Elena Setién Unfamiliar Minds
- Released: January 28, 2022
- Originally Released: 2022
- Label: Thrill Jockey
Personnel: Elena Seti‚n (vocals, violin, keyboards); Xabier Erkizia (electronics).
Recording information: Mik Estudioa (03/2020-03/2021); The Basque Country (03/2020-03/2021).
Arrangers: Elena Seti‚n; Xabier Erkizia.
Basque musician Elena Seti‚n, formerly of jazz vocal duo Little Red Suitcase, made a pair of theatrical art song albums with producer Mikel Azpiroz before teaming up with experimental electronics artist Xabier Erkizia in 2020. That year, they worked together on a collaborative EP as well as on the score for Basque TV series Altsasu, both of which exhibited a darker, more atmospheric character than any of Seti‚n's prior output. The two teamed up again to co-produce Seti‚n's fourth solo album, Unfamiliar Minds. Featuring Seti‚n on keys, strings, and guitar, Joseba Irazoki on additional guitar, and electronics throughout by Erkizia, it's her moodiest, most experimental set yet, with lyrics on two songs drawn from poems by Emily Dickinson ("I Dwell in Possibility" and "In This Short Life"). The spacious "2020" opens the album with a ghostly electronic howl that underscores a repeated, single-key quarter-note piano pattern and occasional chords behind Seti‚n's languid vocals: "How slowly days move/How slowly." The livelier "Situation" is still sparsely arranged and piano-based. Its rare A-B-A-B-A structure is interrupted by a dramatic dialogue clip. The spoken words of "New" are delivered by Seti‚n herself, on a track that incorporates manipulated nature and street sounds as well as melodic flute and trippy, distorted vocal delay for arguably the album's most performative entry. It's contrasted by the electronics-heavy "Such a Drag," whose fluttery low end and high, processed vocal harmonies surround the clear lead vocal line's "It's such a drag to be alone." Unfamiliar Minds also offers a near indie rock ditty in a title track that foresees a world with a common language. Warped, lucid, eerie, and unpredictably hummable at once, Unfamiliar Minds' key component lies in vocal performances that, … la Laurie Anderson, add quizzical gravitas to every word. ~ Marcy Donelson
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