Review: Sarah Davachi – Barons Court

Sarah Davachi - Barons CourtSo often I settle for hearing so little. Perhaps I have grown accustomed to letting sound hit me like an animal stampede; colour blurred by movement, all detail lost to the splay of focal points. I catch everything at a glance, and each sonic object – each tiny morsel of timbre or frequency ornament – vanishes in the time it takes me to reach out and touch it. With Barons Court, the sound stays still for me. I can circulate it, examining the little shadows of overtone that decorate the surface like pimples or smile lines, pressing my palm against each drone to find that it is beating, throbbing, constantly. Even stasis has a pulse.

The names of Phill Niblock and Eliane Radigue accompany the promotional material for the record. This is true enough for I acquaint myself with it. Just as when I listen to Radigue’s “Kyema”, my mind gradually sinks into the surface-level pitches of Barons Court and starts to hear the blood-like circumvention of frequencies occurring just beneath. The harmonic rub between two or more tones (sometimes gentle, biomechanical synthesisers, sometimes acoustic instrumentation such as cello or flute or harmonium) becomes a commotion of spiralling patterns, peeling away from the central note and curling around the edges of the image. Slowly I cease to prioritise fundamental frequencies in my mind’s ear. I cease to hear individual instruments. Sounds dances and intersects itself, splicing into threads and sub-threads of happening, like a slow detonation of free-flying kites that drift further and further apart from eachother.

Yet there’s an underlying melodic will within Davachi’s work which sets her apart. As those water-like high frequencies cascade down the sides of the central drone on “Ruislip”, a traditional folk modality starts to shimmer – ever so faintly – within it; rural and delicately spiritual, like a divine light precipitating upon a summer hillside. And even as the string drones of “Heliotrope” seem to channel all manner of attic shadows and sinister angles in their early stages, it isn’t long before the warmth of intermingling flutes softens the music’s edges, rendering it ovular and melancholic in shape. An eye shimmering with imminent tears; an encrypted emotional gesture, scattered among Baron Court’s whirl of harmonic friction and psychoacoustics.