Avid readers of Friend Rock will recall that I have written about a band by the name of To Sophia before. For the uninitiated, they are a constantly evolving musical project, taking influences from folk, jazz, soul and blues. Well, here’s another twist in their ever changing tale.
Esses is the working title of a side project from To Sophia’s lead singer (Najia) and guitarist (Paul). Where To Sophia’s sound is often driven by strong electronic sounding percussive elements, with Esses, there is a much stronger leaning toward traditional folk music. Sample track And You Sleep is a beautiful and mesmerising exploration of intricate guitar work and harmonics. I found myself listening to this track again and again, and with each play the the vocal harmonies become almost white noise, not dissimilar to the natural rumblings of a forest in a rainstorm. A sound familiar, yet also disturbing – very fitting then that this is a song about sleep, and dreams bringing solace and comfort.
The combination of these hypnotic, trance-inducing vocals and beautiful folk influenced acoustic guitar is almost perfect. While I can cite artists that I am reminded of (Brigitte Fontaine, Syd Barrett, Beirut, Radiohead, Jefferson Airplane) there is nothing, that I have heard anyway, that sounds quite like this.
The independent music scene in Manchester is often criticised, rightly or wrongly, for being stagnant and resting on its past. Well, as I have said before, as long as there are bands like To Sophia (and Esses) pushing the boundaries of cross-genre experimentation, as a music fan it warms my heart.
To Sophia are playing the Kaylied Stage at Kendal Calling Festival on Saturday 31st July.