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Sarah Davachi

Sarah Davachi (b. 1987, Calgary, Canada) holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Calgary, and a master's degree in electronic music and recording media from Mills College in Oakland, California. As a composer of electronic and electroacoustic music, Davachi's compositional projects are primarily concerned with disclosing the antiquated instruments and forgotten sonics of a bygone era in analog synthesis, with concurrent treatment of acoustic sources – particularly organ, piano, strings, and woodwinds – often involving de-familiarization through processing. Her work considers the experience of enveloped sonic dwelling, utilizing extended durations, psychoacoustic manipulations, and simple harmonic structures that emphasize variations in overtone complexity and natural phasing patterns.


Featured releases

On her captivating 4th solo album, Montreal’s Sarah Davachi - highly regarded for her majestic, coruscating synth compositions  - divides her attentions equally between a purely instrumental palette of strings, piano, voice and organ with an enveloping, often ecstatic and mystic effect recalling Áine O’Dwyer’s recent Locusts wonder as much as Ellen Fullman’s works for long stringed instruments. We're completely blown away by it. Rather than mining ancient synth hardware for its unique tones, in All My Circles Run, Davachi applies the same exploratory approach to acoustic instruments with glacially tense results that quietly light up the liminal borderland between the spheres of electronic and acoustic practice when contrasted with her previous recordings. As the title suggests, you can consider these new pieces as discrete strands in a sort of diffracted spectral venn diagram of her sound. The results will ring true with anyone who has heard her previous releases, while also offering another perspective on her tonal ontology, pin-pointing her acute feel for pealing, plangent overtones in For Strings, which opens out with a raw beauty and scale reaching heights vaguely reminiscent of Áine O’Dwyer’s recent LPs, or by Charlemagne Palestine for that matter, whereas For Voice is a deeply sober, sombre piece again precisely focussed on those fluttering points where consonance/dissonance are near indistinguishable. The solo piano piece, Chanter follows that slope into lower tones, slowing the heart rate to the point where we can almost perceive the notes as gauzy, keening and candle-flickering blurs, before her sound starts to coalesce in lustrous, upward facing drone in For Organ, burning with a quiet optimism which is sublimated into the exceptional parting passage of For Piano, where the pensile strings, gently cascading keys, and floating organ ebb and flow with a magic intensity redolent of an imagined, smudged meditation by Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guèbru and Pauline Oliveros. --- Late Music, 2021

Sarah Davachi – All My Circles Run

This boxset compiles some of the inter-related releases that Sarah Davachi’s Late Music label put out in 2020 of her own solo work. Including the first album featuring her own vocals (Cantus, Descant), the two disc live set (Figures In Open Air) and an extended EP of sketches for these releases.  Cantus, Descant largely consists of droning organs which slowly morph over the course of several minutes. Occasionally these drones etherise into something unsettling - the ‘Passing Bell’ interlude being the most obvious example - but by and large this is a positive-sounding record. Sometimes Davachi’s tones are curious, sometimes uplifting, sometimes almost joyous, but whatever mode she’s operating in the general mood of Cantus, Descant is one of upbeat drift.  One notable evolution of Davachi’s sound here is the use of vocals, an element which hadn’t previously featured in her music. ‘Play The Ghost’, for instance, is an inviting number which plays Davachi’s gentle singing and techniques influence by Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan against woozy organs and languid, cascading melodies. It’s a dreamworld delight, one with an ethereal feel that means it wouldn’t sound out of place in a David Lynch film. Davachi is a very productive artist who has released several albums of keyboard music over the past few years. However, Cantus, Descant is a generous offering even by the standards that Davachi has previously set - this album runs to seventeen tracks and well over an hour in length.  Figures In Open Air is described by Davachi as a ‘complement of sorts’ to her 2020 studio LP Cantus, Descant. As such, it’s no surprise that different versions of several tracks from that album can be heard here - an instrumental take on Cantus, Descant highlight ‘Canyon Walls’, for instance, spins out the etherised dream-pop of the original into almost fifteen minutes of eerie FM drones and pensive woodwind harmonies. Laurus, an extended EP previously only available on cassette is a collection of demos and sketches for these sessions. Taped in the Summer of 2017, these pieces are, in Davachi’s own words, “a more raw and improvisational representation of the composition process [for Cantus, Descant] in its early stages”. --- Late Music, 2021

Sarah Davachi – Cantus Figures Laurus

The new Sarah Davachi record is an 80 minute, 17 track double album meditation on impermanence and endings, framed by minimalistic organ études and careful harmonic layering. On two tracks the artist’s own vocals are also heard for the first time. This is the first release on the artist’s own label, Late Music. Just as we thought Sarah Davachi couldn't tug our heartstrings any harder, she inaugurates her new label Late Music with "Cantus, Descant", a two LP set containing some of the wooziest, most affecting organ music we've heard to date. The entire album is an exploration of the unique, individual character of her instruments as she harnesses the power of various pipe organs in Canada, Europe and the USA as well as the electric organ, Mellotron and a handful of other elements. This gives the tracks an impossibly human feel as subtle tones wind and fall with elegance, and unpredictable grace. It's not even that Davachi is exactly attempting to center her work as anathema to a world fogged by emotionally empty scambient and bone-dry modular drone, but these tracks are so animated that it's hard not to feel awed by what's so often missing. 'The Pelican' is an early highlight, using the Mellotron's unmistakable tape loops to add a layer of Morricone-esque melancholy to the mix. Elsewhere, album centerpiece 'Play The Ghost' drowns echoing vocals in reverb, sounding like distant prog-gaze beamed in from another parallel timeline. "Cantus, Descant" is a special album, whisper soft but pointed and intentional. Sarah Davachi is among the most gifted composers operating right now and this album is a celebration of the old and the new that speaks assuredly to the complex simplicity of tone itself. We're floored. --- Late Music, 2021

Sarah Davachi – Cantus, Descant

'This EP cassette was put together as a footnote to 'Cantus, Descant', a more raw and improvisational representation of the composition process in its early stages. These were actually the very first recordings I gathered when I began working on this record in August of 2017. A week or two before I moved from Canada to LA, I did several recording sessions at Pacific Spirit United Church in Vancouver and Chapelle Saint-Louis in Montréal on two beautiful Casavant organs from 1964 and 1916, respectively. 'Ruminant', from 'Cantus, Descant', comes from the Vancouver sessions and is "thematically" related to the 'Laurus I-III' material here. Nothing from the Montréal sessions actually ended up on the LPs, but I vividly remember recording the 'Accord of Voice I-II' series. I had just returned from six weeks in Europe and went in to do the first set of recordings the very next day at 7 am, before the church opened to the public, and my mind was kind of a mess. 'Accord of Voice I' was the first thing I worked on, it is the seedling of 'Cantus, Descant' even though it didn't make it to the album, and I still perform it for myself sometimes when I'm starting with any particular organ as a way of getting my head in the right place.' -Sarah Davachi --- Featuring the Casavant pipe organs of Pacific Spirit United Church in Vancouver, BC, Canada (ca. 1964) and Chapelle Saint-Louis in Montréal, QC, Canada (ca. 1916) Recorded and performed August 2017 by Sarah Davachi --- Late Music, 2020

Sarah Davachi – Laurus

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