Sylvan Esso - No Rules Sandy Music Album Reviews

Sylvan Esso - No Rules Sandy Music Album Reviews
Recorded over a few weeks earlier this year, the electronic pop duo’s latest album takes a diffuse, improvisational approach that comes off feeling sterile.

In the past, you could turn over a Sylvan Esso song in your mind and uncover something new: a wobble of bass buried in the beat, a cutting line—“Now don’t you look good sucking American dick?”—tucked into the rhythm. Their new project, No Rules Sandy, is more diffuse. They announced the album by playing it in its entirety at this year’s Newport Folk Festival, an apt moment for a duo that’s long sought to fuse electronic pop with its folk roots (singer Amelia Meath is also one third of Mountain Man). On the group’s last album, 2020’s Free Love, the combination occasionally fused into something sublime: “Numb” felt like an inadvertent anthem for pandemic doldrums, with nervously skittering beats and Meath’s repeated entreaties to move the body in any way at all, so long as it “let me feel something.”

Meath and producer Nick Sanborn have described No Rules Sandy as a work of improvisation and experiment, recorded primarily in three weeks at a rented studio in east Los Angeles earlier this year. It is their most discordant album yet, spanning dance tracks, several brief interludes, and an acoustic ballad. Perhaps it could all work if each song had more sticking power; instead, the common denominator is a curated sense of dissociation. Hazy beats accompany Meath’s smeared vocals on “How Did You Know” as she seems to observe herself from outside: “When did I learn to raise myself?…Who was she to carry me?” The questioning continues on “Your Reality,” a track about fumbling at normalcy: “Let me remember how to live my life,” Meath sings over pattering synth and stabs of violin. “Were there rules originally/Or are we learning how to be/Surreal but free?” The hiccups in her voice open staccato blips of empty space, as if the syllables have snagged on something.

Even when Sylvan Esso aim for specificity, No Rules Sandy feels like it’s in the process of dissolving. The shortest of the album’s four interludes is less than 10 seconds, just muffled footsteps, buzzing cicadas, and Meath’s birdlike greeting call: “Yoo-hoo!” As if to underscore the immediacy of its creation, it’s titled “(Betty’s, May 4, 2022)”—a reference to Sylvan Esso’s North Carolina recording studio. Nestled between the swirling flutes of “How Did You Know” and prickly synth chords of “Didn’t Care,” the effect is less a sense of atmosphere than that of momentary displacement. Another interlude, “(Bad Fills),” is twice the length, a patchwork of vocals and vague studio chatter (“Good fills or bad fills?”) that pitches up and accelerates with the cartoonish feel of a video game.

Chaos and free play are the point—a theory that animates some of the best electronic music, but feels limp here. No Rules Sandy includes some of Sylvan Esso’s sleekest, and in some ways, most sterile, production: Songs like “Didn’t Care,” “Sunburn,” and “Alarm” seem to announce their quirks as a defense mechanism. The catchiest track, “Echo Party,” combines Meath’s signature hiccup, a baby-voiced echo, and a popcorning synth into a propulsive dance anthem. But remove the warble of distortion after the chorus, or the minute-long interval that Meath spends repeating the word “by,” and it’s a generic club track. “There’s a lot of people dancing downtown/Yeah, we all fall down,” she sings.

Despite the burst of creativity that inspired it, No Rules Sandy lacks urgency. The songs that do sharpen into concrete images evaporate rather than carry their metaphors forward. On “Sunburn,” Meath lists aspects of the beach—the tide, the air, the blisters that swell on sun-baked skin—over a shimmery, shuffling beat. “Alarm” unfolds like a free association about the concept of alarms in general (ringing, false) while guitar and synth chatter in the background. This is music to float along to, fodder for Park Hang playlists. There’s only one moment when a sense of danger creeps in, a rare emotional anchor for all this experimentation. “Death is near/Cram the night with feelings,” Meath lilts on “Moving,” over glitchy, shifting beats. Any feeling will do, any pulse of emotion—none of it, Sylvan Esso seem to say, means very much.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sylvan Esso - No Rules Sandy Music Album Reviews Sylvan Esso - No Rules Sandy Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on August 22, 2022 Rating: 5


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