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Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso


Sep 16, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Electronic minimalism is often a difficult thing to master. If the artist gets it right, it can capture that human emotion that computers are so prone to sidestep. If they get it wrong, however, the listener is left wanting something more substantial, something meatier to get their teeth into. Fortunately, Sylvan Esso is an artist that got it right, perfecting the less-is-more approach on their self-titled debut.

This may have something to do with the duo’s folk roots. Nick Sanbourn has bass credits for Megafaun and DeYarmond Edison on his resume, while Amelia Meath toured with Feist and was part of Vermont’s Mountain Man. Now turning their talents to the electronic world, they bring with them knowledge of how to make music sound rich and full without having to overcrowd things. “Wolf,” for example, is dominated by intermittent synth pulses, yet still pays homage to its creators’ musical past with acoustic guitar flourishes discreetly hidden in the background.

There is also a certain playfulness on Sylvan Esso that gives the record its undeniable charm. This is partly a result of the album’s aforementioned simplistic nature, but also in the almost nursery rhyme-like quality of Meath’s vocals. Her soft coo sounds simultaneously both comforting and energetic, best displayed on “HSKT.” Besides the fact that it plays on a well-known nursery rhyme (“Heads, Shoulders Knees & Toes”), it bounces along with child-like vigor, reminiscent of some of Hot Chip’s chart successes.

Rising above the rest, however, is “Coffee.” The ultimate earworm, it is a clinic in how to make intimate electronica danceable. The lyrics focus on some of life’s simpler pleasurescoffee, sex, and dancingwhile skittering beats and kindergarten glockenspiel chimes charm in a way that only Sylvan Esso can. It is easily one of the best tracks of 2014 so far, and will no doubt contribute to the band’s name being scattered among the Top 10 lists at the end of the year. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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