POLYCHROME describe themselves as “Neon Segawave”, probably an apt term of reference given their flirtations with synthwave and dreampop.
Modern glitch effects like PURITY RING with the girly synthpop resonance of Miami’s PRIEST and the chillwave air of the Sarah P. era of KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS permeate through the sounds of POLYCHROME, as exemplified by ‘The Call’.
However, the London-based independent duo themselves name the usual suspects of M83, COCTEAU TWINS and CHROMATICS as well as the polarising sub-genre of shoegaze as influences. Fronted by the angelic presence of Victoria Harrison, she is ably partnered by Oliver Price and both contribute vocals as well as production.
“We love it Lo-Fi, old drum machines, vintage microphones and Sega Mega drives!” the duo say, affirming their more rustic approach to electronic pop. Much of the POLYCHROME’s self-titled debut album released in 2018 was written in isolation around the serene surroundings of Grianain Eco Lodge near Fort William and it shows.
The ‘Drive’ influenced ‘Synesthesia’ reflects the union of the senses as suggested by its title, with its synthetic and vocal layers providing an electro-organic wash, accompanied by a rainswept video shot through glass for that suitably hazy effect.
The album closer ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ provides an airy twist on the ‘Stranger Things’ theme with a slower variation on its iconic pulsing arpeggio, it could be considered POLYCHROME’s mission statement as to their next artistic intent as they move further into combining synthwave with dreampop.
Concluding their debut album campaign with a ‘Final Kiss’ and a manipulated voice hook, the song recalls the sedate synthpop of Canadian duo ELECTRIC YOUTH with chiming guitars and electronic drums complimenting the backdrop.
It will be interesting to see where POLYCHROME head next with many possible paths on the crossroads and while there is still perhaps some focussing to do dynamically, the musical potential is there.
There’s a group of female artists out there, who are doing it for the girls and SARAH P. is certainly one of them.
Sarah Anna Psalti-Helbig started her love affair with music, while studying drama, by fronting the critically acclaimed Greek act KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS for four years.
Looking for more opportunities, she moved to Berlin where her solo career took off with a bang around the release of a rather mature and deep LP ‘Who Am I’.
This winter sees her returning Greek goddess style with a five song EP borrowing its name from Greek mythology. ‘Maenads’ are female followers of Dionysus, the god of theatre, fertility and wine and SARAH P. feels united with her Hellenic heritage and describes the release as a true representation of herself.
“This record is the link between my previous work and what’s coming” she said, “Free symbolised my rebirth as an artist, Who Am I helped me discover different music paths and Maenads is representing 100% me, both musically and as an individual. I’m not big on classifying my music in genres, because I believe that this process is taking away from the magic of listening. I think that Maenads is way more accessible than my previous work, yet mysterious and uncommon.”
Indeed the opening ‘Sappho’s Leap’ borrows from traditional Greek poetry, and acts as a prelude to breathy ‘Mneme’, with whispered words and sparse guitar, seeing SARAH P. creating an amalgamation between KATE BUSH and BJÖRK vocally, while the musicality of this track hovers between dream pop and alternative, all wrapped in an unlaboured and carefree lullaby; a lullaby where the voice vixen channels her inner Robert Smith.
The need to rely on oneself is expressed in the foxy ‘Lotus Eaters’, which tunefully continues the echoes of THE CURE meeting THE PIXIES; the voice is edgy and sweet with an undertone of seduction. We mustn’t sleep, we must open our minds and make the change.
“We can’t undo our history, but we can learn from it and shape our future” is the message relayed in ‘Cybele’s Dream’, which is a serious tale of SARAH P.’s own heritage told by her ancestors.
The artist calls for a greater consideration of the burning issue of refugees over an easy listening piece, reminiscent of TEARS FOR FEARS.
The closing eponymous track changes the tempo and direction, appearing to be more of a dance tune, celebrating the beauty and fun of Athens, MARNIE style.
More accessible than her previous provisions? Perhaps. Different? Hell, yes! One thing is for certain; SARAH P. is ever evolving and is on the right track, creating genre of her own and refusing to be categorised and labelled. The creation of music is a fluid process and no boundaries are required.
It’s been a while since Sarah Anna Psalti-Helbig worked in Greece on her project KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS with RΠЯ.
Seemingly, even the magnificent ‘Oostende’, taken from their debut ‘At Home’ couldn’t keep Sarah in Athens, seeing the songstress relocating to Berlin for a much needed new challenge and the change of scenery.
