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.