by Allison Palum
On Friday night, Sylvan Esso entered Brooklyn Steel visually the same way they did sonically. With bright, white backlighting there was an ambiguity to what was going on, who was on stage and what they were doing. Similarly, the beginnings of the song “Sound”, the sets opener, leaves the listener unsure of what is happening, what’s being said and what will happen next. “Sound” pulls the listener in because of this uncertainty in its beginning. Slowly, however, the words become more distinct. As the words and message becoming more and more clear, Amelia Meath emerged from backstage joining Nick Sanborn on stage proclaiming “I was gonna write a song for you / Gonna sing it out loud / Gonna sing it at such decibels that / All you’ll hear is sound”. “Sound” is such a fitting opener to their new album What Now, which came out on April 28th of this year, but also incredibly fitting as the opener to this set. It felt like such an appropriate prelude to what was going to come. A disclaimer that by the end of this show the audience would be absolutely engulfed in their energy and in their music.
Sylvan Esso have been complimented for making music that feels human and feels organic. These are funny words to use when describing an electronic band, but it fits. While the stage set up consists of a sound board, a mac book, and a microphone, the arrangements that Meath and Sanborn put together are often imperfect, glitchy, ambient and comfortable. This makes the music feel real and spontaneous despite being pre recorded. On top of that, Meath’s history as a singer in the folk band Mountain Man brings a unique energy to the band. Not only does this affect the songwriting, but it also creates an interesting juxtaposition between her untouched, natural vocals and the electronic music.
On top of this unique juxtaposition, there also exists the incredibly diverse song styles. There are more soothing, quiet and emotional songs like “Come Down” and “Slack Jaw”, more sway-worthy songs like “Coffee” and, of course, the more upbeat, dance songs like “Radio” and “Dress”. This is what makes their shows so incredible. Because they are able to foster so many different atmospheres with their songs, their set becomes very three dimensional. One second you’re jumping around and dancing and yelling your lungs out with “Could I Be” and the next you’re swaying slowly with your eyes closed to “Slack Jaw”.
The bond that exists between Meath and Sanborn is so noticeable and comforting when they are on stage together. They talked about their new album and how proud of it they were, describing it as a “child, but it’s just sound”. “Shout out to all the Moms” proclaimed Sanborn, jokingly. They are both so goofy and fun and humble. You can’t help but believe in what they’re doing and what they’re saying.