The art of found or uncovered or discovered or recovered things has long held my interest. Someday, I’ll tell you all about my Found Object Collections and my theory about cryptic messages found on Post-It Notes along the sidewalk. Someday. But, today, we are talking about Dead Letters the debut EP by Sealight a band who come from France by way of Australia. Dead Letters – in these case are stories of lives long since ended. Missives meant to be from one to another – intimate or mundane, simple or complex, layed with many meanings or direct and to the point.
According to the band, “the lyrical content of the EP draws upon a collection of letters and texts surrounding the lives of the group’s families in France and Australia. Fragments of conversations, responses and reactions are incorporated throughout the five songs; reliving, retracing and reflecting upon events, relationships and the lives of the correspondents.” – Before I’d even listened to the EP, I was in love with the concept.
The cover of the CD is gray and to me suggests cold – and there is a single brown (dead?) leaf.
I had heard a bit of Sealight’s music before (they were a Band of the Week), and so I had some idea what to expect from Dead Letters. As a whole (and very generally), the music (to me) suggests a rocky shoreline on a cold gray day with icy spray bubbling up over the jagged rocks. The music is lovely and cold and haunting.
Dead Letters features a dynamic mix of acoustic and electronic sounds. The blending of these sounds works well. At times, Sandra Rossini’s beautiful voice seems as though it is just another part of the layers of sound. By no means is this a bad thing.
This is music to curl up by a fire while cold rain and wind beats against a bay window which looks out upon the aforementioned rocky shoreline. It’s music curl up with a lover with – a complicated relationship made simple by the shared warmth of the moment.
Dead Letters: The first and title track begins slowly and quietly until the vocals come in and then the song soars. The vocals are beautiful and haunting. Rebecca Stout was the singer with a Nashville band from the late 80s/early 90s called the Shakers. Sandra Rossini’s vocals bring that band to mind for me, though the music is much different. I found myself just becoming lost in the sounds of this track.
White Walk: This track starts with an acoustic guitar and this time the vocals seem more up-front. The vocals are highly evocative and I found myself transported to a different place in a different time. Synths are used sparingly and to great effect here. At around the 3:00 minute mark, the song picks up intensity as new layers come into the mix and it creates a wall of sound which suggests the winds of an approaching but not unwelcomed storm.
When the Rain Starts: More acoustic guitars to begin the third song on the EP. A trumpet and echoing vocals. “I feel so much better now.” Could be a simple statement of truth or an affirmation. I remember times when rain is a welcome relief – come to wash away dirt or trouble or sin – all the bad stuff. And, I find myself thinking, ‘I do feel so much better now.”
The Moon: The one begins with one long sustained note from a synth perhaps. And then a gentle acoustic guitar. I’m thinking about the earth’s moon, and it’s real and mythological powers. The vocals are dream-like and then a powerful ringing guitar sound. Again the song brings me to the sea and I am reminded that the moon controls the tides.
La Nieve Del Tiempo: The title of the EPs final song means Snow Time or Time of Snow. A strumming guitar and beautiful voice – it’s a slow song, but I am drawn into it, and I just want to luxuriate in the sounds – and return to my spot by the fire with my lover after watching snow falling on the rocky shoreline.
Sandra Rossini – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Concertina
Dave Olliffe – Guitars, Synthesizers, Drones
Marc-Aurele Ngo Xuan – Drums and Drum Machines
Also featuring Stephane Pigneul – Bass, Synthesizer
The EP is out on Commission 45, and is only the second release on the Parisian label.
The band is playing some dates in France right now, and will launch a European tour in 2012.