Following her directness on ‘Free’, SARAH P. has now unveiled her first proper long player ‘Who Am I’, “a pop record that is different, an ode to the humanly deep need of security and love”.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is chatting to the lady herself, about the past, present and future for SARAH P.
Congratulations on ‘Who Am I’; it’s a very grown-up record…
Thank you so much! During the time working on the record, I want to believe that I matured a lot, so it makes me happy hearing that my album sounds like that, too.
‘Free’ saw a very direct approach, depicting times when you found yourself at the crossroads, would you describe ‘Who Am I’ as a description of a more settled state of affairs?
Absolutely. ‘Free’ came out of a dark place. It’s about my reckless years where I took many risks and didn’t always emerge as the winner. On ‘Who Am I’, I’m way more considerate – I’m saying what I want to say but in a calmer manner.
Many things changed for me during the time between the two records – my lifestyle changed, I got married and to be honest, I had quite a change of heart about several things (people, situations, beliefs) that affected me, not only as a person but also as a creator.
‘Finding Sigi’ was an exciting step into your acting career. With the new album out, are you just concentrating on music, or is there any more talk about pursuing the movies?
For the moment, I’m concentrating on music, however, if an appealing proposal comes in, I’ll gladly take it on. There are moments where I miss acting so much!
With EraseRestart you can dictate your own rules. But surely things are harder without the support of an established label?
Of course. I mean, we’re mainly two people – my husband and I are the core duo. There’s a lot of juggling going on. But the thing is that, now that I know how it is to be in charge and have the full creative control over my work.
Even if I got offered the most amazing record deal (and I’m talking about a direct signing), I would find it hard to go back to being submissive to other people’s wishes and exceptions from my music and image.
I have a very specific vision of how I want things to play and I only see committed partners in the picture. I’ve been active in music as a professional for the past seven years and this is the most autonomous I’ve ever been. It comes with a lot of work, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
More and more women excel in writing, performing and producing their own music, like GRIMES I AM SNOW ANGEL, GAZELLE TWIN and FIFI RONG to mention a few, who have been reaping successes recently. With the latest album, you’re proving that point further…
Thank you. I’m all down for that girl power. I remember the first time that I sat down to write something on my computer – I was terrified. At the time, I was told that I shouldn’t even try – that I wasn’t able to make my own music. It was really hard to break from those inferiority complexes that you develop as a young woman in the music industry.
Imagine that up to today, whenever we pop up somewhere with my husband, people tend to assume that he’s the mastermind behind my project. I find it utterly sad that we’re still not used to women being equal to men when it comes to creation, capability, and opinion.
But there are so many things going wrong in this world that gender inequality seems like another drop in the bucket.
Elena Alice Fossi aka SPECTRA PARIS has returned with a fantastic album while MARSHEAUX still maintain a loyal following; do you follow and take inspiration from other successful ladies in the synth genre?
Sure I do. I think that women have a completely different style and approach when writing and although, as a young listener, I grew up influenced mostly by male artists, I find myself to be way more drawn to female acts nowadays.
I love love MARSHEAUX and how committed they are to their style – I’m always fascinated by artists who are consistent and never get to disappoint. MARSHEAUX are like a dream! Other inspiring ladies that I love are IAMAMIWHOAMI / IONNALEE, AUSTRA and ZOLA JESUS.
Your output on ‘Who Am I’ is very eclectic, do you set out to make things sound one of a kind?
Not at all. Whenever I sit down to write a song, I start off with a blank canvas and in most cases, I have no clue what I want to write about – I just follow my instincts. I just want to put out music that’s thought-provoking – that’s all I care about.
The ‘Who Am I’ track was a key statement for you?
All ten songs hide key statements in them. The whole album needs time to be understood – not because it’s complex, but because it’s very different from what’s on the radio nowadays. It’s raw! My vision was that the album becomes some sort of treasure hunt, with the treasure being the meanings of the songs. And there can be so many interpretations of them, so there’s a unique treasure for each and every listener.
To go back to your question, ‘Who Am I’ is indeed the heart of the record and means a lot to me both musically, but also lyrically. An early version of it was one of the first tracks I’ve ever written on my computer. In that sense, and connecting to what I mentioned earlier about the prejudice that many have – that women can’t write or aren’t good enough in producing, this song is celebrating the person I am today, the person that I’ve become.
On the other hand, lyrically, the theme I’m approaching is way more sombre.
