Sarah Davachi

by Jim Di Gioia

July 26, 2016


My partner came into the living room as I played Sarah Davachi’s album Dominions, and asked: “What’s that noise?”

“It’s… music,” I replied automatically, very aware that the answer once again opened up the unspoken chasm between his and my concepts of what ‘music’ means.

That briefest of exchanges got me all existential: What is music fundamentally? Who listens to works like Davachi’s and thinks “This is music”, and who hears it and says, “This is noise”? What does our individual reaction to the music say about us?

It was immediately obvious to me that, not only would I explore those questions in a blog post about Dominions, but that it would be the first official blog post for DOMINIONATED. What better way to introduce a blog whose whole existence is meant to explore, appreciate, and divine what “Canadian music” is than with a Sarah Davachi recording?

Davachi, a student of musical experimentation, resides in sound. She’s made Dominions out of vintage synthesizers and electronic equipment that create expansive contour lines of sound that layer and fold in upon themselves. Seconds pass on “Soi-même comme la matin” without it feeling like anything’s actually happened, but by the time you reach its end and look back across the sonic journey you’ve just been on, the subtleties and shifts in the aural landscape are evident. The delicate movement of “ordinal”, as measured and precise as its name suggests, ebbs and flows, shifting just the slightest bit to give the idea of melody and hint at rhythm. Deliberately minimal, these five compositions form a metaphysical map, not of directions as much as ideas, taking you on a journey without you having to move.

What is music fundamentally? It’s shared experience. It’s transcendental. Who hears ‘music’ and who hears ‘noise’? It’s those who are open to receive it. Music rises up from the vibrations of the world around us. It’s always there, always ready to make itself known to us if we choose to tune in. What does our reaction to music say about us? First and foremost, it says we’re human. We are emotional beings, looking for connections. Having a reaction to Dominions, any kind of reaction, means you’re engaging with the world. It means you’re here. It means we’re here together, reacting and interacting with the music and each other. That’s how we start conversations.

So here we are, at the first official post for DOMINIONATED, the start of a new conversation; an ongoing discussion of Canadian music’s ‘multi-timbralism’. That’s a word I just made up but it fits. DOMINIONATED, much like Sarah Davachi’s Dominions, is a place open to interpretation and discovery, not bound by borders of genre, style, or year of release. We see this blog as a musical map, not so much of place and population as much as community and spirit. Our hope is that in time we are able to take you on a journey across the physical geography of this place known as Canada without you ever having to move.

So, what say you? Shall we take a trip?

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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