Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

Sylvan EssoSylvan Esso are vocalist Amelia Randall Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. Chance meetings and performances together with their respective outfits led to a collaboration that’s blossomed into a romance of Meath’s velvet vocals and Sanborn’s minimalist production. With their self-titled debut only around the corner, the world can finally experience the culmination of their unexpected, but incredibly fruitful relationship.

Beginning with the ambient sound of cars passing Sanborn’s bedroom, “Hey Mami” perfectly introduces the listener to the world of Sylvan Esso. It’s a world where less is more; where being patient and letting everything coalesce at its own pace is both ultimately rewarding and remarkably refreshing. Meath’s looped vocals swirl around the mix in amongst handclaps, the rhythm of her voice entrancing. The lack of any real instrumentation isn’t even apparent until Sanborn’s perfectly timed pulsing synth gives the song new life; not that it was ever flagging. It’s perhaps one of the most well realised openers for an album; those three-minutes a blueprint for everything this band has to offer, and yet it gives nothing away for what’s left in store.

From there on in, the album takes the listener gently by the hand, the dulcet tones of “Hey Mami” acting as a catalyst to the somnambulant journey that is to follow. There’s a fine line between hearing the album on a conscious level and a subconscious one; moments when the music is all-encompassing and all other noise is non-existent give way to moments when the music simply exists and becomes a part of the room. It’s this minimalism and subtlety that gives the album such personality; every minor change to the dynamics and instrumentation is so explicit and apparent that the experience is unlike any other. Simple changes like the switch to major chords in the final chorus of “Coffee” give the song an all-new identity, an aural form of closure that was so desperately needed despite the listener ever realising closure was needed. The album is awash with these delicate alterations; the attention to detail is so scrupulous that it’ll take several listens before some of those changes reveal themselves.

As “Play It Right” leads into album closer “Come Down”, the sense of intimacy is heightened. Amelia’s vocals layer on top of each other, the quietest of drones seeping from Sanborn’s guitar, everything drenched in the natural reverb of the house. Her voice sounds so close you’d be forgiven for thinking her breath was causing the hair on your neck to flicker. It opens the door to what we can hope to hear from Sylvan Esso in the future and also reminds us that it’s not all that different to the nine songs that preceded it.

After those 40-minutes have passed, there is this sense that Amelia and Nick share an almost telepathic understanding, resulting in an album that is meticulously crafted, yet so easily enjoyed. Go and get it; it’s by far and away one of the most impressive releases this year.

Release: 2nd June 2014, Partisan Records


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