Album of the Week - Sarah Davachi - Cantus, Descant
It took Sarah Davachi, the prolific composer and musicologist, three years and six locations across four countries to create her masterpiece. Cantus, Descant is an 81-minute exploration of organ-based minimalist drone. While she was able to record electric and reed organs, as well as Mellotron, piano, synthesizer, and strings from her home-base in LA, Davachi traveled to specific pipe organs in faraway places to capture just-right tones and textures, making Cantus, Descant the incredible and distinctive work that it is.
Variation may not be easy to spot in drone, but it can be found when you listen closely, or to a piece enough times. Davachi's Stations I-V are scattered throughout the album, creating a sort of thematic base, but the compositions settled in between these tracks unveil quite a variety of sounds. Still Lives, with its discernible melody, serves as an accessible entry point. Midlands is a centerpiece, dropping off partway through before building up again, begging the question: can it really be drone? Passing Bell is a haunting interlude, the last minutes of Gold Upon White unfold beautifully, and Canyon Walls is the best of two songs featuring Davachi's vocals. Many of the creations seem to glow, and whether this is radiant warmth or spectral emanation, it's up to the listener to decide. Sitting with the album from start to finish is a journey (albeit a slow one), but since the artist has worked to capture sounds from across the world, it is a fantastic experience that only gets better with each listen.