I've mentioned Paris Mancini's bizarre looping musical project P S I R E N S before (and that's gonna be the only time we format the name that way in this piece, but I thought y'all should know that's the way it goes), but now you'll have a chance to check her out for yourself at two upcoming shows here in town. And you really should, because goddamn if she hasn't wormed her way into my mind. Which is odd, as generally projects that combine nonstop sampling and mostly-odd vocal work come across as self-indulgent or like cheating. But Mancini brings a hefty dose of earnestness to her performances. It's actually quite hard to explain, but it's like an eerie blend of art project and Bjork weirdness with the challenging musicality (or sometimes lack thereof) of a band like Oakland's Clipd Beaks—though there absolutely is a more cohesive vision in Mancini's work.
Hers is a familiar story: artsy type visits folks she knows in the desert; falls in love; never leaves. And though she spends a good chunk of the year styling hair in NYC to keep those bills paid, Santa Fe is home base or, at the very least, a sort of creative catalyst.
"I think, in the desert, you have to deal with yourself," Mancini says. "New York is very transient. Here it's not, and everyone knows who you are and you have to deal with the negative space of the open land."
This idea of minimalism certainly informs PSIRENS' sound, but with layers of samples, live instrumentation, vocals and sound effects, there's a lot going on. Think of it as deceptively simple, and certainly not for everyone, but perfect for those looking to dabble with the consumption of something experimental yet still musical enough. Really, though, you've just kind of gotta see it for yourself.
It's the natural evolution of a musician who played with bands for years then set out to make up for the loss of personnel with loops. And whereas a performer like Moldover (who we totally talked about a couple weeks ago) does this in an incredibly complicated yet decidedly solo way, Mancini's knack for improvisation and love of collaboration drives her songs; it's almost as enjoyable to mull over what her process might be like as to see it play out live, often with other musicians along for the ride.
This caught the attention of local imprint Matron Records, which has thus far released a split album with PSIRENS and Slow Proteo called Mountain Music based on a shared love of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. According to Mancini, Matron plans to put out two subsequent PSIRENS works: one called Others, containing collaborations from over the years, and another of stripped-down piano and vocal songs that has yet to be named.
"I think my strength is in hearing the melodies," Mancini says. "Though I wish I could read music better because I'd love to be a composer … I just hear the arrangements."
Trust me, though, she's doing just fine either way. I might even recommend going in to either of the upcoming PSIRENS shows without hearing her first, as I think you'll be pleasantly surprised—but if you're the kind of person who just gots to know, you can visit psirensmusic.bandcamp.com.
P S I R E N S
5 pm Friday March 31. Free.
form & concept Gallery,
435 S Guadalupe St.,
8 pm Tuesday April 4. $5-$10 suggested donation.
1520 Center Drive #2