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Soundtrack for MASS MoCA

by Sylvan Esso

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part 1 12:31
part 3 13:43
part 4 08:09


Comprised mainly of four long form improvisations (with track breaks added at what felt like natural points) recorded in the fall of 2020 using and reprocessing sounds from ‘What Now’ and ‘Free Love’ - notably a pitched down and reimagined version of latter’s centerpiece song ‘Free’, a piano piece improvised and recorded backstage at the museum itself, as well as many collaged voice memos, field recordings, and stray bits of stuff - ‘Soundtrack for MASS MoCA’ now feels like a real snapshot of that time in our band to me. Stuck inside and searching for a way to connect to our own work without the (what I had finally come to realize as) essential finalizing process of playing in front of other people, I was feeling both frozen in conventions of my own making and the need to redefine the way I experienced the act of making something in the first place. So with MASS MoCA’s (very generous) deadline on the horizon, over the course of about six weeks I would regularly put together a small system of instruments and sounds that felt right in the moment, and just start recording without too much forethought. It freed me up to find a new way of playing, refining ideas I had been trying out during occasional solo sets and combining them with things Amelia and I had been doing together as Sylvan Esso. These sessions eventually led to a complete redesign of our live touring rig (something we hadn’t done since the beginning of the band) incorporating all the freedom and wildness I found here within the more inherently structured SE show patch, rethinking ways to make the show more flexible and immediate. Listening back now, it feels like the beginning of this whole new chapter. As always, thank you for listening.

- Nick Sanborn, 9.29.21


released October 1, 2021

All sounds by Sylvan Esso:
Amelia Meath - vocals
Nick Sanborn - electronics

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Nick Sanborn

Photography by Graham Tolbert
Cover collage by Nick Sanborn

Originally recorded for MASS MoCA’s ‘Auditory After Hours’ series.
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All proceeds from sales will be directed to Imagine Water Works, a New Orleans organization with a focus based in areas of climate justice, water management, and disaster readiness and response. Learn more at


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Sylvan Esso Durham, North Carolina

Sylvan Esso is Amelia Randall Meath and Nick Sanborn. A Band.


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