The music of Sarah Davachi seems to be garnering quite a lot of praise in the leftfield music media of late, and if her two latest releases “Vergers” and “All My Circles Run” are anything to go by then the attention is well justified. These two albums come separated by just a few months, but they demonstrate contrasting approaches and concerns, giving different insights into Davachi’s musical practice.
“Vergers” takes the analogue and retro synth for which Davachi is known and points them towards classic ambient drone, a stylistic leaning most evident in opening track ‘gentle so gentle’. A resonating chord is eventually joined by a two-note repeated pattern, shuffling between tension and resolution, from left foot to right foot; this pattern is then picked up by new timbres and transposed to different pitches. This surging, glowing molten rock of a piece contrasts with the spectral, unsettling effects of the next track ‘ghosts and all’, where barely-there tones of indeterminate pitch and a see-saw screeching slightly out of tune creates an uncomfortable darkness. A brittle FM-like chord begins ‘in staying’, only to fade and leave behind a stuttering, pulsating mass.
“All My Circles Run” sees Davachi largely put aside synthesised tones in favour of acoustic instruments, in this case strings, voice, piano, and organ. A long held string note pendulums from one side of the stereo field to the other, joined by gradations of other pitches held in equilibrium by constant movement; reverb-soaked layers of wordless vocals form rich chords, their haunting effect heightened by the sliding between notes; bass underpins a gentle, light-infused shimmer of organ tones until it drops out to leave a shifting, trembling glow; muffled, low-resolution piano switches between unhurried chords and a rapid, babbling brook of notes, surrounded by waves of buzzing strings. In the midst of all this is the track ‘Chanter’, a piece for piano and what sounds like synth, offering perhaps the album’s most adventurous and intriguing moment: notes slip and slide around an implied beat in not-quite-perfect repetitions.
From my point of view there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the form of this music, but when it’s this vividly and engagingly executed that hardly seems to matter. These two albums demonstrate the versatility and depth of Davachi’s talents, and highlight her penchant for wonderfully dense and nuanced harmonies and timbres. This is music that fully engages the senses while remaining conceptually clear and communicative — no wonder it’s finding its way into the hearts and collections of curious listeners worldwide.