Sarah Davachi is a composer and performer who, like fellow keyboardists Ana Roxanne or Anna Von Hausswollf, relentlessly navigates the tidal intersections between electronic and drone music. As an artist she has serious collaborative credentials, having worked with such luminaries as Basinski, Grouper, Donald Buchla and Loren Connors, but since 2018 Davachi has focused more vividly on her own sonic maps and paths. Over the last two years the Canadian musician has carefully nurtured an expanding series of releases on her own Late Music label, continually building creative momentum as she delves even deeper into the ambient and the atmospheric.
Now, following her revered double album ‘Cantus, Descant’ in 2020, comes a new record ‘Antiphonals’ available via Late music from 10th September. Promising a close connection to the layered sound blends of 2018’s ‘Let The Night Come On Bells End The Day’, Davachi has returned to her trusted instrumental companions, the Mellotron, electric organ, piano and synthesiser, to further unravel the melodic and harmonic in her own unique way. What emerges is a record of mature, refined completeness, eight meticulously interwoven pieces that glow with a human touch.
At the core of ‘Antiphonals’, Davachi continues to pursue the endless possibilities and elusive textures of drone music. ‘Magdalena’ begins its ten minute journey with a gradually extending mournful note, calling like an Alpine horn in a cross peak conversation. As layers of resonance carefully increase with the delicate addition of string and organ sounds, subtle harmonies emerge and the gentlest of wave forms lap around the deepening soundscape. ‘First Cadence’ develops its own aura of tranquillity with more cathedral tones and hints of hymnal melodies while ‘Border of Mind’ shifts from the sonorous groan of cello sounds, through swathes of reverberation before a final slow mesmeric descent to fanfare of fragile organ chords.
What these compositions show, as well as an intuitive feel for music that can reveal itself in slow motion, is Davachi’s imaginative use of the sound palette available from her Mellotron/organ/tape delay set up. She also refuses to be restricted by the confines of minimalism or repetition and on ‘Antiphonals’ introduces instrumentation often associated with latter day prog-folk territory. The album’s opening sketch, the baroque tinged ‘Chorus Scene’, bathes tense harpsichord motifs in soothing synthesised harmonics to make for a stately introduction. Elsewhere ‘Gradual Image’ mingles plaintive layers of acoustic guitar picking with an almost conventional pipe organ melody, to make for a moment of quirky suspension.
The key thing with these tracks is that they don’t stand out as interludes or interruptions but are very much part of ‘Antiphonals’ overall flow, adding to the record’s personality and presence. Such subtle blending gets fully uncorked on the wonderful ‘Abeyant’. Framed by an isolated minimal piano that seems to be playing somewhere in the distance then filled with a swelling bass anchored organ chord, it’s a track that highlights the emotional intent of this release.
2021 has been a landmark year for music with that electronic/experimental tag. Releases by the likes of Laurine Frost or Perila have revealed a more human dimension to this often mysterious, obscure world and Sarah Davachi’s ‘Antiphonals’ offers that same warm connection. It’s a record that stands out, a beacon that should be on everyone’s horizon.