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Sylvan Esso At Make Music Pasadena, Saturday June 7th 2014


Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso took the stage with the claps of an adoring crowd, and it was a love fest till the end. Although not immediately, I realized I had read the name of the North Carolina electro duo a few days before, as the opener for tUnE-yArDs at the Fonda, and I found out afterwards that I had already seen singer Amelia Meath with her folk trio called Mountain Man at Amoeba, a while ago. But she fulfills her folk-electronic side with Sylvan Esso, accompanied by Nick Sanborn, electronic musician and bassist for the band Megafaun, which used to play with Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver. Now you know much more than I did when I saw them on Saturday afternoon at Make Music Pasadena.

Amelia’s quirky moves and awesome slow-break-dance were a total success, she sounded like a cross between Grimes and Bjork, a free spirit with big bright vocals, moving over electro-beats, part folk, part dubstep and electro-pop pulses. It was an original spectacle to see and everyone was having a great time. With her hair tight in a high bun and her ‘No Nukes’ shirt, Amelia was the cutest thing to look at and the girls next to me shouted ‘We came just to see you’ before the set had even started.

The duo were using loops, just like Moses Sumney whom they were following on the same stage, and the result ended to be a bit folk-tribal, indigenous music wrapped around modernity, sounding like a polyphonic amazon forest of sounds mixed over the lo-fi and saturated electronic fuzzy beats produced by Nick Sanborn, who looked both happy and tortured over his board of knobs. The songs were strange, floating in every direction, reclaiming playful freedom rather than structure. In an excess of this freedom, they both decided to remove their shoes, but they put them back very fast because they realized that the stage floor was a real furnace!

The result was quite minimalist, Amelia’s vocals were always front, but everyone was cheering at each of her moves,… I was taking tons of pictures and they came up all great. ‘Wait! Small adjustment’, she said while they had to move their equipment away from the sun, visibly ‘not used to direct sunlight’ and ‘designed for pale people in a basement’ as Nick Sanborn noticed.

‘Play it Right’ sounded like their glorious anthem and people were asking for more songs when they left the stage… but ‘we don’t have any more songs’ responded Amelia visibly as joyous as her spring-like tunes.

Many pictures of their set here.

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