Cat's Cradle Presents
Sylvan Esso, Aby Wolf
506 W. Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC, 27516
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:30 PM
This event is all ages
Dessa's first full-length record, A Badly Broken Code, introduced her to a national audience as a rapper, a singer, and a potent, imaginative lyricist. It earned a binder of superlative reviews from sources like NPR, The Seattle Times, and AM New York. To tour the album, she assembled a small cast of talented instrumentalists to re-interpret the disc for a dynamic live concert. Part rap show and part cabaret, the elegant presentation charmed both audiences and critics—not a negligible feat in hip hop, a genre with its share of purists.
Castor, The Twin captures these new arrangements for ten of Dessa's strongest previously released songs. It also includes "The Beekeeper," the haunting advance single from Dessa's new album due in 2012. Vibraphone, piano, viola, mandolin, and stand-up bass give the record a classical, sometimes orchestral sound for a beautiful and somber effect. The album is immediately identifiable as an intimate recording of live players, with fingers sliding on frets and raw, expressive vocals. The organic instrumentation pushes Dessa's lyrics forward, showcasing the imagery and narratives that define her as a songwriter and an emcee.
The album title references the twin brothers Castor and Pollux of Roman mythology, the pair of bright stars in the Gemini constellation. Pollux was part god, a fighter with metal hands. Castor was the mortal of the pair, but the two were inseparable. After cutting her teeth with her Doomtree cohorts behind the boards, this is Dessa's first record with a wholly organic sound—more tender, human versions of the best material she's released so far.
Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had written a song called “Play It Right” and sung it with her trio Mountain Man. She’d met Nick Sanborn, an electronic producer working under the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small club somewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way. He did the obligatory remix, but he sensed that there was something more important here than a one-time handoff: Of all the songs Sanborn had ever recast, this was the first time he felt he’d added to the raw material without subtracting from it, as though, across the unseen wires of online file exchange, he’d found his new collaborator without even looking.
Meath felt it, too. Schedules aligned. Moves were made. And as 2012 slipped into 2013, Sanborn and Meath reconvened in the unlikely artistic hub of Durham, N.C., a former manufacturing town with cheap rent and good food. Sylvan Esso became a band. A year later, their self-titled debut—a collection of vivid addictions concerning suffering and love, darkness and deliverance—arrives as a necessary pop balm, an album stuffed with songs that don’t suffer the longstanding complications of that term.
These 10 tunes were realized and recorded in Sanborn’s Durham bedroom during the last year, an impressive feat considering the layers of activity and effects that populate them—the dizzyingly crisscrossed harmonies of “Play it Right,” the gorgeously incongruous elements of “Wolf,” the surreptitiously minimalist momentum of “HSKT.” Sanborn’s production is fully modern and wonderfully active. He enlists obliterating dubstep stutters and crisp electropop pulses, hazy electrostatic breezes and epinephrine dancefloor turnarounds.
But this isn’t a workout in production skills or a demonstration of electronic erudition. Instead, his music syncs seamlessly with Meath’s melodies, so that the respective words and beats become a string of ready-to-play singles. The irrepressible “Hey Mami” webs handclaps and harmonies around a flood of bass, a strangely perfect canvas for a tale of dudes hollering at neighborhood tail (and, finally, finding the chivalry not to do so). “Coffee” sparkles and quakes, patiently rising from a muted spell of seasonal affective disorder to a sweet rupture of schoolyard glee. These pop cuts condescend neither to their audience nor their makers. They are sophisticated, but with none of the arrogance that can imply; they are addictive, but with none of the banality that can entail. There is sensuality and sexual depravity, homesickness and wanderlust, nostalgia and immediacy. Sylvan Esso acknowledges that the world is a tumult of complications by giving you a way to sing and dance with those troubles, if not to will them away altogether.
When Meath and Sanborn talk about Sylvan Esso, they come back to context—to how, before this project, they felt that their solo endeavors often felt short of it, as if they were lacking a crucial component. That is no longer a concern. When Meath sings to Sanborn a melody that she’s conjured and captured, he almost instinctively knows how to respond. And when he delivers to her the backbone of a wordless beat, she adds lyrical bait where he’d only seen white space. Sylvan Esso represents the fulfillment of their fortuitous encounter by, once again, linking parts that too often come stripped of their counterparts. Here, motion comes with melody. Words come with ideas. And above all, pop comes back with candor.
Vocalist and songwriter, Aby Wolf, has breathed beauty upon the Twin Cities for years. She has attained broad recognition as the region's premier vocal talent through stirring solo performances and collaborations too numerous to mention. Her profile has been most notably bolstered by performing as Dessa's secret weapon of harmony for the past six years. One listen to her new album, "Wolf Lords," will show anything but a predeliction for hip hop. She instead finds ample space for her enlightened vocal-pop moves to radiate inside the patient productions of beat mastermind, Grant Cutler (formerly of Lookbook). With textures that range from spare and atmospheric to stomping electro-pop triumphs, "Wolf Lords" astounds with steely personal lyrics delivered with scads of vocal flourish. 2013 will see the entire world considering Wolf a top-flight singing diva, no longer resigned to being the darling of only Minneapolis and St. Paul.
$14.00 - $16.00
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