This week will be very busy: I’ll be attending and covering this year’s New Colossus Festival. So while they’ll be posts, I probably won’t be posting with the same regularity this week — but it’ll be worth it. But in the meantime, let’s get back to business around here:
Montreal-based singer/songwriter and producer Tess Roby is a classically trained vocalist and self-taught synth player, who has developed and honed an exploratory sound and approach that blur the lines between pop, ambient electronica and alternative folk with an emphasis on voice as an instrument.
Roby’s sophomore album Ideas of Space is slated for an April 22, 2022 release through the Montreal-based artist’s own label SSURROUNDSS. The album reportedly sees Roby moving towards full artistic independence with the Montreal-based artist acting as songwriter, producer, musician, video director and art director.
Ideas of Space features guest spots from BRAIDS‘ Austin Tufts, Joseph Shabason and Ouri, who contribute drums, woodwinds and cello respectively, adding intricate textures to material centered around fuller-bodied production and expansive song structures. The album’s songs shift effortlessly from jubilant highs to contemplative lows, evoking the concepts of duality, which run throughout the album’s material.
Last month, I wrote about the mesmerizing album title track, the Kate Bush and Flourish//Perish era BRAIDS-like “Ideas of Space,” which featured glistening and looping synth arpeggios, dramatic drumming and Roby’s achingly plaintive vocals. “‘Ideas of Space’ signals the beginning of a new chapter. This song is hypnotic and sinuous, and sonically possesses a certain power and urgency,” Roby says in press notes. “When I listen to it I imagine vast landscapes, a climb, a journey. Two distinct voices speak to each other; one lost, questioning, and the other guiding the way. I wanted to visually represent those voices and the journey I was on while making this album; one of self-discovery, hardship, adventure and in the end, confidence and strength.”
Ideas of Space‘s second and latest single “Up 2 Me” continues a run of mesmerizing and dreamy material, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, propulsive and skittering beats programmed by BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts paired with Roby’s plaintive vocals.
The accompanying visual for “Up 2 Me” was shot on grainy VHS and is an interview look into Roby’s creative process (to some degree) as we see a black-clad Roby in the studio playing the song, thinking and dancing along to music, as well as the Canadian artist in a snow covered field gently swaying.
“The making of this song was very meditative. It was the first song I wrote following a situation that had taken a toll on my mental health, and had kept me out of the studio for a long time,” Roby explains in press notes. “The first iteration came in the summer of 2020, and it rested as an instrumental demo for a while. When I was close to finishing the album, I searched through all my recordings to find a final track – this one stood out to me. I wrote the vocal melody and arranged the song, then brought the instrumental to Austin Tufts along with a beat and asked him to program and expand on the idea. At this point we had been working together for a while and he was totally immersed in my sonic universe and knew the mood I was after. When I first heard the track with the drums, it was early Spring in April 2021. Montreal had this ridiculous 8pm curfew– it was 7:30pm or so and I left my apartment so I could listen outside. The sun was setting, the streets were empty, and I listened to the track on repeat until I had to run home.”
Roby adds: “The process of writing and recording this album was healing. I learned a lot about myself, as a person and as an artist. Lyrically, this song is about trusting myself, and leaving behind any negativity. For the video, I wanted to give the listener an intimate glimpse into my world. It’s a huge contrast from the ‘Ideas of Space’ video, and I’m interested in sharing that different side of myself with the listener. So much of the album, and this song in particular, was written in my home studio so I love that it’s captured in this video. The video switches between my studio and an icy open landscape, echoing the themes of duality which run throughout the album, and the push/pull between mind and body, and physical/non-physical space.”