Steph likes moss and keeps a little snake in formaldehyde. She spends all her time on things that grow, like plants or particularly sweet little toddlers. She has a great big old dog that is maybe the best dog of all time. She’s been playing around Lowell and Boston for the last several years, and lately has been in a trio called Phurnne plus running a yearly festival that brings together all the weird music folks in New England.
Aggressive hisscapes are abstract and that can be cool, but like the testosterbros who usually make them, they are pretty common. Muddy gurgles that never really go anywhere are even easier to come by. Instead, Steph sticks to textures that evoke objects or memories, yielding a symphony of the almost recognizable, a playground of the not quite familiar.
She begins, for example, with a plod that reminds us of the classic monster footfalls from Forbidden Planet. But instead of some alien rocks, these steps lead to rooms with quilts all over the walls. She uses a wide variety of sonic backgrounds (gained through manipulated field recordings), and yet they’re all cozy places. These indoor nooks and outdoor glens afford just enough locality to your ear that surrounding layers can slide around and yet remain distinct instead of blending into murk.
On top of that, each layer holds a texture that you can only sort of identify. A light theremin sprouts up that is close to the sound of a cow moo can, but isn’t one. A tiny amplifier becomes a squeaky door. A homemade electric box is suddenly a memory of looking out a window in the late afternoon. Everything points at something that is just out of reach. The whole thing shifts slowly like a turning kaleidoscope. Everything is comfortable, but all the angles are oblique.
Steph also makes collages/drawings that she never really tells anybody about, even though she’s good at it. Maybe you don’t care about plants and kids, but everybody oughta care about big ideas, like whether being better at living makes you better at music. And Steph is one of the best arguments around that it does. Make time to get to know her.
Listen to Wild Beach Plum below out now on Pretty Records.