There’s a simplicity to Sarah Davachi’s new album - a stark black and white photo of her on the cover, plainly descriptive song titles like “For Voice” and “For Piano” - that matches the uncomplicated purity and direct power of the music. Each of the five pieces on All My Circles Run seems centered on a single concept and a clear vision. Nothing here is one-dimensional; there’s rich complexity below the surface, and many resonant layers to dive into on repeated listens. But what gets me hitting play again is the initial siren call, the immediate attention-demanding aspect of Davachi’s work here. It’s an effect that never fades no matter how much more I discover. You could maybe say the same about lots of drone-leaning music - though it would have to be lots of good-to-great drone-leaning music - but there’s something unique about the purity of All My Circles Run, and I’m not sure I can articulate it. I’m not sure I even want to articulate it, because words seem mostly like obstacles when employed to convey the magic of Davachi’s sonic alchemy, the kind that can distract from the matter at hand. Suffice to say that distractions dissolve completely once All My Circles Run is playing, and what feels tough to describe seems like the easiest thing in the world to experience and appreciate. The hypnotic saw of “For Strings,” the moving hums of “For Voice,” the inner-ear rattling tones of “For Organ"; a track rundown isn’t gonna do it either. You’ll just have to trust me that when I fall back on the “words fail” crutch, it’s not a copout. It’s an attempt to place All My Circles Run on the level that it deserves - a level only the greatest music can occupy. - Marc Masters, The Out Door
Like a lot of minimalist art, Sarah Davachi's music appears simple on the surface. Not a lot seems to happen, at least not in terms of melody, rhythm, or any of the usual categories of Western popular music: her music consists mainly of long held tones. The real action is not found in the notes themselves but in their microtonal variations and the wealth of overtones, harmonics, and ghostly pulses produced by the friction between them. Her work belongs to a tradition of deep, shimmering drone music that includes Eliane Radigue, Kevin Drumm, Phill Niblock, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, and Folke Rabe. Despite its apparent restraint, Davachi’s music is also profoundly expressive. Her filters sweep back and forth in slow, deliberate, and often unpredictable movements that suggest the careful thought process that drives the hand behind them. The subtlest change can set in motion complicated chain reactions—ebbing and flowing, wheels turning within wheels. Play her music in a quiet room on good speakers and you can practically see the air moving around your head. In part, this has to do with her tools. Davachi, who studied electronic music at Mills College, in Oakland, California, typically works with a mixture of acoustic and electronic sources, or even purely acoustic instruments. Her album All My Circles Run is a set of studies for overdubbed strings, voice, organ, and piano. On Vergers, she turns her attention to the EMS Synthi 100, an analog synthesizer from the early 1970s, and complements its unusually vibrant tone with almost imperceptible additions of voice and violin. It is her most minimal album yet. Its three long tracks initially feel almost static; they evolve so stealthily that it's easy to find yourself adrift in the middle, wondering just how you got there. - Philip Sherburne, Pitchfork
Davachi’s compositions triangulate academic discipline, wayward technology and a fascination with the harmonic artefacts of sustained frequencies. The Canadian-born composer studied the likes of Bach and Chopin before graduating from California’s Mills College whose halls have boasted the talents of many of the pathfinders of American Minimalism and beyond such as Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson and Pauline Oliveros. Meanwhile, she worked as a tour guide in a museum of musical instruments, enabling her to explore the idiosyncrasies of many of yesteryear’s synthesizers. Such a rich grounding was immediately evident across her debut LP, Barons Court, released last year by Students of Decay, its soft, pulsing combination of electronic suspensions and strings presented bucolic psychedelic and meditative raga-like modes that deftly strike a balance between restraint and instability. Her follow-up release, Dominions, is even more refined, doing away with the strings on all but the last of five pieces to more deeply charter the obsolete electronics. In doing so each piece maintains a strong natural quality: instead of machines Davachi’s tenderly formed chords bring to mind those stop-motion films of plants growing – her sonic shoots turning into stems that strengthen, eventually budding to produce beautiful aural flora. Tracks like ‘Burgundy’ also have a heady, hypnotic effect – as the reedy sounds acquire new layers their undulating vibrations become more pronounced and mesmeric to arrive at a folk dance of overtones. Although fertile and hallucinatory, Dominions is never brash or bold – Davachi holds each tone to the light with such care to reveal its subtlest of attributes; her fascination with sound is consistently presented in such an expert way as to be both healing and infectious. - Russell Cuzner, The Quietus
Sarah Davachi is a young Vancouver-based artist who shares that passion for old analog synthesizers that is so rampant these days. Stylistically, however, she is an old-style composer that shares much more common ground with minimalist drone royalty like Eliane Radigue and Phill Niblock than she does with the current pack of squiggling, blurting, and entropy-minded synth revivalists. Also, she seems to have a fine intuitive grasp on the limits of such gear and ingeniously employs strings, flutes, and a harmonium to elevate her pieces into something better and more distinctly her own. More importantly, this is exactly the sort of drone that I love and Davachi manages to do it better than just about anybody. I never expected to turn into someone who has strong opinions and passions regarding minimal drone, but it seems as though I somehow wound up that way despite my best efforts. While there are plenty drone albums that I enjoy, there are only a handful that absolutely delight me. Barons Court happily falls into that rare latter category, though it is difficult to articulate quite why, as extremely minimal music succeeds or fails almost entirely in its execution. Literally anyone can let a single note gently oscillate for ten minutes, but it takes a particular strain of genius (as well as superhuman patience and near-surgical attention to detail) to transform that into something mesmerizing. For most of Barons Court, Davachi does just that. Notably, Sarah is not quite as "pure" or aggressively minimal as some of her kindred spirits: while these pieces are certainly built upon the expected bed of quavering analog synthesizer, Davachi often allows her drones to gradually cohere into a lush, warm, and languorously undulating chord. In fact, that is essentially all that happens in the 8-minute "Wood Green" and it is wonderful. In the other pieces, however, she twists that formula in a variety of compelling ways. "Tiergarten," for example, follows roughly a similar trajectory, but darkens the waters with subtly dissonant harmonies and uneasy oscillations. The opening "Heliotrope," on the other hand, is dissonant right out of the gate with a churning, uncomfortable swirl of bowed cello harmonies. Then, around the halfway point, Davachi transforms that subtle menace into deeply uneasy and unearthly beauty with the addition of some very ghostly flutes that recall Natural Snow Buildings at their best. The album's centerpiece, the 13-minute "Guildford," achieves a similarly haunting majesty, replacing those demonic flutes with spectral, floating synth swells and hypnotic harmonium drones. Then gradually, the darkness ebbs away a bit to make way for a more enigmatic mood of timeless, ritualistic-sounding beauty. It is an absolutely stellar piece, as is "Heliotrope." Barons Court is an absolute monster of a debut: Davachi is a strong composer, an excellent stylist, and a remarkably assured and inventive new artist. I love this. - Anthony D'Amico, Brainwashed
All cassette releases (The Untuning of the Sky, August Harp, Qualities of Bodies Permanent) are sold out.