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.
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.
2/11 – Los Angeles, CA – Satellite
2/13 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
2/14 – Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
2/15 – Seattle, WA – Barboza
3/11-3/16 – Austin, TX – SXSW