Although it’s manifested in a very understated way that’s open to many reads, ‘Who Am I’ is inspired by the images of refugee camps and tells the story of a young man, who’s waking up in a bed, not remembering a thing about himself and / or how he got there.
It’s pure imagination and I can’t even understand how it is to be violently uprooted from your native land. Writing and singing that song is my way to salute those people who are going through those incredibly hard times.
What was the genesis of ‘LoveStory’ as a song?
Coincidentally, ‘LoveStory’ was also one of the first tracks I ever wrote, but it took me a lot of time to write meaningful lyrics to it. As a true millennial, I struggled for many years to find a love that’s pure and not one-sided. I suffered multiple heartbreaks – they’re countless, really, and I was so defeated that when real love came to me, I was incapable of even realizing it. For a long time, I was trying to destroy it, before it destroyed me. That being said, my partner (who would later become my husband) was extremely patient with me. He was able to tear down my defence walls and “fix my wounds” as I sing.
I understand that selfless love has become very difficult to find, but if my husband and I managed to meet and fall in love in a big city like Berlin, I would say that everything is possible. ‘LoveStory’ is inspired by my personal history, but also by my friends and their friends who have had their hearts broken into pieces by their love interests. It’s also a wish – a lucky spell, if you please, for them to be paired up sometime soon if that’s what they want.
So how did the video for ‘Summer Prince’ spring out of nowhere? Do the visuals ever come into your head during the writing?
’Summer Prince’ is based on memories I have from vacations with my parents and dreams I had as a teenager. I knew that, if we were to film a video for it, the visuals had to be summery and playful. While in Athens, we got the chance to escape for a couple of hours and go to the sea. Very spontaneous as we are, we decided to film this summery adventure, we cut it together and released it the very next day. It’s nothing grandiose – it’s exactly how it should have been. ‘Summer Prince’ is a delayed eulogy to my long-gone innocence and anything too stylized or touched-up would have felt terribly wrong.
As far as your writing technique goes, do you prefer to work with hardware versions of synths or like many today, you don’t shy away from the soft equivalents?
I’m a softy – at least, I became one, due to the circumstances. It was only until late last year that we got to build my home studio. Up to that point, I did everything on my laptop. But hey, I bought some new things, brought my first ever keyboard from Athens and I can already tell that my next album will be way more analogue.
What’s your take on cover versions? Would you ever borrow someone else’s material to make it your own?
I would and maybe I have already, but I can’t say more. I like covers – they’re like being in the attic of an old house and opening the window to let in some fresh air. As long as they’re respectful towards the original pieces, covers are great!
Are we likely to expect ‘Who Am I’ being showcased in live environments any time soon?
That’s become the most difficult question for me to answer during the promotion of ‘Who Am I’. I said before that I won’t play any shows and that’s by choice, opposing a bit the stereotypical idea of putting out a record and performing it live to spread the word.
However, later on, I realised that the way I expressed my views on the matter sounded a bit wacky and kind of negative. So I’d like to clarify that it’s not that I don’t want to play live shows, it’s that I’d like to perform in places and under circumstances that make sense to me and do not cause a headache to me and to my team.
I know that the music lovers and concert goers do not really care about what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway – it’s often that promoters and venues not only dare to just ‘invite’ you to play to places and expect you to cover all of your costs on your own (note: an invitation often means that there’s no fee paid to the artists and the bands), but also do their job very poorly when it comes to promotion, basic professionalism and / or respecting the artists’ riders (and I’m talking about common riders, not the diva-esque, extravagant ones).
I don’t like to generalise – as there are many unprofessional promoters and venue managers, there are many unprofessional artists, too. However, I believe that change can only come when you do something about what’s wrong and that’s the reason why I haven’t confirmed any live shows for the time being. So far, I didn’t receive any offers that met with my terms. And just to be clear, the problem is rather in the morals than in the pockets.
It’s not about getting offered an astronomical amount of money to perform – I’m not Justin Bieber, it’s about not settling down to being treated in a disrespectful manner that’s resembling illegal prostitution in so many ways. I hope this doesn’t sound too insensitive and that nobody gets offended by my words. It’s just how I see things.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m currently producing visuals for the rest of the songs of ‘Who Am I’. I also already started recording and producing my next album. There are several things coming up that I can’t announce just yet, but I will soon enough!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to SARAH P.
Special thanks also to Robert Helbig at Hellbig Music
KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS was the first project Sarah Anna Psalti was involved with, accompanied by the mysteriously named producer and musician RΠЯ.
