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Siren Stories

Exotic, surreal and full of contrasts: Sea to Sea sounds like a tale from the Atlantis, demonstrating the uniqueness of Sign Libra’s musical language.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

I saw Agata Melnikova in my hometown of Gdańsk in a rather absurd scenery, not unlike that from her videos.As Sign Libra, she played a set at the Ethnographic Museum, surrounded by old rural objects, before an audience seated on chairs. This added a surrealist air to her music, and the listeners – not too eager to dance (despite her music involuntarily acting as an invitation to move!) – made it seem as if Melnikova was holding a peculiar interdisciplinary lecture in music and performance.

When listening to her new album Sea to Sea, I immediately get an impression that this is more than music – it’s a phenomenon. In her videos, Melnikova looks like a mad professor, sorceress, or protagonist of a world made up according to her own rules. The Latvian artist juxtaposes contrasts: the sacred and the profane, dignified sounds and acid samples, harmonious forms and what sounds like Peruvian pan pipes. She supplements concise, rhythmical forms with details that turn her music into a true sonic forest full of surprising elements. Like her videos, which look like Salvador Dalí paintings taken out of context: concoctions of components arranged in her own fussy way, seemingly without any underlying meaning to it, yet very convincing in the end. Melnikova alternately gives us siren calls, synth passages, isolated melodies and ambient backgrounds. All of the above work together to create the meticulous structure of her oneiric world, revealing influences spanning The Knife, Enya, even Grimes.

Closer to the Equator, Sign Libra’s previous album, was conceived as a soundtrack to a Latvian ballet production, yet functioned perfectly well as an autonomous work. Through its title and the titles of individual songs, Sea to Sea refers to craters on the moon, these lunar seas with individual names. Sign Libra creates their new musical mythology in her own peculiar way. Her surprising arrangements create a separate pulse that is not easy to classify: at times it oscillates closer to traditional beats and melodies (“Sea of Knowledge”), at other times, it is broken and less obvious (“Sea of Islands”). Repetitive vocals sound like mantras or echoes sent from afar – if not from space then perhaps from some exotic Atlantis, tempting travellers with its sounds?The album, filled with genuine, albeit off-kilter hits, is not what you’d call ‘radio-friendly’, but it leads us by the ear almost like the sirens encountered by Odysseus (whose journey also took him across various seas).Melnikova’s original language is perfectly suited to RVNGIntl, a label that seeks out such unconventional authors – the Latvian consistently builds her musical world, filled with paradoxes, melodies, layered sounds, samples and harmonic passages. She juxtaposes various ideas, contexts, and tones, sounding ‘strange’, but convincing, and offers an attention-catching antidote to alternative, often conventionalized pop.

Sign Libra, Sea to Sea, RVNGIntl.