Published Aug 22, 2011"It's just a lot of questions and it's ambiguous because we don't provide answers," Romy Lightman says of Ulalume, the gorgeous, eerie new record by Tasseomancy, the Toronto band she commandeers with her twin sister Sari. Since first emerging from Halifax as Ghost Bees, the captivating duo have created folk music that lies somewhere between ethereal and sinister, with their angelic voices conjuring off-kilter imagery and landscapes. Beginning with little musical acumen yet writing songs with great conviction, the Lightmans renamed themselves Tasseomancy, signalling a sonic shift. Ulalume features production by Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk and Simon Trottier and, with its rich textures, is a lush, beguiling playground for enigmatic lyricists.
"There's a lot of tension on our first record and for this one, we wanted something a bit more smooth or external," Romy says. "We knew we needed help, Taylor offered at just the right time, and we feel a real kinship with him."
Indeed, who better to provide morbid Tasseomancy reassurances like "Healthy hands will mourn you" with an aural balance between humour and dread than Timber Timbre? "Sari and Romy are, to me, very intuitive songwriters, and structure their music in a linear way, rather than more familiar, repeating verse-chorus-bridge forms," Kirk says. "Since I first saw them perform years ago, I've been fascinated by their approach; their songs seem extremely sophisticated and complex, while they're not necessarily highly technical musicians. I couldn't really understand where this music was coming from. And I still don't."
Kirk's unassuming perspective is ironic, given Sari's thoughts about their Ulalume collaboration. "Taylor really does understand us. He's one of my closest friends and we really trusted him. He really got what we wanted to convey with these songs. We'd go away for a bit and come back and he and Simon had created these incredible layers for the record and there was never a question about them being aligned with us."
If there's any mystical confusion surrounding Tasseomancy beyond their abstract artistic impulses, it stems from the seemingly impenetrable force field the two siblings occupy. In person or on-stage, they are strikingly lovely figures who communicate in their own sphere of reference: Sari seeking some kind of confirmation about how to proceed simply by staring into her sister's eyes, or Romy finishing Sari's sentences with such uncanny fluidity, you feel like you're seeing double. Which, you are. "We're twins so that's always gonna be a factor," Sari says, when asked about their aura. "Twins are a bit freaky; we're kinda freaks. But I think we're also really funny, playful, and approachable. Maybe me more than my sister; she's kinda spooky."
"I can't romanticize myself," Romy counters, "but I definitely believe that there's a lot of mystery in life and the things we're interested in revolve around the unknown. But you really have to seek it out and be like, 'Holy shit, this world is crazy.'"