Taking an unflinching step away from the folk-leanings of his other project, Branches, Jacob Montague is making his electro return as Tsutro, combining the emotional sensibilities of his previous genre with the audacious beats and layers you’d expect from a left-of-center pop project.
The music hovers somewhere between moments that feel bold and uninhibited and those that are strikingly delicate and organic. This juxtaposition of sounds stems from his time in Cambodia, taking cues from the traditional music there and incorporating his own modern electro style. The mixture, comprised of customary pop textures that sit comfortably within bowed string instruments, a Khmer xylophone and hollow barrel drums, is arresting in its enthusiasm and sense of confidence.
Offering less of a direct impact on the sound, but perhaps more of an emotional one, Montague also cites the Sutro Baths as inspiration for the project. Once an enormous indoor swimming complex, the dilapidated building still retains its original beauty, sitting near the ocean and a series of cliffs. As Tsutro has said, “The rigid geometry of the baths contrasts the cliff and the ocean in a really unique balance.” That same balance, between organic and synthetic, exists within Tsutro, creating a unified whole that feels beautifully all encompassing.
Perhaps most interesting is how the vocals were curated and introduced into each song. Montage, instead of soliciting new lines and melodies, built his entire soundscape with existing vocals, taking particularly powerful lines from different artists and looping them for his tracks. That’s not to say that any of these feel like “remixes,” though — the composition and arrangement of each piece is entirely his own and gives the samples a fresh perspective.
Enjoy the album above, and learn more from Jacob Montague below!
There is a freedom in taking on a new musical identity and letting its sound travel wherever it wants. I haven’t felt as deeply tied to past projects…not to say that I am over folk sounds and instruments, but more that I am excited to be exploring this electronic world.”
“This album relies heavily on combining vocal samples with original music, synthesized beats with organic / world percussion, programmed tones with live instruments, and all of these often from very different genres. My goal was to turn these opposing styles and sounds into something cohesive, while at the same time having ten very unique songs. Hopefully people can enjoy the result and pick out familiar sounds from unfamiliar arrangements.