Published Oct 29, 2018The context for this auspicious, wandering debut that Portland, OR-based composer Mary Sutton dreamed up under the name Saloli stems from a performance she once gave at a clothing-optional soaking pool sauna.
A studied pianist, Sutton had never composed for analogue synthesizer prior to readying this release, but in a press statement, claims the experience prompted in her a desire to "make something people sitting motionless and naked in hot bubbly water would want to hear," and it's a natural fit.
The aquatic miniatures Sutton delivers on The Deep End are deftly effective in evoking the long ceramic grid halls, still waters and steamy vapours of the soaking pools the album was intended for, free of the directionless nature music we immediately associate with them. Rather than permeating the air with the auditory equivalent of wallpaper, this is an immediate, searching release that spends its runtime building out a spectacularly varied, if consistently whimsical, emotional landscape sure to provoke private experiences that are myriad and intensely specific, each of its soft-focus visions offering a different headspace listeners can engage with and attach their own meaning to before the guiding melody of the next one washes it away.
Inspired by the namesake folk songs of Venetian gondoliers, opening track "Barcarolle" proves an effective harbinger, as it pulls us deep into this relaxed zone, the leisurely rhythms of those traditionals made more fluid and elastic with the soft wobble of Sutton's synthesizer. While this vessel chaperones listeners into the place of reflective comfort at the heart of this album, "Umbrellas" immediately disrupts the established calm with a more dramatically intense episode, the first urgent notes casting listeners into darker waters. "Revolver" is a more downcast entry that smoulders along in the low end, but "Hey Ahh" sighs and swells with cascading catharsis, while melodies twinkle and dance in the frozen quietude on "Ice World."
Stimulating, therapeutic, and cleansing in its own right, it's an album that's consistently as immediate as it is transporting, and that Sutton is able to traverse such a range of emotions so freely and in such concentrated sections — without overdubs or post-production, and on her first exploration of a seemingly limitless instrument, no less — is a glistening credit to her versatility as a composer and performer. (Kranky)