The Seshen Return Feeling Kind of 'Cyan'

Photo: Brittany Powers / Courtesy of the Syn

San Francisco alt-R&B/electropop group, the Seshen tie musical and emotional threads together beautifully on Cyan.

The Seshen

Tru Thoughts

28 February 2020

Cyan, the new album by San Francisco's the Seshen ties many threads together. A contemporary soul sound with an indie-pop feel. Singer/songwriter sincerity with imaginative electropop flourishes. Dancefloor-friendly rhythms with subtle touches that are a little new wave and a little progressive rock. The common bonds to all of this are the versatile vocals and questioning lyrics of vocalist Lalin St. Juste.

St. Juste sounds very much like herself throughout Cyan – "unapologetically black, unapologetically queer, unapologetically a woman", according to the album's press release. Along the way, her vocals might momentarily call to mind everyone from Erykah Badu to Twin Peaks chanteuse Julee Cruise (the latter on the "I can hear the mountains falling" line in "Faster Than Before"). The band is equally eclectic, with the electronics of keyboard/synth player Mahesh Rao and sequencer Kumar Butler meshing well with the sounds of drummer Chris Thalmann, producer-bassist Akiyoshi Ehara, and percussionist Mirza Kopelman. The resulting electronic/organic mix works well, providing a continuously intriguing backdrop for St. Juste's vocals.

There are probably countless influences to be detected throughout Cyan, depending on a listener's own set of reference points. For example, "Head to Head" feels like a vintage Donna Summer song, but with a synth solo that would sound comfortable on a mid-1980s Rush album. At the same time, though the Seshen sound fully 21st century, sort of in the same ballpark with their contemporaries in the Los Angeles band, the Internet. There are differences, of course – The Internet features guitar and a more overt hip-hop influence than the Seshen – but the bands' differences complement each other nicely.

Early on Cyan, St. Juste's lyrics make several allusions to restlessness and sleep, particularly on "4AM", "Still Dreaming", and "Close Your Eyes", in which St. Juste wonders if we "can leave a moment to chance", even as we are struggling to get our acts together.

Everything falls together on "Dive", the 10th of the album's 12 tracks. Over an addictive beat and music that becomes ever more complex as the song progresses, St. Juste seems to fully awaken from the restless sleep she described in the earlier tracks. "Maybe it's time, maybe the moment's ripe to open my eyes, I want some light," she sings. An expression of self-doubt ensues. "Don't know if I can open the door / Don't know if I can open up my eyes / Don't know if I can open up my mind, I don't know." That is followed by a trippy passage culminating in a backward vocal bit that sounds a bit like the Man from Another Place (another Twin Peaks moment!) before the music momentarily stops and St. Juste murmurs "OK".

From there, the music and some wordless vocals carry the song out, because nothing else needs to be said, but the whole album feels like it hinges on that "OK". It's the moment when St. Juste embraces the chaos – musical and otherwise – swirling around her and quietly but confidently declares that she can deal with it. That simple "OK" might have been improvised or might have been deliberate, but either way, it feels like the center of emotional gravity on Cyan.

Following "Dive", the Seshen brings Cyan to a close with two evocative ballads, "Stones" and "Wander", which seem to document the changes that resulted from waking up and facing down doubt in the deep "Dive". "Wander", at just over two minutes long, brings Cyan to a mysterious, though oddly fitting conclusion, as St. Juste determines that she'll be content to wander even if she's not entirely certain what everything means. Perhaps she will share her conclusions on the next album by the Seshen.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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