“I see you in my nightmare, walking by like you don’t know me,
Missed my chances to go softly away with you.
Away with you …”
Sykoya are a newly formed indie / electronic four-piece made up of American singer / songwriter/ producer, Anna Marcella; two Latinos – Alejandro Bonatto, Synth / Keyboards & Eduardo Leal, Bass; with Yorkshire man Curtis ElVidge taking up the helm on Electronic / Acoustic Drums. Sykoya take their influences from alt electronica’s past & present – The Cure, Beth Gibbons / Portishead, Massive Attack & Daughter – and the soulful sentiment, swathed in catchy melodies, so oft found running through their predecessors’ back catalogue, is also hugely evident in their own debut EP, ‘Here’.
As a precursor to the EP, Sykoya recently released their first single ‘Closer’, a dark electronic dreamscape of unrequited love trying to find reciprocity through escapism.
“Darkness fades, there is nowhere to hide”
It opens with a slow death march drum beat, setting a solemn pace and stark backdrop, against which Anna Marcella can cast her breathy vocal. The plaintive softness of her voice heightens the sense of reverie and longing. The addition of the male vocal and souping up of the electronic engine, add to the underlying sense of menace, lurking in the synth shades produced by Bonatto. A final layer of ElVidge’s equable electronic drums, and Leal’s suitably sombre bass, is applied to reinforce the barbed texture and enrich the inky resonance of this illusory lament.
“Waiting for the earth to move”
The second song on the EP is the energetic title track ‘Here’, and, whilst it’s a much more up-tempo affair, with a pulsating electronic dance-groove, it continues the mournful theme of loss and despair.
The emotive lyric conveys both a sense of the unfamiliar with a feeling of utter loneliness, exacerbated by a retrospective harking back to happier days. Though thematically in the same vein, the vocal on this track however, is stronger, more defined, and it’s almost a contradiction in musical terms, that the melody too should be sharper, the percussion thrumming, and, that a luminous piano-synth sequence should be included, thereby adding a juicy dollop of honey to an otherwise sharp tasting musical memoir.
“ … I’m where my story ends, lost without a friend”
Written after her move to London from a stiflingly indifferent Paris, ‘Here’ tells Anna’s personal story of experiencing that heightened sense of alienation, one can only feel, when one realises that they are truly alone in a crowd.
After having found her very own private place of inspiration, a quiet patch in the shade of two sequoia trees (hence the derivation, “Sykoya”), Anna set about unfurling the creative tendrils that had become entangled during her years in not so gay Paris.
“I came out of a huge writers block with these songs. I had a lonely time living in Paris, but couldn’t seem to get the words out while I was there. They started flowing when I left and had the space to reflect outside the experience. I took those feelings and anthropomorphised the city in my head.”
Marcella and the rest of the Sykoya project have used those experiences as the catalyst to create this atmospheric EP, turning a negative Parisian residence into a deliciously melodious confection.
Responding to a question about the working relationship and internal chemistry within Sykoya, Anna says:
“The guys are really talented and we have a super dynamic that really works to push us into writing stronger and better songs.”
That there is a fluid synchronicity within the group is undoubtedly true, evidenced by their solid performance across the EP. This fusion is particularly discernible in the third and most commercially keen creation, “Shiver”.
“It unravels me, it unravels you, open wide to let inside the pieces falling too”
It opens with a percussive sound that permeates for the duration; one that wouldn’t have gone amiss on ‘Some Great Reward’. For my money, the rhythm section own this one!! Their brawny basslines and imaginative, intuitive percussion, are the protagonists, linking all the elements together, whilst holding aloft an hypnotic, double layered vocal. The steady 4-time beat engages the listener, whilst the melody is peppered with shards of synth as airy as they are sharp. “Shiver” is without doubt the most sonically sensuous of the four-tracks of the EP.
“Blinded by the smiling faces, while I’m on my own”
Chagrined detachment is pervasive throughout this EP but nowhere is the sense of terrible isolation more vividly captured, than in the strikingly poignant ‘Breathe’. The song exhales melancholia.
“‘Breathe’ came from feelings of being new in Paris; about people looking through me, like I didn’t exist, and, my feeling very alone.”
If the instrumental spotlight shone on the R/S during ‘Shiver’, here it is Bonatto’s exceptional keyboard skills that are vividly on display. His playing is delicately piangevole, and, his imaginatively precise interpretation enhances what can only be described as an exquisite vocal by Marcella. The subtle nuances in this elegant vocal, which floats up and down displaying Anna’s broad reach, add to the sense of missed opportunity, of chances lost. Kudos too, to ElVidge for the percussive arrangement which has a clever hint of soft jazz. ‘Breathe’ is a song resplendent in it’s musical and vocal interpretation and mastery.
“Here” is the result of a songwriter having experienced “the glorious pain of love unreturned” but Sykoya have cleverly turned that pain on it’s head by crafting a pretty stunning debut release, setting their own bar high for future productions. A taste of things to come, it now has me for one, waiting very impatiently for a full album’s worth of more musical marvels. **
The debut EP “HERE” by Sykoya is out now and available to buy via their official website – http://sykoya.com
You can follow Sykoya on FB
And on Twitter – @sykoyamusic
Photographic credits to Hannah Couzens
** Tanya Sweeney, Irish Times, “Unrequited love: there’s only one side to this story” 1/5/15