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Seismic-Sound New Artist: Sister Crayon

January 6, 2011

Something small and quiet at first, the Sacramento, CA based Sister Crayon began with vocalist Terra Lopez playing classical guitar and pre-programmed beats on a loop pedal to attentive house party crowds. With the addition of members Dani Fernandez, Jeffrey LaTour, and Nicholas Suhr, Sister Crayon emerged seamlessly melding haunting balladry, rich analog textures, and a rhythmic prowess informed by trip-hop and krautrock. Despite the music’s dark, melancholy nature, there’s a sweetness and charisma about Lopez that immediately strikes a chord with audiences. 

Live, the four-piece uses a combination of samplers, guitar, synths, and live percussion to lay down a steady foundation as Lopez builds and breaks down the songs, alternating between a hip-hop inflected cadence and a spectral croon. In the past year, Sister Crayon has created quite a stir with their inspiring performances playing alongside folks like Baths, School of Seven Bells, Busdriver, Warpaint (who they put a split 7-inch out with), Truckasaurus, among many others in their brief existence as a band.

Their forthcoming debut full-length “Bellow” is full of juxtapositions that inexplicably work well together: woeful yet triumphant, expanse but also intimate. The inspiration for “Bellow” derives from a few places, namely the writer Fernando Pessoa who had a large influence on the record. His curiosity and writings on death, homosexuality, longing, and general despair was the muse for the mood and tone, a tension that is present throughout.

The record is a representation of the evolution of Sister Crayon from the solo beginnings of quiet, dark songwriting to the powerful, dynamic, full band construction. One out of many standouts, “Anti Psalm” is an ode to religious antics and absent fathers weaving 808 beats with analog synths while Lopez’s vocals (along with guest vocalists Jules Baenziger of Sea of Bees and Caitlin Gutenberger of Two Sheds) create haunting doo-wop harmonies. “Stem”, a moody track that ebbs and flows, creating a wave of synths, piano, drums, and an eight person choral chant mid-song. Other standouts are the galloping “I’m Still The Same Person” and the head-nodding R&B swagger of “(In) Reverse”, which showcases the band’s electronic leanings with pulsing MPC beats, trippy analog sequencers, and manic vocal layers.

A refreshing change from a lot of contemporary music, what you get with Sister Crayon is sincerity, thoughtfulness, beauty, wisdom, joy, and (perhaps, best of all) music that should be at once pondered and cherished. Stumbling onto Sister Crayon is like finding a book of apocalyptic poetry in the confessional booth of an old, burned out cathedral.

Jan 7 Museum of Natural History – Los Angeles, CA w/ Little Dragon

Jan 28 The Townhouse – Sacramento, CA w/ Daedelus

Feb 23 Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA w/ Dan Deacon

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