“In my mind, it’s become ‘the impossible album,’” says Paris Mancini, known professionally as PSIRENS, of her new project. As its title indicates, ALIVE (Matron Records) was supposed to be a live album. “I really focused on writing these simple, raw and true songs, just the bare bones,” the Santa Fe musician explains. “So it made sense to try to record them with a full band.”
When she attempted to schedule a Santa Fe recording session with a number of far-flung musicians, things got a little too complicated. In lieu of bringing a band together, Mancini traveled across the nation to record with each of her accompanists. The result is a 12-track album of stripped-down, jazz-inflected songs that will debut at form & concept on Friday, May 11 from 6 to 9 pm. The ALIVE Album Release Concert is presented by Matron Records, and will feature the first-ever live performance of the new album.
As PSIRENS, Mancini has built a reputation for her inventive use of layering and loops. She bends vocals and instrumentals into interlinking Möbius strips, building atmospheric compositions that draw the listener into vast electroacoustic landscapes. “It’s easy to pull someone in with a lot of layers, something they can get lost in because it’s a forest of notes,” Mancini says.
For ALIVE, she made a daring shift, pairing live vocals with acoustic instrumentation and subtler looping. “I tried to give what I could for the song’s benefit—and nothing else,” she says. “It’s kind of terrifying, because it really pushes my lyrics to the forefront. For the most part, you hear every word.”
Mancini wrote all of the songs on ALIVE, and contributed vocals, looping and bass guitar. Last summer she traveled to the San Juan Islands in Washington State to record with pianist Grisha Krivchenia on his off-the-grid property. “I would wake up with the sun, hop in the pond to wake up, and we’d record first thing in the morning,” Mancini recalls. “It gave the album this freshness, whereas the rest of the PSIRENS albums are darker and murkier.”
Later, she swung through Boise, Idaho for sessions with harpist Matthew Tutsky and cellist Jake Saunders. In her sometime home of New York City, she recorded additional vocals. Back in Santa Fe, she worked with sound engineer Will Dyer to weave it all together. “It sounds like we’re all in the same room, which is so hard to do,” Mancini says. “It has this jazz-like quality to it that’s really special.”
For the ALIVE Album Release Concert, Mancini will perform among sculptural set pieces of her own creation. The task of uniting all of her collaborators still eludes Mancini, but Krivchenia will accompany her on piano live from the San Juan Islands. CDs of ALIVE will be available for the first time, along with other PSIRENS merchandise. “What’s funny is that it isn’t really a live album, but I had to fight so hard for its existence,” says Mancini. “So it is remarkable that it is alive.”
Hear Paris Mancini and Eliza Lutz discuss the making of ALIVE on the inaugural Matron Records “MatronPod” podcast, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook. form & concept will ask for a $5 to $25 donation at the door, in support of the artists and the gallery.