Last month, Dallas-based songbird Lily Taylor released her debut album, The Ride, for local indie label Pour Le Corps. The album explores a haunting and dramatic mood within the parameters of a minimalistic and bare bones sound world. This is not one of those easy to categorize albums. It's a work that well and truly exists on its own terms. Taylor manages to establish a distinct artistic voice that does not directly reference any particular music style, while also existing comfortably in a musical universe of Taylor's own making.
These are soulful pop songs, but filtered through a pastiche of found-sound rhythms and film score eeriness. Sparse percussion and minimal keyboard parts take a backseat in compositions driven by Taylor's vocals. Sometimes hers is the lone voice in a song, but often it's awash in cascading layers of vocals that fill out the different parts of the harmonic structure of a tune.
As its own instrument, Taylor's voice is pitched, harmonized, echoed, looped and washed out with methods not all that different from how guitars are treated on shoegaze albums. These tricks could be used to mask and dehumanize the vocals, but in Taylor's hands the tools are used to transform her voice into that of a soulful alien serenading the universe.
"I listen, and I want to respond. It's really that simple," Taylor says, when asked what drives her to make this exotic style of pop music. "For instance, can you hear a hum, maybe a fan going in the room you're sitting in right now? Is there a slight tone you can make out, maybe the neighbor's A/C? You can vocally hum this tone, and create a musical scale off of it."
Filling in a slot for a last minute cancellation for a gig at Crown and Harp she crossed paths with Sean French of Pour le Corps records. French was playing on the bill with his band Eyes Wings & Many Other Things. After hitting it off during a post-show discussion Taylor investigated more into Pour Le Corps and their roster. She surprisingly found kindred spirits sonically and aesthetically with the label. French and Taylor started recording just a few weeks after that at his home studio in Lower Greenville which produced The Ride.
"I hear tones and rhythms everywhere that inspire melodies or chord progressions," Taylor explains. "When in the studio writing a song, I'm balancing between keeping a certain focus, while remaining open to creative flow of thought. There is a drive in that process I can't quite find the words to explain, but it's strong when it hits."
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Taylor live performances feature her on vocals and synths alongside her video collaborator and husband Sean Miller. Together they bring the music into a full audio and visual immersion to pulls their audience into the little musical universe she has created. This came together online in the form of the video for the first single off the album, "Across the Hills".
Taylor's extremely diverse background informs her artistic voice without overtaking the singular vision explored on The Ride. She has studied contemporary, Western classical, jazz, funk, R&B, West African and Middle Eastern/Balkan music at College of Santa Fe in New Mexico. Over the last decade she has performed with experimental rock bands, Americana, Turkish and Classical ensembles, noise shows, indie-pop bands, jazz bands, DJs and hip hop crews. With such a diverse background, Taylor is capable of whatever she puts her mind to. That makes the striking originality of her album all the more special.
The Ride is currently available in digital format through Pour Le Corp's Bandcamp page with the Vinyl version hitting shelves on December. You can catch her live on halloween Night at Belzie's Bar with Night Game Cult.