Sylvan Esso – No Rules Sandy (Indie Exclusive, Limited Edition, Colored Vinyl)
Electronic duo Sylvan Esso raised a few eyebrows when they performed their new album at the Newport Folk Festival last summer. It’s hard to know what would be more incongruous: singer Amelia Meath dancing to glitchy programmed drums onstage at Newport, or the gentle acoustic ballad that closes out No Rules Sandy pumping out of a dance club sound system.
Considering Meath is part of the folk trio Mountain Men, the folk elements of No Rules Sandy aren’t entirely surprising. The range of textures and genres attempted on No Rules Sandy isn’t particularly surprising, either. Sylvan Esso’s previous three albums have all been fairly broad reaching, although not as broad as this. What is surprising is how well everything hangs together, especially given the album’s concise 35-minute runtime.
Upbeat lead single “Sunburn” uses a bicycle bell to add color to a lo-fi synthesizer part that sounds like it could have been made on a phone (in a good way). A thirty-second collage of found sounds from around the pair’s North Carolina studio are all it takes to link “Sunburn” to “Alarm,” a song that starts with what sounds like a thumb piano before building into an elastic synth line.
Meath and producer Nick Sanborn recorded No Rules Sandy quickly, preferring to work out of improvisation and experimentation. The result is an album that feels both intimate and immediate. -Joel Francis