Sonescent, the new album from Matchess, came to Whitney Johnson’s mind while she was at the Dhamma Vhadanna Meditation Center just north of Joshua Tree, during a course of Vipassana meditation. This is a ten day period that requires, among other codes of discipline, the practice of Noble Silence: silence of body, speech, and mind.
In the past decade, the music of Matchess has spanned outer and inner space, seeking the unseen world that exists behind the world that we see everyday. Compared with this present work, the celebrated trilogy of albums comprising Seraphastra, Somnaphoria, and Sacracorpa projected themselves with extroversion, in what might be called a traditional manner. Whitney played and sang all the parts herself, drawing almost ritually from classical, folk, electronic and psychedelic antecedents. To listen to these records is to hear someone meditating on music.
Sonescent turns the page in this process; the music itself is the meditation, rendered via memory and the recording process - in effect, extending the meditation in its execution. This had to do with the experience of Vipassana. Whitney found herself hearing the sound of her body as never before. It was only once her mind became involved that she began to hear songs too, which she wasn’t able to write down or sing and record without violating the practice of Noble Silence. Eventually, when she returned from her retreat, she set about recalling what she’d heard and writing it down. While writing, she elected to score the songs for other musicians to play, a defining step of departure from all previous Matchess productions. This took time; first, in the drawing of the pieces up from herself, almost as muscle memories, and writing them as music. Then, the conducting of her chosen ensembles, a new and challenging direction in her process. Once she had them all fully captured, another memory prevailed, inspiring the album's final form, in which Whitney placed the songs into the expansive void from which they'd emerged - a largely discreet, but acoustically active inner space, where the songs often only barely intrude, heard as if from a great distance.
With Sonescent, the fragile nature of our mind state is represented with the delicacy of almost completely disintegrated sounds as they drift weightlessly in and out of our perception. To create the space of this unseen world, Whitney used binuaral sine waves, ARP Odyssey synth, loops and no input mixing techniques. The editing and mixing of this material renders it in gauze, smoke, and whispers – an exquisite barely-thereness.
Sonescent represents music in the final stages of its life, and its 36 minutes are appropriately active, ready to release us on February 25th. Several edits from the album have been prepared for your pre-listening; appropriately, they continue the growth process from the point at which the record left them, giving them a distinct quality on their own. Pre-order your copy of Sonescent and watch the "Almost Gone [Excerpt]" music video above!