Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, the two members of fresh Durham electronic duo Sylvan Esso, met by chance in Milwaukee about three years ago. Made of Oak, Sanborn's forlorn, electronics-affected solo project, joined a bill with Mountain Man, Meath's starkly beautiful, all-female folk outfit. The two hit it off immediately, something Meath suspected might happen when she saw him dance energetically behind his equipment. When Mountain Man needed a remix, she brought him a track. The retooled "Play It Right" became Sylvan Esso's first offering, with Sanborn's touch for techno throb sharpened to its most essential elements, lending even more edge to Meath's razor croon.
"We didn't feel like we had to make too many stylistic choices," Sanborn says. "It felt like we kind of contextualized each other in a really instinctive way. Anything that we would change about what the other one is doing all feels really natural and based on how we interact. It's different from some of the Made of Oak stuff and obviously very different from Mountain Man. But it hardly feels like they come from the same place."
Meath moved to Durham in January, joining Sanborn, who had relocated after joining the experimental folk troupe Megafaun. This Pinhook gig serves as a release party for the duo's debut single; with "Play It Right" on the flip side, "Hey Mami" furthers and refines the pair's unique chemistry. Minimal handclaps and snaps gradually give way to processed clicks and splashes of watery bass, creating a sound that feels at once sensual and industrial, like M.I.A. working with tUnE-yArDs' crazed whimsy. The Human Eyes open. —Jordan Lawrence