Listening to the new Sanctums EP Truth Lifting Up Its Head Against Scandals, I’m struck by the lush depth of ghostly sound this Calgary electronic duo has eked out. Sanctums’ debut album was voted the second best local album of the past year in Fast Forward Weekly’s most recent Best of Calgary readers poll, but they’re hardly content to maintain the status quo. This new EP displays a notable progression into eerie headspace territory. I sat down with Sanctums’ Dan Solo and Evangelos Typist over some evening tea, where they told me the new EP started after they were scheduled to play a late set at this year’s B.C.-based Bass Coast festival.
“Initially we thought we were going to be playing at 4 a.m., so we made something that was darker and moodier; [something] that would fit into that kind of dark, middle-of-the-night setting. We ended up not playing at that time, but we made the EP kind of intentionally thinking it would fit into that time slot, and kind of translate into a crossover between a dancefloor and downtempo sort of vibe,” explains Solo.
Despite the initial plans, however, the duo eventually scrapped most of its new material.
“We had written a whole bunch of songs that were really melodic, that had these flowing arpeggiations and we just hated them by the end of it. Well, not ‘hated’ them, but we were just over them and realized that we wanted to take the project into a more artistic and experimental sort of vision with sound; that we had exhausted what we could do with melody,” says Typist.
Only saving what would become the title track of the new EP, much of the duo’s new material shows considerable poise; listening to it on headphones during an evening walk, I find myself looking over my shoulder more than once, wondering, what was that sound over there?
“When you put our material from this time last year, or even when we put our album out in February, from then to now there’s been a quantum leap — it almost sounds completely different,” says Solo. “There’s a lot of space in the mix, but it’s a more cohesive space — it all fits together without there being disparity.”
“We just stopped taking advice and started using our ears. We stopped listening to fucking blogs and magazines, like what people were telling us, and we just started really honing in on trying to make it sound good,” says Typist.
This restlessness and creative vision is readily apparent in EP highlights such as “Posthumous” and the aforementioned title track, wherein the duo juxtaposes subtle melodies with foreboding atmospherics.
“We were both frustrated with DJing and music in general. We were frustrated with the laws and boxes it gets put into, particularly in a DJ setting where it has to make people dance, or it has to be ‘this way’ — we wanted something that had no rules and no boundaries, where we could just completely be experimental; [to] completely express ourselves without living up to anyone else’s standards or trying to fit into any micro-genre, sub-genre, scene — just to do something for the sake of doing it; being creative and exploring our abilities, pushing ourselves. And that’s been a very cathartic process, I think, for both of us,” says Solo.
The duo is also excited to be debuting the new material at Lougheed House, rather than just another club or bar, commenting on the relationship between sound, acoustic space and myth.
“[Sanctums] has always had a kind of darker sound — some of the synths we use will be a bit ghostly, a bit spooky. Lougheed House is known as one of the places that has ghosts in the city, for ghost-watchers — ghost tours come through there all the time,” Solo says. “That had nothing to do with why we chose the space, it’s just a coincidence. We’ll see, maybe we’ll be smelling cigar smoke while we’re playing. That’s one of the things they say happens there.”