The background: How good is Sarasara? So good that she ousted from this week’s column the new teen titan of pop-trap outrage, Ängie; a tattooed, pink-haired Swedish artist who is “grossed out by dicks”, has just issued her debut single Smoke Weed Eat Pussy and is pictured in the accompanying video “hit[ting] the blunt like I’m Slim Shady”. That good (although, to be fair, if there had been four tracks by Ängie, she’d probably be starring here, so watch this space).
Sarasara is a 29-year-old French woman who, by day, works as a project manager for an agency making mobile apps, and by night is a performer and musical artist whose recordings echo Björk’s recent declaration in the Guardian: “I build bridges between tech and the human things we do.” That’s what Sarasara does (she remains surname-less because she wants to protect the day job and renders her name with spaces between the letters, as in s a r a s a r a, because “it looks beautiful even though it’s really challenging for search engines”). She uses Ableton, Korg and Tenori-on, those must-haves for the modern at-home composer-producer, as well as various keyboards and African instruments.
“I’ve been into computers and stuff since I was a kid,” she says. “Then I learned how to code and I ended up being a project manager for an apps company, working with iPads and complicated software. I’m really emotional and girlie and obviously a woman. But I’m also a real geek.”
She uses technology to form sounds into songs that express the agony and ecstasy of existence. It is hard to think of reference points or other exponents, although it’s probably no coincidence that she’s signed to Björk’s label, One Little Indian, and her debut album, Amorfati, has been produced by Matthew Herbert, no stranger himself to idiosyncratic electronica. All cute breathy vocal-sighs and crashing dissonance, her music is what might have happened had Petite Meller signed to 90s Warp, or the next (il)logical step after the likes of FKA twigs, Kelela and SZA: a sort of industrial-strength R&B; Aaliyah meets Aphex Twin.
Last year, Sarasara did a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. Why? “Because my parents used to listen to him a lot, and I grew up with his music and never quit listening to him,” she explains. “I started to play with recording my voice and it just came. So I published it on the internet and six months later he died. It was weird.”
Sarasara has some experience of death. Her parents – French father and Moroccan mother – died in a car crash when she was 14. She went to live with her grandmother for a year “but then she passed, too”. So she went back to live in her parents’ house “as an emancipated child”, although she hardly went wild. “I didn’t get a chance to get teenage crazy as I had to become a grownup right away,” she admits. “My only goal was to become self-sufficient as fast as possible.”
So she enrolled at college, where she studied English and Spanish, and then European business management and law – she has a master’s degree, and is studying for a further degree in philosophy and the history of thought at night school. “It’s a really good way for me to seek my answers, to realise what it means to be alive, and how to enjoy day-to-day life,” she says.
Amorfati (Latin for “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”) was another way for her to work out her feelings regarding all the tragedies she endured growing up. It starts with Juju, full of noise and drone, with eerie shrieks and cackles and guitars that sound like synths (or vice versa). As barnstorming album openers go, it’s not exactly Let’s Go Crazy. Sarasara’s voice is freakishly high – like a gentle perfumed sigh that can pierce your eardrums – but she insists it’s natural, “with a little bit of reverb, and that’s it”.
She adds: “I have a really high voice”, then demonstrates by singing up the scale. “See?” she says, proudly. “I used to practise classical singing when I was younger. I’m probably a soprano.” Next track, Sun, is mooted to be a single, which is somewhat wishful thinking. “Give me a taste, just enough to close my eyes,” she sings unnervingly, over what sounds like a lullaby as envisaged by Einstürzende Neubaten. Before you know it she’s rhyming “urgency” with “emergency” and intoning repeatedly: “My lover wants me dead.” What’s that all about? “After my parents died, I just started to hook up with the wrong people,” she recalls. “I was with a guy who was into drugs and stuff and I started to maybe put my nose in that, too … It was a bad thing for me, so I quit. He didn’t realise what he was doing, but it was very dangerous.”
Succubus sounds like the sort of thing the creatures from Avatar might put on for their morning calisthenics. Wonderland is swirling, gaseous, like watching smoke dance. Sapphire is esoteric and experimental but still somehow engaging: there is a lightness here, a diaphanous quality, that one associates with pop. Purpleblue could be from an alternative universe where all the contestants on X Factor or the Voice choose songs from Vulnicura or Homogenic. Love is glitchy and heavily textural, like techno played by toy elves, with a suitably sinister edge. Somehow primal yet sophisticated, captivating and mysterious, enchanting and ambitious, Amorfati sounds as though it was a pleasure to make; a pleasure with a lot of pain involved. Was Sarasara exorcising her demons? “It is an exorcism, yes,” she agrees. “It’s me saying, ‘I accept everything that happened to me, it’s OK, and now I’m here and I should be grateful for everything.’”
What did Herbert – who produced the album at his studio in Whitstable, Kent – make of her? “I think doing this was a little bit different for him,” she says. “We had a lot of fun.”
How did he describe her far-out pop? “FKA twigs on Venus” or anything like that?
“We talked about how he’d never heard anything like me,” she says, acknowledging the implicit extraordinariness of the statement, “even though he’s worked with Björk!”
Fuente The Guardian
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