Sylvan Esso have one of the most fascinating band origin stories. One half of the synth-pop duo, Amelia Meath, was working mostly with Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig in a female folk trio called Mountain Man, who put out what remains one of my favorite records of all time, Made The Harbor. The group sang super simple melodies, sometimes completely acapella, in the traditional Appalachian style, and received immense praise for their stunning, moving harmonies.
Nick Sanborn, on the other hand, had worked previously with two very electronic-focused experimental bands — psych-rockers Megafaun and his own unconventional synth production project, Made of Oak — before he and Meath began to collaborate. It was an unlikely pairing to say the least, but it turns out melding Meath’s impenetrable alto with Sanborn’s smoldering synth production would become one of the best partnerships indie music has seen in years.
Their stunning self-titled debut turned heads in 2014 and landed them near the top of more than a few year end lists. Their sound was familiar but uniquely theirs, a combination of folk and synth influences that never once evoked the term “folktronica” in anyone’s mind.