Sarah Davachi has quickly risen in prominence since her first release five years ago, and Gave In Rest represents her highest artistic achievement. By infusing her compositional style within a predilection for medieval and Renaissance music, Davachi unearths a new realm of musical reverence, creating works both contemplative and beatific, eerie yet essentially human. Gave In Rest is a modern reading of early music, reforming sacred and secular sentiments to fit her purview and provide an exciting new way to hear the sounds that exist around us.
Between January and September of 2017, Sarah Davachi lived in flux; storing her belongings in Vancouver, she spent the summer in Europe, occasionally performing in churches and lapidariums and seeking respite from her transitional state while surrounded by such storied history. Gave In Rest echoes that emotional state of solitude and ephemerality, reaching towards familiar musical landscapes but from oblique perspectives.
“I’ve always been a pretty solitary person, but that summer I discovered quiet moments to be increasingly valuable,” says Davachi. “I became engaged in private practices of rest and rumination, almost to the point of ritual.” Though not religious, she sought ecclesiastic environments, compelled by “the quietude, the air of reverence, the openness of the physical space, the stillness of the altars.” She sat for hours in muted spaces and listened to how church instruments augmented them – their pipe organs, their bells, their choral voices – and resolved to, “tap into that way of listening.” She set a goal to musically embody this secular mysticism, and Gave In Rest is the result.
Davachi went deeper into studying early music over that summer, considering how Renaissance musicians experimented with new instruments, forms, and texture. For example, meantone temperament and just intonation, which sound unusual by twentieth-century standards, appear first during this period and continue to foster a sense of mystery and awe in the manipulation of harmony and polyphony. Her reflections led her to the duality of stillness and rest, and upon entering Montréal’s hotel2tango with Howard Bilerman, she adapted her modern style to standard approaches of a recording studio’s function. She composed the majority of the record alone at the piano to find specific harmonic colors and movements, then brought in an ensemble of musicians to interact and extrapolate organically with those tones. With these sessions recorded, Davachi manipulated the resulting sounds through tape delays and chorusing effects that could be played in real time, thereby engaging these evolved sounds as instruments themselves.
“I named each track after a particular time of day as a way of expressing my experiencing different moments of quietude, how morning and night are both independent and interconnected entities in this regard,” she says. Her titles evoke canonical phrases referring to morning or evening prayers, as well as Latin and German phrasings for metaphors about the time of day. Gave In Rest opens and ends at its most unornamented moments: the first track, “Auster”, being played entirely on a recorder and then, “slowed down and opened up so you can hear the innards of the sound,” and the final track, “Waking”, one long take of Davachi on a Hammond organ. The latter is a solitary departure of concrete simplicity and is allegorical in its inclusion at Gave In Rest’s end, with harmonic structures of a Baroque style materializing and wavering in long, textural passages of consonance and dissonance. The overdubbed, chant-like singing on “Evensong” was treated through an EMT 140 plate reverb, the very same unit Stevie Nicks used for “Rhiannon”. On “Gilded” and “Gloaming”, one hears piano that has been manipulated by being run through an Echoplex many times over, adjusting the speed in subtle increments to produce a slight phasing effect.
“From my perspective, there is a lot of loneliness on this record, and I think it is as much about beginnings as endings,” she says. “In a way, it’s about the prospect of the unknown as it manifests alongside a very inward form of grieving – really the essence of what constitutes a period of transition. I remember reading recently that in the Middle Ages, the funeral rite was not just an expression of mourning, but that it also carried a sort of ontological vehemence insofar as it symbolized life.” Such tension resides within the tracks, a dynamic between the privations of change and the fruitful revival that lingers as a next step.
Gave In Rest was completed after this period of suspension in Davachi’s life, and she finished the record while establishing herself in Los Angeles. Her new home is a radical departure from her previous Northern surroundings, with its vast reach, otherworldly terrain, and bizarre, isolating nature; “It is easy to remain anonymous in Los Angeles,” says Davachi. Gave In Rest was mixed over a period of two months while she adjusted to this new lifestyle.
Davachi has mined a bottomless landscape where listeners can witness music’s participation in their solitudes. Gave In Rest lends a voice to her personal exploration with a firm, intuitive stance.