ESSi - Vital Creatures
ESSi - Vital Creatures
CD + LP comes shrink-wrapped.
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It’s uncanny to think that NYC duo Essi, should be just that; a duo. However, Jessica Ackerley and Rick Daniel continue to compose and play with the dynamic virtuosity and tonal enormity of some full, unworldly orchestra. Their forthcoming LP Vital Creatures skirts the edges of genre, never quite standing still, but the one thing that remains the same across its fourteen tracks, is that they’re all huge. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by the legendary Jonathan (Jonny) Schenke at Thump Studios, the record displays a deft and appropriate mixture of guitar pedals, percussive electronics, and vocal distortion. Having come from backgrounds in noise rock, jazz improvisation and otherwise experimental bands (the likes of Gold Dime and Yvette), Ackerley and Daniel play with a knowledge of self and a proclivity for unorthodox songwriting that is unparalleled.
From minute one Vital Creatures toys with convention; “Marimba 1012” arpeggiating guitar is simultaneously inviting and ominous, offering an oddly complementary backdrop to Ackerley’s incensed and manipulated vocas. Each song on the album ebbs and flows, in and out of place, going from playful guitar picking to heavy-beyond-heavy cymbal crashes, to unnerving moments of rest, to coma-inducing drones (“Pines And Cones”). Despite not having a physical bassist, low-end is more than taken care of in Ackerley’s arsenal of guitar pedals, and Daniel’s mastery of electronics. There are no such things as molds or norms in Essi’s universe. The songs exist in a realm that is wholly “other,”as though their amalgam of fluttering instrumental mechanics and [crucial] ambient interludes (“13 - 13 - 13” / “02 - 02” / “01 - 02” / “02 - 03”) attempt to communicate with the interstellar, the magical, the ethereal. The maniacal laughter on the lattermost interlude suggests they know something we don’t, something we could never comprehend.
There lies a near-mysticism in Jessica Ackerley’s voice atop the ongoing entanglement of tones and thumping rhythm. Perhaps the record’s “catchiest” track, or its most conventional, is “Deal,” and even here, her singing is bone-chilling, as though aiming to raise the dead. And it goes without saying, to see this done in a live setting is equally, if not more powerful, with the two artists connecting near telekinetic levels, further enabling them to play their respective instruments louder, more succinctly, more intensely. And intense it is. The closing track, “Breathing,” serves to readjust to the everyday Earth from which we’ve just escaped, with Ackerley gesticulating breaths reminding us to take in oxygen, albeit in a most claustrophobic way. “You breathe air here,” she seems to say. It’s a more than fitting end to the trip you just took, and an excellent preparation/catalyst to take the trip again. Press play.
Jessica Ackerley - Vocals and Guitar
Rick Daniel - Drums and electronics
Paige Johnson Brown - Backing Vocals on Da Di Da Di, Seams, 2-3
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered By Jonathan Schenke at Thump Studios