Nature documentaries of the 1970s used synthesizer music to score messages about species endangerment and environmental disaster prevention. Electronic instrumentation was in itself an ominous warning of the reckless advancement of technology and an effort to audition a utopian harmony between people and machines and nature.
Photay’s debut full-length Onism inherits the same historical tension in an age of climate change and social media addiction. It is also a reflection of personal conditions, a meditation on place, community, and its creator’s own embodied history. The word ‘onism,’ invented by John Koenig, means the frustration of being stuck in just one body that inhabits only one place at a time.
To grasp onism is to be apprised of how little of the world you have experienced, are experiencing, or will ever experience. Photay (Evan Shornstein) composed Onism in the heart of Brooklyn and shrouded by the silence of national parks or on trips home to the woodlands of the Hudson Valley in between touring the urban centers of foreign countries. Scattered but connected, Onism’s music is a constellation that rips across the night sky of time, charting an emotional reality defined by sadness and joy, dread and wonder.
Shornstein contrasts spacious near-silence with bombastic saturated peaks. Fangled robotic tones (‘Screens’) meet with forest floor ambience (’Storm’), evoking visual designs for the built and natural worlds, while the overwhelm of metropolis (‘Balsam Massacre’) and the digital age (‘The Everyday Push’) is eased by the liberatory forests of Woodstock (‘Outré Lux’ feat. Madison McFerrin) and assumptions into imagined realities (‘Bombogenesis’). The demonic swing of ‘Balsam Massacre’ imagines the sounds of a tree’s innards as it is felled with a chainsaw, while ’Storm’ thunders distantly in triumphant reverie.
On ‘Aura,’ Shornstein sings for the second time in his career (“Take the time to hear yourself”). The message hints at a common denominator to his meditations, resonating also as a warning to the world, an everyday push to the role of electronic music in storytelling the future of the global environmentalist movement.
released August 11, 2017
original music written, produced and recorded by Evan Shornstein in Woodstock & Brooklyn, NY
co-mixed by Joshua Pleeter at Crooked Smile Studio
mastered by Phil Moffa at Butcha Sound Studies
additional synths and production by Toby Gale on 'Inharmonious Slog'
saxophone performed by Jaedon Alvira on 'Inharmonious Slog', 'Balsam Massacre', 'Eco Friend' and 'Aura'
balafon performed by Evan Shornstein on 'The Everyday Push'
cello performed by Gabriel Dresdale on 'Storm' and 'Bombogenesis'
lyrics written and performed by Madison McFerrin on 'Outré Lux'
lyrics written and performed by Evan Shornstein on 'Aura'
backing vocal harmonies written & performed by Elisa Coia on 'Aura'
front cover photo taken by Jack Tumen in Yosemite, California
back cover photo taken by Evan Shornstein in Grand Teton, WY
This has become one of the most important albums of my life. It’s essence is indescribable. Every sound from the start of the record through the end is placed delicately and with care. The album cover is by Julie Mehretu. It’s absolutely an incredible release for which I shall be eternally grateful. Aniket