[Album Review/Falling Away - Igloo Mag]
I don’t know many women in electronics, my only memories being the mighty Andrea Parker, Leila and Mira Calix. And to be sincere, I can’t remember what the latest releases by Leila are, but I do remember how disappointing the last Mira Calix album was after the high expectations I had since the beautiful Prickle EP. This Samarah record (Falling Away) dropped out of nowhere apparently, I’ve never heard of her and thus it’s a great surprise to find such a fresh and classic work.
Samarah’s sound is very rarefied, her warm voice resonates among tiny clicks, tapping rhythms and warped melodies. Very simple elements that build tiny moving moments, “Six For Seven” and “Sleep So Heavy” are probably the best: the former is surrounding and soulful, while the latter is a spooky, alluring whisper. Don’t expect any technicalities nor weird DSP effects, the aim here is to achieve the maximum result with bare minimum equipment. This is not an easy job, unless whoever is at the controls has the proper skills, and this is for sure the case with Samarah: the demonstration comes from tracks like “Disconnected,” where only a couple of minutes of piano and micro-noises impress the listener with their magnetic catchiness. She is irresistible again when she touches epic chords like in “What You Hold Dear,” a really stunning piece of music.
I’m often skeptical towards new names but in this case I’m really glad to discover an artist that I hope to hear often in the future, especially because this half of an hour is definitely not enough. Don’t discard this classification as too slow or lounge music, Falling Away is more subtle and unsettling than what you could think after a casual listening.
[Album Review/ "What is Beautiful" EP - Rick's Cafe
Samarah's style can best be described as an atmospheric brand of trip-hop and electronic, embellished with subdued, haunting vocals. It's mesmerizing and captivating, although not overly so, but resonates with a dark and mysterious beauty. Musically, What is Beautiful is all keyboards, deep rhythms and clicks and is very tastefully done in an ambient style. Fans of Massive Attack and Portishead will like.
[Album review/So Lovely EP - God's of Music]
Samarah places herself in totally sparse surroundings, where the gentle flourishes of piano are but punctuation marks to her voice. If you’re a person blessed with the ability to clearly recall what you dreamt at night, you might well recognize that voice from someplace. Simply the stuff of dreams. Richly ethereal. So Lovely chooses to float on a layer of thoughts. As a reward for persevering with So Lovely, what you will receive is a haunting payback. An instant access to dreams… anytime, anywhere.
[Album review/What is Beautiful EP - Splendid Mag]
A Madison, WI resident since 2000, Samarah seems to be cultivating an image of minimalist elegance; she has put out two brief EPs, both with sparse music and sparser packaging. The former fits loosely into the category of “trip-hop”, though it’s more trip than hop — aside from Samarah’s despairing, echoing voice, What is Beautiful’s vibe is nowhere near the more pop-oriented efforts purveyed by the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack. Instead, it sounds like what you’d hear in your head after the tenth day in a sensory deprivation chamber. The music’s glitchy, subsonic bubbling offers only the barest suggestion of melody, leaving Samarah’s mysterious vocals as the focal point. Her disconnected reverb-soaked musings, often at odds with the rhythms beneath them, only increase the sense of being lost in an inner wilderness.
Samarah does very well at creating textured mood pieces with a relatively limited palette; the swelling atmospheric pads in “Spark” uplift even as they disquiet. What is Beautiful’s first two tracks, “Angel’s Face” and “Pale Honey”, are similar to one another in their subdued click-beats and repetition of lyrics and phrasing. The disc’s closer and title track is its most song-like, as Samarah’s singing follows something approaching a conventional “verse” pattern (though it retreats into a phased AM-radio-type effect). At twelve minutes long, the EP is difficult to really get into, so it’s hard to recommend it as background music, but it’s quite lovely; put it in the CD changer on shuffle, along with your Bowery Electric and Bardo Pond discs, and you won’t be disappointed.
[Live show review/Falling Away release party - Rick's Cafe]
So-called “laptop musicians” are redefining what it means to be an artist while sometimes blurring the line between DJ and musician. Technology has advanced to where it’s rather easy and affordable for anyone to express their artistic vision, but to put on a fascinating live show often requires more than just a laptop for instrumentation, lest the DJ comparisons arise. November 17th’s display of click-electronics at the Inferno smashed those comparisons with a ball peen hammer.
Samarah, one of the most well known downtempo and glitch-hop artists in the midwest, had a release party for her first full-length CD, Falling Away, on what turned out to be an unseasonably chilly November night, which unfortunately took its toll on the attendance. Those who braved the extreme elements were treated to one of the more creative shows to grace the local scene as of late.
Chicago’s Justin McGrath kicked off the night with a downtempo set amongst a stage area glowing in a dim red light that had been spiced up with oriental decor, such as white bushes which would have died outside in 10 seconds had they been real. Also from Chicago, the Flashbulb promised only a DJ set but he surprised everyone by brandishing an electric guitar that worked in tandem with the noises emanating from his laptop. He used it to crank out bass riffs, sometimes glitches, sometimes wangy IDM beats, sometimes a piano; it even sounded like an electric guitar at some points. Samarah joined him for a live PA duel just before the start of her set.
Although Samarah’s ambient music is so hauntingly downtempo at times that it needs its pulse checked, she gives the impression that she can drink you under the table and kick your ass in a bar fight. A typical show for her goes something like this: Play the keyboard, sing understated vocals, take a big gulp of beer, check the laptop, tap some more keys, inhale a cigarette, more keyboard, more beer, more smoke, repeat ad infinitum. Can you say “badass”? Her set ended with another brief PA battle, this time between her and Alan!, the DJ dujour.
It takes talent for laptop musicians to get patrons to shake their collective booty, and tonight’s headliner, Sweden’s lanky Andreas Tilliander, was up to the task with an uptempo glitch-techno set that had an old-school flavor. He used a pair of headphones as a microphone, a nifty engineering feat. He didn’t hit the stage until about a half-hour before closing time, but we gave him Swedish weather (or perhaps he brought it with him) so he probably felt right at home and didn’t mind coming all the way out here for the short set.
There was a raffle to raise money for the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, but unfortunately, due mostly to the bitter cold, those who bought a ticket were virtually guaranteed to win something. Give them credit for trying. But those who did brave the harsh weather were offered a unique event that explored some of the freshest sounds springing from laptops around the world, from Sweden to Chicago to our own hometown.
[Album review/These Things EP- Capital Times Rob Thomas]
Just as you sink into the strange electronic soundscapes of “These Things,” the new EP from Madison electronica artist Samarah, it’s over. Just four songs in 12 minutes, just enough of a taste to make fans of experimental trip-hop hungry for the full-length follow-up, “Fall Away,” which is supposed to be coming out later this fall.
Samarah excels at manipulating sounds to create a dense sound that’s both disquieting and oddly inviting. The beats click and snap like insects skittering across linoleum, soft piano lines trickle almost inaudibly in the background, and through the sonic miasma Samarah’s mesmerizing voice floats in and out. Those who think of electronica as merely hip background music really need to check out “These Things,” an art installation for the ears.