Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hopscotch Highlight: Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso (Durham, NC) performs on Thursday, Sept. 5
at 10:00 at Memorial Auditorium
We're creeping awfully close to the most wonderful time of the year for fans of North Carolina's rich music scene. This year's Hopscotch boasts the most impressive lineup yet, a feat that the festival continues to pull off with each passing year. September is drawing near and that means that for three full days downtown Raleigh will be home to one of the most brilliantly orchestrated music marathons of the year. When the lineup was released I went through and did my annual rundown of bands on the bill, taking note of the new locals that I was unfamiliar with. Last year this method allowed me to find one of my favorite bands of the year with Jenny Besetzt and surely enough this year produced the same results.

When I stumbled upon Sylvan Esso the band had yet to release any music, but when I saw that the group was comprised of Nick Sanborn of Megafaun collaborating with Amelia Randall Meath of Mountain Man I knew that this would be a truly special project. But I had no idea that the duo would produce songs that left me absolutely floored at their seemingly effortless take on a truly innovative sound. Sylvan Esso brilliantly blends skittering, pulsating beats with twee-folk inspired melodies to create a unique blend of mesmerizing timbres.

When it came time to plan out my first Hopscotch Highlight it was a no-brainer, it had to be Sylvan Esso. The duo coincidentally enough made their live debut at last year's Hopscotch during Sanborn's Made of Oaks set at The Pour House. Made of Oaks is Sanborn's "beautifully sad instrumental hip-hop" project whose sound serves as the aural foundation for Sylvan Esso's groundbreaking tracks.

I recently spoke with Amelia about the formation of the band and what's to come from this incredibly promising act. Though the two have only known each other for three years, they've got an undeniable musical chemistry that just makes perfect sense. "Nick likes to say that we contextualize each other," Amelia claims. "Our sounds are both kind of weird but when you put them together they explain each other so well. It constantly shocks me, it makes me really excited."

The duo released their first 12" single on Trekky Records last month and although they've only got two songs officially released the group is set to open for Volcano Choir (Justin Vernon of Bon Iver alongside Hopscotch alumni Collections of Colonies of Bees) for their first full U.S. tour. One of the most startling facts about the band those is that these two fantastic songs, "Hey Mami" and "Play It Right" are actually the first two songs the two worked on together. If that's not going hard out of the gate then I don't know what is.

"The minute we had those two tracks we recorded them and were like 'oh man we need more'" Amelia says. So the two hooked up with Martin Anderson and Will Hackney at Trekky Records to get their music out "as fast as possible and with people that we were comfortable with." So with their first two tracks out in the public, the two have begun working on new material that treads upon new and unfamiliar territory.

"I'm curious to see once we have a full album what the vibe is," Amelia stated. "At the moment each new song we write discovers a new little sect of Sylvan Esso that we haven't discovered yet. All of our songs kind of hold hands but they don't all go in the same drawer if you know what I mean."

But the unfamiliar is good, especially when you're an act as unconventional as Sylvan Esso. On paper they're two established musicians from well known folk acts that have collaborated on a project that seamlessly combines elements of hip-hop, electronic, folk and pop into one densely packed experience filled with wonder and excitement.

Sylvan Esso performs on Thursday, September 5 @ 10:00 pm at Memorial Auditorium.
Sylvan Esso Recommends: The Rosebuds Play Sade's Love Deluxe @ 11:30 at Memorial Auditorium on Thursday

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