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A new album completed

Updated: Oct 17, 2019

Hi friends,

It’s been a while. Guess what? I’m here, still making music and art. I hope you are also well- creating, seeking meaning, and finding what gives you bliss.

Photo by Anna Aguirre

When I last wrote, it was 2014 and I was on tour with Diane Cluck, opening for her on the West Coast, and living bi-coastally. I had recently left Brooklyn, needing space to heal from toxic relationships (including one with myself) and time to cope with depression. It was a low point, but hitting bottom was also a gateway to great transformation. I've made big changes to my life - leaving a career in the NYC fashion industry, leaving my home of 12 years, and taking years off from music to realign my life in order to find balance, and better emotional and spiritual health. From this place, I completed my second album, DESYRE, to be released by Graveface Records on Nov 22nd, 2019.

DESYRE is an album about unsilencing thoughts and feelings attached to a tumultuous, time in life, expressing feelings that were too much to express then. It's about the soft being louder and facing down delusions, especially in these times. It's about continuing self-awareness and doing The Work, realizing that the personal is always political and no change is possible that doesn't start within.

These are songs I played with my live band in NYC, songs seeded from the exaltation, ecstasy, and crisis of a poisoned relationship. After a distance of some years I revisited these seemingly abandoned songs and still felt they deserved to be fully realized - so I committed to recording them in the wisdom of Now.

I found Alex DeGroot, of Zola Jesus, to help me record these songs and new ones. Going into Seahorse Sound Studios in downtown L.A. early February 2018, we spent a week recording basic tracks with a core band of myself, Thor Harris (SWANS), J.R. Bohannon (Ancient Ocean), and Anthony Piromalli, and it was epic. (My favorite moment was me, John, Alex, and Anthony picking out amps for a 30 minute long studio-shuddering guitar drone that ended up on Drowning Man: An Invocation for the Demise of Patriarchy).

Thor, Alex, and John in the studio

Beyond being an excellent engineer and co-producer, Alex has been a joyful collaborator for exploring guitar and other analog sounds like reel-to-reel tape manipulations, always hunting for that intangible magic. My friend Thor played drums and a variety of percussion. He was the one who encouraged me in 2017 to record the album, when I'd pretty much given up on the idea, so he is truly instrumental to the album!

Thor Harris of the Swans
Thor Harris at Seahorse Sound

My friend John (J.R. Bohannon) whom I've played with live and been a big fan of for many years, added everything from transcendent fingerstyle guitar work to twangy hot licks to pedal steel and throat singing! (Check out his new album out this November!). Secret treasure, Anthony Piromalli had played with me live also and brought years of experience in metal and ambient soundscapes to etherealize and doomify the songs.

Lia Simone Braswell is someone I have great admiration for. You know her as the fearsome drummer of A Place to Bury Strangers and she not only loaned me her autoharp, but also recited my reimagined 70's feminist manifesto and added backing vocals. Her own music and voice are otherwordly-keep an eye on her. Mary Lattimore (whose transportative music I enjoy regularly) graced my songs with her harp playing, and Jolie Holland and Jiha Lee contributed chorus vocals.

Cordey and Matt on gamelan
Cordey and Matt on gamelan

Greg Coates (who has also played in the live band) played upright and electric bass. Experimental gamelan artists Cordey Lopez and Matthew Clough-Hunter integrated traditional gamelan (Indonesian metallo-percussion) into “Drowning Man,” which was a dream come true. Leyna Marika-Papach, who previously provided the lush and intricate string arrangements on my previous album, Aetherea, returned with violin arrangements and playing that heightened the creepiness on Drowning Man and Desyre. Nick White (who plays with Phoebe Bridgers and who I'm lucky enough to have in my live band occasionally), laid down some sparkly and smokin' keys for Hit, Moved by Joy and a track that didn't make it onto the album. Walt McClements (of Lonesome Leash) added backing vocals.

After finishing the new album, I spent Spring of this year creating a first - an exciting performance piece called UNSILENCING, based on the song off the new album, “Drowning Man: an Invocation for the Demise of Patriarchy.”

This work premiered April 27 at Basilica Hudson’s 24 Hour Drone: An Exploration of Sound and Music Festival, and featured Alex DeGroot as my collaborator. The hour-long vocal and instrumental drone ritual was performed by six female vocalists arranged in a hexagram formation, coalescing the power of the female voice. It was an incredibly satisfying work that wove together my deep passion for the written word, music, movement, spirituality, ritual, and performance.

📷: Photo by Tim Pugh

Written amidst the Kavanaugh hearings, UNSILENCING reflects my thoughts on the #MeToo movement and reimagines a world in which we could all live in ease. It harnesses the power of the female voice as fuel for the power of ritual cleansing. Footage will be released soon and I am looking forward to performing this again in other cities and contexts.

In July, I collaborated with artist James Autery on a music video for the song "Desyre". It features professional dominatrix Dia Dynasty as The God-dess and she is devastating. I buried myself up to the waist in upstate NY deep in Lyme disease territory and came home on crutches from this shoot, all the while whispering to myself, for art....for art! Was it worth it? Hell yeah. I cannot wait to share this video with you Oct 25 (check my Instagram for it), and I hope you enjoy it as much as I sweat/bled/cried over it.

I’ve been playing shows around L.A. with my current live band, a five-piece band that is heavier than ever—featuring me, Alex DeGroot (Zola Jesus), and Anthony Piromalli all on guitars; Cameron Wisch (Porches) on drums; and occasionally, a backup chorus of witches.

We'll be playing Oct 25 at Non Plus Ultra and doing some covers as 80's era Bauhaus; not to be missed!

With a live band this heavy, I'm eager to hit the road and planning to tour the US and EU in

2020. See you soon!

x Sondra

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