Everything about the stunning, sprawling Antiphonals is washed in a sea of wonder; timeless, gentle, and gripping. Sarah Davachi has an exceptional ability to create immersive sonic enclosures where it feels safe to ponder the heaviest emotions and roam freely within our own minds. Her music isn’t safe, though, it’s the opposite. By creating these enveloping, aural cocoons, Davachi sends us into the darkest reaches unsuspecting.
Antiphonals moves with ease, a wide array of instruments melted together in synchronicity. Solemn plucks in surprise tunings are opening doors on “Chorus Scene,” a welcome sign, faded but still present. It sets the mood like a curtain rising to reveal the expansive, muted dome of “Magdalena.” Rising embers light an introspective path, Davachi’s restrained touch unlocks the affective warmth of Antiphonals. Few artists communicate so much with a few notes stretched and wrapped around themselves like intricate puzzles, where focusing too hard on the sound will lead away from the emotion that pervades Davachi’s music. “Magdalena” is a masterpiece of refinement and letting each chord breathe.
Even if the longer pieces are where my mind wanders most, the short hits are just as evocative. “Gradual of Image” is a dark, whimsical dance of acoustic guitar and organ, waltzing across decaying landscapes as a reminder of our collective loss. In the forgiving folds between the soft fingerpicking and expanding drones beneath, memories become permanently etched in glass, a shrine to solitude. “Border of Mind” sits at the precipice of release and madness as isolation becomes a vicious crutch. Dissonance seeps into the repetitive chord changes to disrupt the meditative poise, a sonnet for the darkening path; a question posed to the void as a few extra seconds of silence hang heavy at the end.
Something I want to mention is how much I love and appreciate the sonic quality of Davachi’s recording. There’s a soft layer of hiss across the album that acts as a delicate, connective tissue throughout. When Antiphonals closes with the quiet lamentations of the ruminative “Two Flutes,” that gossamer fuzz remains steadfast. Davachi’s weaves an intricate aural blanket that gives us time to consider whether we want to hide for a little while longer or smother the caustic air that continues burning like a thousand suns. Antiphonals won’t tell us the answer, but its beguiling and contemplative sonic expanses give us time to find our own path ahead.
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