Sarah Davanchi - “Cantus, Descent” Review

Story posted September 23, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Courtney Benedetto

Music for studying and meditating can be hard to come by, but Sarah Davachi’s new album “Cantus, Descant” is just that.

Davachi’s music falls into the genre of electroacoustic music, which despite the word “electro,” is not a type of electronic dance music. Instead, this genre mixes electric synthesizers and traditional instruments such as organs and bells.

Davachi is a Canadian composer of electroacoustic music who has been releasing music since 2013. “Cantus, Descant” is her eighth full length album.

The album is unique for its usage of long, drawn out notes, but it does not stand out as anything other than background noise for concentrating on other things.

Davachi’s style of music is avant-garde, as she creates sound with unconventional instruments and soundwave frequencies. The music Davachi makes is eerie but not exactly captivating.

Davachi’s songs are variations of prolonged notes that create a very calming sound for studying. The melodies are even great for unwinding after a long day before going to sleep.

“Cantus, Descant” has 17 songs ranging from one to almost 10 minutes long. The album is very minimalistic with just a few instruments and sets of notes in each song. Some songs have more involvement with keyboards and singing that drones on, but otherwise they are purely instrumental.

The album is entirely cohesive with many of the same notes used within each song. Davachi utilizes the power of silence throughout the album as well. Some songs have long pauses in the music, which is an artistic choice to enlist self-reflection from the listeners. The breaks are a stark contrast from the unwavering notes throughout each song.

There are only two songs on the album that have vocals, “Play the Ghost” and “Canyon Walls.” The singing is almost inaudible which makes it hard to decipher specific words. However, it is clear that Davachi’s goal is not to inspire her audience with the weight of the lyrics, but with the meaningful presence of the instruments.

The songs “Midlands” and “Passing Bell” are the most stagnant songs on the album. One instrument is used and synthesized throughout.

“Passing Bell” is one minute of a synthesized bell sound. The movement within the song is the slight crescendo to the 30 second mark and then the slow decrescendo until the end of the song.

The structure of each song on the album is very unconventional. The common verses, bridge and chorus do not exist. Instead, the songs are continuous notes that change slightly over the course of the song. This album lacks the build of an average instrumental album.

“Cantus, Descant” differs slightly from the previous album “Pale Bloom” because it has more of the electronic synthesizer. “Pale Bloom” was still made of mostly prolonged notes, but the instruments were clearer. This previous album also featured more piano while “Cantus, Descant” is made up of more organ, giving it a hollow and haunting vibe.

Due to the seamless cohesion from one song to the next, the songs themselves are not notable on their own. However, looking at the album as a whole, the music is perfect to keep on repeat within a meditation playlist.

The soothing vibes are continuous, but the individual songs fail to stand out. Davachi may receive accolades for her album, but the songs will not be as successful on their own.

“Cantus, Descant” deserves props for being unlike most electronic albums, but it will not be a very memorable work of art. Davachi could utilize more instruments and stray away from the stagnant, unwavering notes to create more engaging music in the future.

Rating: 5/10
Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “Play the Ghost”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Songs: “Midlands” and “Passing Bell”

Courtney Benedetto is a freshman majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email at cmb7747@psu.edu.