On their dark indie-folk debut ‘Ulalume’, released in 2011, Tasseomancy seemed restricted by the conventions of the genre, though they did show signs of experimentation, and, most importantly, character. In the next years, twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman were busy contributing to electronic outfit Austra’s critically acclaimed 2013 album ‘Olympia’ and touring with them as backing vocalists. Along with new members Johnny Spence (keys) and Evan Cartwright (percussion) they returned with their sophomore album ‘Palm Wine Revisited’ in 2015, which retained their intoxicating sound while showing a noticeable shift towards art-pop and baroque folk. Just a year later, they’ve released their new album Do Easy. As enchanting as it is eccentric, the Canadian band’s third album is a unique and stunning achievement.
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The title of the opening track, ‘Dead can Dance & Neil Young’, hints at the nature of the album and the band: a fusion of the experimental and the traditional. Starting simply with a piano, the track introduces us immediately to the twins’ ethereal, angelic voices. As the track builds up, the melodies become both instantly mesmerizing and surprisingly addictive, and more processed vocal layers are added, making the sound increasingly resonant and rich. Upon listening to the first few tracks, many may have the impression that the band is shaking off the experimental edge of their previous record.
However, the album quickly embraces the unconventional as the airy vocals are replaced by more bizarre ones in the exotic ‘Jimi Infiniti’. The band continues along the same lines with the next track, the strongly Kate Bush-influenced highlight ‘Missoula’, with distorted vocals reappearing frequently in the background, as well as contributions from alto-sax player Brodie West and flutist Ryan Driver, who add to the otherworldly feel with their guest appearances throughout the album. A notable example is the saxophone solo on ‘Do Easy’, the seductively dreamy and soothing soft-pop title track, accompanying Lightmans’ vocals in a strangely Beach Boys-like mood as sounds of waves carry the listener away. The choruses on ‘Wiolyn’ are both sonically rich and ecstatic, while the stripped-down ‘Emergency’ is hypnotic through its repetition of the same chord progression and vocal harmonies, in an atmosphere that is almost ancient-like.
The concept of the album title is based on writer William S. Burroughs’ odd essay “The Discipline of Do Easy”, which he explains to be “doing whatever you do in the easiest most relaxed way you can manage, which is also the quickest and most efficient way”. Singer Romi Lightman elaborates that “Do Easy attempts to infuse the mundane with a gentle joy and a sense of simple delight.” And indeed, the music reflects exactly that, as the Toronto-based band turn towards a more gentle appeal, softening their sound without necessarily making it more accessible or catchy, and not for the worst; the realm into which Tasseomancy entices the listener remains just as peculiar.
On the closing ballad ‘Eli’, the album’s most moving song, Lightman repeats: “Because we’re thinking of never coming back.” Let us hope they do.