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.
But this isn’t a workout in production skills or a demonstration of electronic erudition. Instead, his music syncs with Meath’s melodies, so that the words and beats become a string of ready-to-play singles. “Hey Mami” webs handclaps and harmonies around a flood of bass, a strangely perfect canvas for a tale of dudes hollering at neighborhood tail. “Coffee” 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. 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’ Tracklisting:
5/8 – New York, NY – The Westway (Neon Gold/Governors Ball POPSHOP party)
5/9 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
5/12 – London, UK – Village Underground #
5/14 – Berlin, DE – Berghain #
5/15 – Hamburg, DE – Nochtspeicher #
5/16 – Brussels, BE – La Botanique (Les Nuits After Party)
5/18 – Amsterdam, NL – Bitterzoet #
5/19 – Paris, FR – Cafe de La Danse #
5/26 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House #
5/27 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge #
5/28 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre #
5/30 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater #
5/31 – New Orleans, LA – Republic #
6/1 – Houston, TX – Free Press Summer Festival
6/3 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom #
6/5 – Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre #
6/6 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore #
6/13 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club #
6/15 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer #
6/16 – Boston, MA – Royale Boston #
6/18 Montreal, QC – La Tulipe #
6/22- New York, NY – Webster Hall #
6/23 – New York, NY – Webster Hall #
# w/ tUnE-yArDs