After the release of their debut long player ‘At Home’ featuring the magnificent ‘Oostende’, SARAH P. decided to relocate to Berlin, where she desperately needed a new start.
Indeed, her first EP ‘Free’“a couple of years that have been rough and weird”, seeing Sarah “shyly and slowly moving from the ultimate darkness towards the light”.
As the songstress admits, “when I’m writing and recording my own music or working on a feature, I do it all my way. I’ll put together the sounds I like, I’ll play the melodies that I think they fit”.
Now with ‘Who Am I’, Sarah finally unveils the long awaited gem she’d been talking about, “There is a whole concept behind it and I am very much looking forward to sharing it, although I’ve got to hold back and wait!”
Produced together with George Priniotakis, ‘Who Am I’ is “a pop record that is different, an ode to the humanly deep need of security and love”.
Sarah certainly doesn’t shy from the experimentation, sounding exquisitely like Kate Bush on the title track, asking the existential questions over a sparse beat, which flourishes into a house inspired climax.
It’s a perfect description of “humanity, the world we live in and our importance (or unimportance) as individuals and / or as a whole”.
The minimalistic approach permeates throughout the production and is mirrored in the magnificent ‘A Letter From Urban Street’, with its ringing sounds and ethereal vocals, reminiscing a hybrid of Bush / Goldfrapp / Fraser / Scattergood.
‘Away From Me’ borrows ideas from GAZELLE TWIN, paired with the feel of a grown-up nursery rhyme, while ‘Berlin During Winter’ is certainly far colder than sunny Athens, with its Nordic aura. The metallic, scattered sounds vibrate over the urgent build-up of the vocal, culminating in a plethora of voices, at times quite animal sounding in a leaf taken from Alison Goldfrapp’s book.
‘ForgetRegret’ ushers in some dramatic sound play, with fascinating synth textures and captivating voices paving the way for a new style of mature electronica.
The shouting male voices on ‘Instead Of You’ could be the ones from DEPECHE MODE’s vintage B-side ‘Flexible’, but the melody and that gentle, yet powerful female vocal, creates a hedonistic vision of dreamlike state realities, which SARAH P. seems to excel in.
‘LoveStory’ could have featured on the ‘Twin Peaks’ soundtrack, contrary to a faster paced’Millennial Girl’ which capture a sci-fi vision of synthpopia.
‘Summer Prince’ fabulously is a reminder of the Canadian synth queen GRIMES’ style and ‘To You’ toys with the gentility of Sarah’s voice and timid sound manipulation which is rather pleasant on the ear.
What she sets out, she achieves. ‘Who Am I’ is sophisticated, cultured and synthtastic. SARAH P. certainly stands for high quality recordings, originally produced and sophistically executed.
“There’s no right and there’s no wrong, but there’s hope” says Sarah, “And while we’re feeling defeated, even during those dark hours, there’s hope we can do better. And we will.”
Greek songstress SARAH P. recently said that her debut release ‘Free’ was a love letter to her inner psyche.
Varied and enticing, ‘Free’ is a vivid commentary on relationships and politics, combining pop and leftfield aspirations in a similar vein to SANTIGOLD or GOLDFRAPP.
And with her latest single ‘Golden Deer’, subtle GOLDFRAPP references adorn this great slice of dreamy electronic disco. Indeed, dreamy is an apt description as SARAH P. explained: “’Golden Deer’ was inspired by a dream I had about this deer leading me to a magical forest where everything was possible. I guess, following the deer symbolized tearing down the fences I’ve built around me because of my fears”. For her, the end result is “like an excited heart that’s pumping for the new beginnings”.
This enthused spirit is reflected in the visual presentation of ‘Golden Deer’ which comprises of not one, but three music videos directed by the Berlin based visual artists Schall & Schnabel. With instructions to “Decide how deep you want to dive into the dream…”,‘ACT 1’ is charming and playful. But things get more cerebral for ‘ACT 2’, before the kaleidoscopic intensity of ‘ACT 3’.
Following first starting out in 2010 as the singer of KEEP SHELLY IN ATHENS, there is still more to come from SARAH P. and her spooky yet captivating voice. She told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK earlier this year: “My LP is already in the making. There is a whole concept behind it and I am very much looking forward to sharing it, although I’ve got to hold back and wait!”
And good things come to those who wait.
With thanks to Robert Helbig at Hellbig Music.
‘Golden Deer’ is from the mini-album ‘Free’ released by EraseRestart, available as a download via the usual digital outlets