I think its safe to say that Maya Shenfield has found a perfect home at Thrill Jockey. The label has always looked to release music that didn’t quite fit anywhere else, and this was definitely true for Shenfeld’s debut album ‘In Free Fall’. For her second album, ‘Under the Sun’, Shenfield has expanded her sonic palate and used an old proverb “there’s nothing new under the sun” as a launch pad. On one hand there isn’t much new music going on. Vangelis, Mort Garson and Wendy Carlos were playing around with these kinds of sounds in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but Shenfeld manages to coax new emotions from her synths that the other couldn’t.
The album starts with slow, and decisive, synths. As ‘A Guide for the Perplexed’ continues they become grander, and with each repetition their importance is more pronounced. By the halfway stage they are all-consuming, but just under the surface are delicate slivers of sound. These pierce the synths and punctuate them, which gives their grand tone more importance. ‘Tehom’ starts off with what sounds like metal being dragged across rock; under these a stuttering melody kicks in. While listening you are questioning yourself about whether it’s a train or not. If the opening track was an exercise in meditative melodies ‘Tehom’ is about getting under your skin and a feeling of unease.
‘Under The Sun’ was recorded in a studio in Berlin or at one of the world’s deepest marble quarries in Portugal. Those field recordings were then threaded with synths so create a rich tapestry and sound. There are portions that feel like they have been recorded deep underground, with the sound echoing, and ricocheting, back up to the surface. The album’s closer ‘Analemma’ is one of these moments.
For best results listen on headphones. This way you can hear how the music pans all around you – especially on ‘Interstellar’. As the tempo increases, and decreases, you get the impression of being in a shuttle hurtling out into space. Whatever your mood ‘Under The Sun’ is an album to listen to. This might sound counter intuitive, but ‘Under The Sun’ isn’t an album to play while doing something else. It might start off as this but eventually you are listening intently, lost in its dense fug of sound and delicate melodies.
Words: Nick Roseblade