Sondra Sun-Odeon is a Los Angeles/Brooklyn based vocalist, composer, and recording artist known for her songs of ethereal melancholia and otherworldliness. Desyre, her second full-length, is out November 22 on Graveface Records and picks up the doomy vibe her debut Æetherea left us with, weaving a heavier sound into a transcendent soundtrack of personal devastation as spiritual awakening.
The band is heavier with Thor Harris of SWANS helming drums and percussion, and bigger. Instead of her usual -- playing layers upon layers of guitar herself -- Sun-Odeon this time invited J.R. Bohannon (Ancient Ocean) to contribute everything from electric hot licks to sublime fingerstyle acoustic, to spectral pedal steel playing; Anthony Piromalli brought menacing metal and ambient soundscapes.
With this core band, and Alex DeGroot (Zola Jesus) as engineer and co-producer, they began recording the album winter of 2018 at Seahorse Sound studios in downtown Los Angeles. Highlights of the sessions included Mary Lattimore contributing harp on several tracks, and recording of the almost nine-minute long “Drowning Man: An Invocation for the Demise of Patriarchy”. The epic track includes Cordey Lopez and Matthew Clough-Hunter on gamelan, Lia Simone Braswell (A Place to Bury Strangers) reciting Sun-Odeon’s reimagined 70’s feminist manifesto, Bohannon’s throat singing, a women’s and men’s chorus, and excerpts from an improvised half hour-long wall of noise guitar drone that Sun-Odeon, DeGroot, Piromalli, and Bohannon unleashed in studio.
Sun-Odeon had begun recording many of the songs on Desyre in Brooklyn in 2013 but abandoned the effort after the session faltered along with her mental health, during a time she describes as “the absolute lowest and most broken point in my life.” Shortly after, she left for California to focus on healing from the trauma of a poisoned relationship and devastating depression. Many of the songs on Desyre were written during that relationship; it would take a few years of safe distance from its aftermath for her to want to revisit the songs. When Sun-Odeon finally did revisit them, she found them calling out wanting to be heard. She found the process of completing the recordings, therapeutic.
The resulting album springs forth from a place of defiant persistence and grace. “Vision”, the album’s opener, struggles with her ambivalence of relationship as addiction. “Roses in the Snow” gives a retelling of pain and sacrifice with a mythic scope. There is the personal and political outrage of “Drowning Man: An Invocation for the Demise of Patriarchy”, written during the Kavanaugh hearings in reflection of the #MeToo movement -- imagining a world where a collective female rage decimates the remnants of patriarchy. “Desyre” exalts sexual pleasure as a pathway to enlightenment and God-dess. “Moved by Joy” reflects on the bittersweet heartache of difficult choices. “Oaks” is a song originally written with Silver Summit (Sun-Odeon’s dark psych-folk band of the freakfolk era) and here affirms death as mere transcendence into Nature. “Hit” is an insousiant “I’m still here and I give no fucks” statement in song of surviving romantic delusions and devastation.
All of Sun-Odeon’s songs grow from a place of continued appreciation for open-tunings, vintage tape echoes, experimentation and exploration of real instrument sounds for the sake of themselves. Her hard-to-categorize sound continues to mix elements of post rock, experimental noise, etheric shoegaze, and Sabbath-y moments alongside a voice that holds more conviction and strength--there is outrage, there is grace and defiance; there is broken vulnerability, resilience, and a knowing wisdom from years spent climbing out of the nadir from which these songs germinated.