Track These Down – Sarah Davachi and Special Costello

April 25, 2017 in features


Sarah Davachi – All My Circles Run (Students of Decay)

Since 2013, electroacoustic sound-sculptor Sarah Davachi has amassed a dense and impressive discography. All My Circles Run is considered the fourth full-length release from the Calgary-born, Vancouver-based composer but it joins several EPs and limited edition cassettes in a steady stream of drone poems drifting outwards like a thick ice floe.

While Davachi’s previous titles have employed an arsenal of vintage synthesizers with orchestral instruments and her own voice, All My Circles Run sidesteps the electronics entirely. Each song on this album is built from isolated sources, from the eerie saws of “For Strings” to the wordless evocations of “For Voice” to the endless Éliane Radigue-like tone worship of “For Organ.” These recordings are stretched out, abstracted, and smoothly blended into deeply resonant pillars of sound.

Late last year, Davachi provided some behind the scenes info to The Out Door: “Most of the material for this album was recorded on one intensely rainy day at the wonderful Hotel2Tango studio in Montréal. It also rained the day I recorded the vocals at my home in Vancouver a few weeks prior, and, as I recall, on the day I attempted to rerecord the edited material from my living room monitors. A series of piano overdubs were recorded on a very grey, snowy, and generally bleak winter’s day in Calgary. All this is to say that there is a lot of cold weather built into this record.”

The final moments of closer “For Piano” introduce softly pressed fingers on keys before stripping away the song’s buzzing drone and entering a passage of stunningly beautiful starkness. Here, contrasting its environmental origins, All My Circles Run reveals the human warmth at its core.

Sarah Davachi’s All My Circles Run is available from Students of Decay. 

Special Costello – Fever Dream/Stoner Nights 2: Reefer Sadness (Self-Released)

Halifax’s Jeremy Costello is a patron saint of home-recorded experimental pop for stoners and loaners seeking strange beauty. Since the earliest Special Costello releases made widely available in 2012, his sonorous voice has guided meditations on life, love, mental health, and other topics balancing the intimately personal with the fiercely political. Shunning traditional song structures, Costello’s lyrics are coloured in with expressionistic and often improvised instrumentation. Whether jamming solo or joined by regular collaborators lifting his songs to a spiritual avant-rock plane, he has crafted a constantly shifting yet singularly heartrending sound.

“Merry Stoner Christmas to all who celebrate!” Costello quipped in a Facebook post while releasing two new albums on 4/20. The first, Fever Dream, documents a group of older songs recorded with Dave Burns (Surveillance, Rabies) and Nick Dourado (BUDI, Century Egg, Eddy, xxvii, etc.). Costello describes its lyrical themes as “love and fragility, depression, anti-capitalist [and] anti-establishment slogans that have maintained throughout my aging as a songwriter.”

Propulsive opener “In Yer Car” is a staple of recent live performances with a crooning refrain that could sum up Costello’s entire catalogue: “When I’m home staying up just as late as I can/I’ve tried to keep a steady hold on myself/But I lose a bit more every time.” Later, the crushing riffs and downcast vocal delivery of “Vernal Equinox” are hammered into the listeners’ skull with the mesmerizing power of The Microphones. Dourado echoes this melody with saxophone blares while Burns’ scorching guitar solo sends it to the land of Dinosaur Jr. On 10-minute standout “Cops”, the trio soars into a space-rock stratosphere while samples of Cornel West’s Democracy Now interview on the topic of “spiritual blackout” and an ironically pitch-shifted Justin Trudeau (“sunny ways, my friends”) keep it grounded in the present world.

Stoner Nights 2: Reefer Sadness is a spiritual sequel to the 2013 release compiling various group recordings. Cheekily pitched as his “longest album yet”, this primarily solo collection finds Costello drifting into the cosmos with extended synth-based explorations. He describes it as the latest entry in an “outtakes and oddities series but also an attitude that I take on when I’m getting things published. Stoner nights don’t demand perfection from us, they only want to get lost in the atmosphere.”

On Reefer Sadness, the heavier sound of Fever Dream is replaced with shimmering synths, shuddering drum machines, and spidery guitars that freeze time like Eric Chenaux in anti-gravity. With various treatments, Costello’s voice becomes just one of many textural elements in a sonic bridge between Brian Eno’s pop records, Frank Ocean’s Endless, and the early ’80s minimal wave of Solid Space. He may identify himself as “agoraphobic,” yet Special Costello’s bedroom spaceship symphonies are imbued with a kind-hearted openness welcoming anyone inside.

Special Costello’s Fever Dream and Stoner Nights 2: Reefer Sadness are available on Bandcamp.

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By Jesse Locke

Jesse Locke is a writer, editor, and musician based in Toronto. He is the author of Heavy Metalloid Music: The Story of Simply Saucer, published in 2016 by Eternal Cavalier Press. Jesse currently plays drums for Century Palm, Tough Age, Chandra, and Simply Saucer.

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