Sometimes, listening to Exitmusic, it’s hard to tell whether the goosebumps you’re getting are from the moments that are chillingly beautiful and melodic, or the ones that are aching and guttural or the ones that are creepily sparse and disembodied. On their breathtaking new album, Passage, The New York City duo – Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church -- doesn’t care when the chill runs down your spine, they just hope their music provokes some kind of primal feeling. With Passage, the two tethers that make up Exitmusic's sound — one of stirring atmospherics, and one of thoughtful pop — are let to bow further out than before. They are, however, also pulled into a tighter, sharper knot at the center. Read More...
Sometimes, listening to Exitmusic, it’s hard to tell whether the goosebumps you’re getting are from the moments that are chillingly beautiful and melodic, or the ones that are aching and guttural or the ones that are creepily sparse and disembodied. On their breathtaking new album, Passage, The New York City duo – Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church—doesn’t care when the chill runs down your spine, they just hope their music provokes some kind of primal feeling. With Passage, the two tethers that make up Exitmusic’s sound — one of stirring atmospherics, and one of thoughtful pop — are let to bow further out than before. They are, however, also pulled into a tighter, sharper knot at the center.
“We want our music to confront people in a gentle but powerful way,” says Church. “We want to make them feel something.”
“To feel human again,” adds Palladino. “To remind people, and even us, to let yourself be vulnerable.” She says that when she’s writing a song, she knows it’s going well when she feels breathless, overwhelmed by what is stirring inside of her. “The songs themselves are slightly abstract, but where they’re coming from emotionally is always very clear to me.”
Church and Palladino started writing together several years ago, when Church moved to New York following a year teaching English in Taiwan and India. “We had a funny dynamic musically, at first,” says Church, who grew up in Winnipeg. “I was listening to things that had elements sonically of what we’re doing now—Radiohead’s Kid A, that second Sigur Ros album, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Warp Records electronic stuff. But all I had to work with at the time was an acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, Aleksa was recording all these really interesting, odd arrangements on her four-track that would be about a minute long and only have one movement in them, and it sounded more like what I was into than what I was doing.”
Palladino, a New York native, grew up in an artistic family; her grandparents are both painters and her mother is an acclaimed opera singer. Aleksa got her first guitar at age twelve and played it constantly. “When I got the four-track, I got really into layering sounds and playing with what, to me, were shapes. They were music, but they were shapes and angles. I was just committed to sketching, almost. I still wonder if I hadn’t started recording with Devon, if I ever would have finished a song.”
The pair spent pretty much all of their time writing together, but things really began to take shape when they moved to Los Angeles a year later. “We got a computer and recording software and really started to experiment with it and explore things together,” says Palladino. “That’s when it became a real project.”
Exitmusic’s Secretly Canadian debut came last fall: a four-song collection called From Silence that drew critical raves both at home and overseas. The Guardian praised its “tsunami of pop noise” and the NME pronounced it “a gloriously luscious listen,” while Nylon Magazine called From Silence “rare and beautiful.”
But whereas that effort was recorded entirely at Church and Palladino’s Brooklyn apartment, their new full-length, Passage, is a major step forward for the duo in terms of both recording technique and songwriting. With help from electronic musician Nicholas Shelestak, Church and Palladino spent several days this winter working with mixer Nicholas Vernhes (Dirty Projectors, Deerhunter) at his Rare Book Room studio, where they built on the duo’s beautiful, chilling aesthetic for a sound that is both more powerful and more nuanced. “I think there is something a bit more expansive in the new material,” says Church. “On ‘Passage,’ we cover a lot of emotional ground, and ‘White Noise’ and ‘Storms’ wound up having more pop elements in them than I think they would have had we recorded them a year ago.”
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