Amidst the madness at SXSW a few years ago, Mountain Man spun a powerful spell. The trio reduced an aggressively mediocre 6th Street bar into a quiet sanctuary, performing a cappella folk songs that sounded beamed in from the Great Depression. Mountain Man caught some industry attention, and they subsequently joined Feist on her Metals tour as her (ridiculously qualified) backup singers. Understandably, Mountain Man have laid low after nearly three years on the road, but Amelia Meath is stepping back into the spotlight with her intriguing new project Sylvan Esso.
Sylvan Esso started with Meath sending a new Mountain Man song to Nick Sanborn–bassist for the North Carolina experimental folk outfit Megafaun–to remix as he saw fit. The finished product was more than the sum of its disparate parts–electronic squiggles underpinning cut-and-pasted vocals, a meeting of past and future. Meath soon joined Sanborn in Durham, and the partnership blossomed into Sylvan Esso, the group’s debut. What’s immediately striking is how natural and unforced the songs sound. The seams don’t show, even as Meath and Sanborn blend elements of jazz, blues, folk, EDM, and synth pop. On “Coffee,” Meath draws parallels between dancing and the rise and fall of a relationship, with the chorus of “get up get down” sounding equally joyous and heartbroken. As a whole, Sylvan Esso feels more substantial than a side project–they find a unique, modernized way of expressing timeless sentiments.