Do you need a break from the conventional guitar, bass and drums band? Elena Setién could be what you’re looking for. The Basque artist is nothing if unconventional with a multitude of sounds and squeaks throughout her music.
The sounds are sparse and we are rarely engulfed by sound. Instead, you are left to ponder the multitude of unusual sounds along with her gentle singing voice holding centre stage. There are easy comparisons with Laurie Anderson and even moments of PJ Harvey.
You can check out the two singles; In This Short Life and Unfamiliar Minds below. Her album Unfamiliar Minds is out on 28 January 2022 via Thrill Jockey Records.
Basque artist Elena Setién shapes the ethereal into the immediate on the stunningly pristine songs of Unfamiliar Minds. Her command of melody and resolute voice are complemented by lush arrangements that surround the listener in a world of intimate beauty. Setién is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, collaborator and improviser, having worked with artists like Mary Lattimore and Steve Gunn as well as composing for film and television. On Unfamiliar Minds, Setién reflects on isolation, confusion and harnesses uncertainty with optimism on ten ghostly wonders that capture ineffable feelings in radiant detail.
After completing her Basque language album Mirande in collaboration with composer Xabier Erikizia (released on Forbidden Colors in October of 2020), Setién began composing Unfamiliar Minds during the height of lockdown, starting with songs she had begun in pre-pandemic times. As days turned to months Setién grew disconnected from the incomplete pieces made in a different reality. The paralyzing tension of those disorienting early months eventually gave way to new inspiration. Romantic poetry by Emily Dickinson served as a refuge and a springboard for Setién to ground herself in writing new songs in English. She drew inspiration from conversations with composers Gyan and Terry Riley as well as her collaboration with Xabier Erkizia for the Basque television series Altsasu. Erkizia and Setién extended their remote collaborations beyond the series as the two began focusing on their own reconfigured sense of mood and perspective after a year of so much pain and drastic change.
The unadorned guitar of title track “Unfamiliar Minds” is gradually swallowed by rising towers of tender strings and alien undulations as Setién contemplates the world anew with “Recreation will not be our creed / We will be the new beginners / Of a futuristic language everyone can speak.”