Sarah Davachi

Two Sisters

The Canadian composer draws on the instrumental chops of Tiffany Ng, Bridget Carey, Anton Lukoszevieze, Mattie Barbier, and others to produce an album with a singular, highly personal vision

In 2014, during the lead up to their US premiere in Tennessee, the experimental supergroup Nazoranai, which consists of Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, and Stephen O’Malley, were the subject of a documentary by filmmakers Sam Stephenson and Ivan Weiss. At one point during the film, O’Malley describes a time when he was stopped from interrupting a Haino “soundcheck” because the Japanese musician was processing all of the oxygen in the venue, inhaling and exhaling for an hour until he was satisfied that all of the particles had passed through his respiratory system. On Two Sisters, it feels as if Sarah Davachi is permeating our pores in a similar fashion.

Her new album is ninety minutes of serene chamber drone bookended by the pitched percussive tolling of the University of Michigan’s fifty-three bell carillon, the third heaviest in the world. Through grainy, muscular and textured pieces, cleaved from violin, viola, cello, and an array of organs, brass, and flutes, she burrows into mournful sounds that are held for so long that they move right through you, sinking into your body by way of flapping eardrums and emanating out through your cells, capillaries, and veins. It’s a molecular transformation. One that could deftly change the feeling of a room via a single resonating note.

Compared to last year’s Antiphonals, which was a solitary effort by Davachi, Two Sisters appears to celebrate escaping the plague years by engaging in much sought after collaboration with a multitude of musicians, engineers, and producers. Often, when the number of participants increases, the artist’s vision can be diluted but, on the evidence of the multiple tracks with double digit minutes, it seems that the focus of the sixteen co-conspirators was acute. It all feels very personal. Like it’s the work of a singular artist. Particularly when we are invited to sit with such slow, heaving tones for stretches that envy those legendary bastions of unbridled sustain, Sunn O))).

Much like the be-robed duo’s output, these are long-form, detailed compositions. The undulations and subtle tonal modulations of which take on similarities to the patient and discreet fluctuations of slow cinema greats such as Béla Tarr and Scott Barley. The former in particular with The Turin Horse, a film that lurches from an engrossing study of the mundane to borderline bludgeoning repetition. The states intermingle and overlap, becoming one and the same.

That’s not to say that this dabbles in tedium. Quite the opposite. It’s enthralling, enrapturing, invigorating, even. If you’ve enjoyed spending time with the lengthy organ pieces of Kali Malone or MMMD’s burring strings, you’ll find kin here. It’s a languid sea of sound that slow-motion shuffle-dances from tranquility to unease and back again. It is something to sit with. To contemplate.

There’s power in dissonance to unsettle and in harmony to please. Sarah Davachi is delving deep into the intervals between these states, to the place where emotion dwells, and is holding us down there until we can feel it roaring through our lungs.

Just don’t forget to breathe.

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