Sarah Davachi – All My Circles Run (2017)
For the past few years, the Montreal based composer Sarah Davachi has been issuing sonic ripples into the world – quietly emerging as one of the most interesting voices in contemporary electroacoustic composition. Following a string of releases largely built around modular synthesis, within All My Circles Run, her second full length release with Students of Decay, Davachi has radically expanded her field – composing a series of free standing works, each dedicated to a specific pallet of sound – strings, voice, organ, and piano.
Though they should be approached entirely on their own terms, both All My Circles Run and Davachi benefit from context. It shouldn’t be the case, but it doesn’t take much to notice that the worlds of avant-garde and experimental composition are largely dominated by men. Even with the towering legacies of figures like Eliane Radigue, Laurie Spiegel, and Pauline Oliveros at the helm, this polarity is even more striking within the discrete fields of electroacoustic process and modular synthesis. It is rare to encounter a woman in these territories – yet almost without fail, it is the feminine voice which towers over the rest.
Like Radigue, Spiegel, Oliveros, and more recently composers like Olivia Block, Félicia Atkinson, and Ashley Bellouin – whose LP Ballads was arguably my favorite release of 2016, Davachi’s voice offers counterpoint and stark reminder of how macho the world of electronic music can be, and what is missing when we only hear voices belonging to men. In her hands, untapped worlds of sonic sensitivity open, something she now extends into more explicitly acoustic fields.
All My Circles Run is both surprising, and entirely makes sense. It’s the mark of a good composer to move beyond the comfort provided by one’s instrument of choice. Oliveros did this over the course of her career, and Radigue more recently, as has Sarah Hennies – among the most talented composers of her generation. Davachi’s efforts have long centered around ambience and duration – the intricacies and depth found within drone. Moving into a more expanded pallet of sound, this is equally the case with All My Circles Run, and album which, by shaking loose the signifiers and localities tied to specific instrumentation, offers crucial insights into Davachi’s practice, as well as the larger field within which she works.
Within the sonic diversity of All My Circles Run, there is a surprising amount of cohesiveness – internally, as well as outwardly toward the lager body of Davachi’s work. She has opened a window – bringing fresh air, without tearing down the house she’s built over a number of years. Across each composition, rippling ambiences unfold – the rewards of repetition, constraint, and duration – locked in conversation with the next, while stretching further afield into the distinct possibilities activated by discrete pallets of sound. Though the album is not entirely free of electronic process, somewhat surprisingly, its greatest successes (and most engaging links to Davachi’s previous efforts) are found within the tracks where it falls away – For Strings, Chanter, and For Organ, works of elegant simplicity, escalating to poetic heights.
All My Circles Run is one of my favorite new releases to emerge this year. A brilliant work of elegant restraint by one of the most promising your composers working today. You can pick it from Students of Decay in North America, from SoundOhm in Europe, or at your local record shop, and check out some samples below.