Sontag Shogun: LTFI EP
Palaver Music

Certainly it's not the only thing that recommends Sontag Shogun's latest release, but nevertheless the beautiful ten-inch disc of clear vinyl (issued in a limited edition of 200 copies) on which its latest EP's four songs appear can't help account for part of its appeal. But Ian Temple, Jesse Perlstein, and Jeremy Young, who compose the Brooklyn-based experimental-electronic outfit, aren't fools: they know that appearance only counts for so much, and so, with guest vocalists Liam Singer, Cheryl Kingan, and Lauren E. Walker in tow, have prepared a very appealing offering of Sontag Shogun material.

Using piano, samples, field recordings, and tapes as alchemical source materials, the trio produces heavily evocative soundscapes wherein acoustic elements—elegant piano and vocal melodies, primarily—merge with electronic interventions in the service of unpredictable, dada-like collages. Though “Let the Flies In” does, in fact, begin with sounds of buzzing flies, the group's music typically avoids the obvious. That's true in this case, too, as with the opening gesture having been taken care of, the song moves into a graceful choir-like setting. In conjoining the vocals of Singer and Kingan to piano playing, the music exudes faint wisps of gospel and blues, even when the electronic details start seeping in to twist the tune into phantasmagoric shape.

A so-called ambient version of “Hungarian Wheat” follows, which, in its melding of lilting classical piano phrases and blurry sound design, is comparatively more representative of the established Sontag Shogun sound. Much the same could be said for “Paper Canes,” wherein field recordings of bird, nature, and industrial noises figure heavily, though it's the delicate piano arpeggios and wordless falsetto vocalizing that prove to be the more memorable elements. Experimental, too, is “Gekheid Op Een Stokje,” a collage of outdoor sounds, choir drift, piano loops, laughter, and speaking voices. It's important to note that, as serious as Temple, Perlstein, and Young presumably are about what they're doing, a spirit of experimental playfulness infuses the material. In that regard, it's therefore perhaps no coincidence at all that “Let the Flies In” ends with the sound of laughter.

December 2013