Elori Saxl

Drifts and Surfaces

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Track List

  1. Drifts I
  2. Drifts II
  3. Surfaces

With Drifts and Surfaces, American experimental electronic composer Elori Saxl flourishes quietly in present-tense synthesis. The three-piece set originates from three different commissions, each influenced by her experience of living on Madeline Island, a small island in Lake Superior, and unified by shared themes that explore how technology has come to define our daily life: the blurring of physical and digital worlds, the compression and datafication of human experience, and the paradox of everyday stasis and constant change. Saxl continues to utilize chamber-music ensemble alongside analog synths and digital experimentation, deeply tuning into textural emotion. Madeline Island marks the last land mass before the frigid, all-consuming waters of Lake Superior. “I was trying to capture the sense of disappearing horizon, lostness, awe, and dark power that feels really innate to Lake Superior,” says Saxl. It is also constantly changing—drifts change directions, water becomes ice, ice breaks apart and becomes waves. There is constant movement from drifts to surfaces, surfaces to drifts.” While her 2021 breakthrough LP, The Blue of Distance, worked with recordings from the lake itself, Saxl's source material here comes primarily from live percussion and other collaborative instrumentation. Saxl processes acoustic instruments through various forms of digital manipulation that cause distortion and deterioration, mirroring the pixelated and lossy experience of life in the digital age. Drifts and Surfaces offers a snapshot of an artist in constant evolution, absorbing life's impressions with mesmeric, visceral, and nearly tangible minimalist sound.
  Commissioned by two percussion ensembles, Chicago's Third Coast Percussion (“Drifts I”) and Brooklyn trio Tigue (“Drifts II”), Drifts articulates notions of revision, fluidity, and fusion. The two pieces flutter in micro-movements, encompassing a network of drum parts weaving in and out like bodies of water in a perpetual flux state. Saxl synthesizes lots of tiny percussion hits into big cohesive chords, mirroring both the ways that water droplets coalesce into waves and how the data points of ourselves, for better or worse, become data clouds and networks in the digital age. 
The final piece, “Surfaces,” was commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in conjunction with the Alex Katz retrospective in 2022. The group — comprised of Henry Solomon on baritone saxophone, Robby Bowen on glass marimba, and Saxl —leans into light, ruminative tones inspired by the pioneering painter's present-minded approach. Katz's work deals with the optical perception of “quick things passing,” like the liminality of dusk when an object's outlines start to become unclear. “The ways in which our perception of things change not because they change but because we change,“ explains Saxl, engaged in a sonic study similar to the blue-tinted mountain ranges that spurred The Blue of Distance. “I wanted to have these really minor changes feel dramatic, to mirror the imagined movement in his paintings.”
Stepping back to view “Surfaces” within the set, Saxl finds the stream of optimism amidst our collective anxieties in the concept of the self as part of something greater. Saxl finds solace in the enduring power of physical community. “Katz's depiction of multiple generations of New York City artists inspired me to think about how there is no individual 'me' as an artist without both the artists who came before me and the community of artists I've grown alongside. The delineation between us blurs, and I feel as though I am carried on an interwoven surface formed by the community around me.”


Written and Produced by:
Elori Saxl

Drifts I:
Written for Third Coast Percussion (2021)

Drifts II:
Written for Tigue (2019)

Drifts I and II:
Created with Samples of Matt Evans playing snare drum recorded at Fort Briscoe (2018)

Written for The Guggenheim Museum (2022). Additional musicians: Henry Solomon (Baritone Saxophone), Robby Bowen (Glass Marimba).

Zubin Hensler

Rafael Anton Irisarri

Artwork + Design:
Johannes Schnatmann