CLARA-NOVA (Sydney Wayser)

CLARA-NOVA (Sydney Wayser)

Along the sonic tidal flats that Sydney Wayser built in her mind for her latest album, it is always sunny and 75 degrees. Clouds crown the majesty of the mountains, and the beaches are the stuff of postcards; the sand grain sifted to a perfect warmth, the water always calm. That this place is ostensibly fictional is no barrier to getting there, thanks to Wayser's third record, the gorgeous and varied "Bell Choir Coast." It is an atlas, a map past difficult years and emotional terrain, to a place of self-understanding and agency.

The road that brought Wayser to "Bell Choir Coast" started two years ago; Wayser found herself in a gorgeous studio with a talented producer, in the midst of a New York winter that made the Los Angeles-bred Wayser completely miserable. "I was working on a record for a while and it wasn't clicking. After all the work I had put in I was left feeling drained. I felt like I needed to take a minute for myself and create the concept behind the record." With the problem of the New York winter proving unavoidable, Wayser decided that if she couldn't go elsewhere, she'd bring other lands to her. Drawing on all of her influences, from summers the French-American Wayser spent in France to painters and other artists, Wayser began to give her new territory shape and shade. "'Bell Choir Coast' is about a fictional land that I made up, because I couldn't leave New York and I had to make my record. So I made up a new world in my head that was everything I wanted." In addition to constructing the land, she also created its ideal denizen, Clara-Nova, a distillation of all the qualities Wayser most wished to possess. "She's the newer version of myself. She's a hybrid between Athena, Joan of Arc and Aphrodite. She's a power woman, but still really feminine."

Wayser set to work recording the topography of "Bell Choir Coast"; after scrapping the entirety of the initial recording process, Wayser set to work chronicling her journey. ""It made me stop, hole up in my apartment, focus on what I wanted, and figure out how to create it." When Wayser was ready to start recording again, she decided to use the home recording studio of Dan Molad, a friend who lives in Ditmas Park who would ultimately become the album's producer. "I was there every day for three months," Wayser says happily. "It was close to the heart, it was organic, it felt natural." After ever-more elaborate scenarios and artists becoming involved and the painful realization that it wasn't working, the return to basics was a salve for Wayser. "Recording the record was healing for me; like 'I can do this. I can live in New York. Winter is coming again, but I have a different look at it completely, because I've made it lighter. The process had frontier-settling qualities -- Wayser called upon friends to help out when needed, a visiting friend would not only make lunch but also sing back-up.

If you listen closely to "Bell Choir Coast," you can hear fractures being set properly, wounds stitched and sutured. Wayser's voice is warm and close throughout, the effect of which is a leaning near, an intimacy shared. Album mission statement "Dream It Up" is a glitching, swift-paced explanation of the place Wayser created. Her voice rings clear and melodic across the song, despite the distortion it's ringed in. "It's an ode to the record. I feel like when people understand the concept more, the song is more powerful." "Wolf Eyes" is a character study of Clara-Nova, a rallying cry for Wayser to get in touch with her assertive side, set to honky-tonk piano and racing drums. Pace-changer "Come Aboard" is a languid invitation, all balmy rhythms and Wayser's warm vocals entreating the listener to escape the elements aboard a boat set on a course for Bell Choir Coast.

Sydney Wayser set about to make an album, and in the end she cleared a path to a world, and in the process she found her tribe and her sound. Sometimes the prettiest of things can be born of the hardest places. "When we started this I felt very heavy. Going into the studio and recording something that was light and fun and was the place I wanted, it helped solidify in my head what I wanted. At the end of the process, that enabled me to be where I wanted."

Jessalyn Brooks

Alex Lilly (from Touche)

Whether it's her quasi-political dark dance band, Touché, or tuxedo-with-no-pants class act, Obi Best, there's a musical DNA that goes where Alex Lilly goes. Originally moving to Los Angeles with film score aspirations, Lilly soon segued into creating and performing with her own band, Obi Best, which LA Weekly called "about as original as they come," as well as singing with celebrated jazz-pop duo The Bird and the Bee.

Since releasing two records earlier this year, one with Vanguard's The Living Sisters and her debut full-length with Touché, Lilly has been busy reinventing the torch song. These are experimental pop puzzles where emotion comes delivered without the sap and musically adventurous moments arrive without the math.

Her November 17th show at the Bootleg Theater will be a debut of all new material joined by a cast of sharp players: Mike Green on drums, Wendy Wang on bass, Micah Keren-Zvi on guitar, Sasha Smith on keys, Zachary Chase and Damon Zick on saxophones.

Free - Sundays in November



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