Sarah Davachi – Barons Court (Students of Decay, 2015)


To have your debut album compared to the works of one of the most prestigious and venerable Drone artists of all time certainly creates a certain level of expectation in the listener, but the comparison of Sarah Davachi’s Barons Court to the productions of Drone legend Eliane Radigue are unquestionably apt, and before long you find yourself wondering how you were ever worried about the quality of the music contained within its 3/4 hour span. Crafted from careful expanses of synthesised drones as well as haunting inclusions from various acoustic instruments, Barons Court is a record slow to unfold, minimal in its presentation and deeply emotional in its quiet and reserved heart.

Opener “heliotrope” begins the rather morose proceedings in its grey and unobtrusive movements of thin synths and downbeat cello drones, later incorporating a few puffs of the oboe into the mix to make sure there’s a little diversity and variance, but it does help to keep the track grounded and gives it something of a more organic character than was previously presented. It’s rather analytical and methodical, bearing little resemblance to the garish and bold colours of its namesake but seemingly more interested in its intricacies and almost appears to probe or question its purpose in its methodical and precise tracts. This clinical construction that feels infinitely precise continues in the 13 minute expanse of “guildford”, a significantly more electronically dominated piece that unfolds on languid movements of unwavering synth drone, carving a deliberate path through the dirge but slowly becoming increasingly melodic and almost playful, with rapid viola jitterings just detectable in the backfield and the whole piece imbibed with this almost twinkly and shimmery sensation, as though we’re gazing out upon city lights from some secluded and cosy high place, watching its motions and unmotions with little sense of time.

Its clearest to see Radigue’s influence on the music in mid-album “tiergarten”, the most sparse and scarcely evolving piece of delicate drone of any of the tracks. Its bleary synths just creep out of the darkness in touching waves of incrementally encroaching texture, never rising to anything more than a whisper but still slowly turning over like some musical tide, delicate cello strokes creeping out of its quiet heart to supplement its peaceful and reflective alone time. It is strangely depressing though, continuing with the melancholia that was so ensconced in its preceding pieces; that being said, things begin to turn pleasantly around in the final two performance, transforming our introspections into more hopeful and optimistic entities (in their own way). “wood green” has something akin to a churning guitar drone line cruising in the backfield to give the track some meat, whilst the harmonium and cello shine through the cracks in its suppressive fog in lingeringly lighthearted waves just lost in swirling thought with a gentle smile on their lips, seeing the rays pierce through the canopy to illuminate and satiate the dim forest flow below.

Then scarcely before we know it, finalé “ruislip” comes along to round things off for us in its fragile and thin drones that follow in the wake of its predecessor; it’s perhaps not as lighthearted as “wood garden”, there’s something a little edgier about its more piercing moments that definitely develops as the piece unfolds, but I think there’s still a quiet and deep seated feeling of mild satisfaction that almost feels like at any moment could balloon into thick tufts of wild and dense guitar drones but never does, remaining content to spin its earnestly minimal and delicate twinklings alone in the light of their own splendour. Perhaps the most critical and most powerfully evolving piece of the record, and almost certainly my favourite.

Barons Court is mostly an exercise in sparse Drone that’s really rather difficult to fault; although mostly rather cool and melancholic through much of its minimal constructions, there’s an unshakeable feeling of being on the brink of something, some realisation or rising emotional change just below the surface and out of view. Tracks like “wood green” give us a glimpse of this youthful, innocent experience in its light eagerness and even “guildford”and “heliotrope” have their own fascinations and admirations sunk deep within their fabric, but it’s only in the careful exploration of each piece in turn and allowing oneself to be immersed in the full duration of every track do we get to glimpse these suggestions of love and life and beauty in our surroundings, our interest in this grey world smeared out into tiny and fragile drone only detectable in hindsight and under close inspection. Beautiful and incredibly precise music that deeply rewards the close listener.