The Los Angeles band, Big Sir, comprised primarily of a voice and a bass, just released their latest full-length album, Before Gardens After Gardens, in early February.
The voice belongs to Lisa Papineau, which has been in high demand for many years, appearing on a wide array of eclectic efforts, from records by Air and M83 to, most recently, the soundtrack of the film, Pina. But Big Sir is her main act, one half of a dynamic duo that brings the power and force of an entire orchestra.
One reason behind that, to start, is Papineau’s breathy voice and singing style. Before Gardens After Gardens certainly isn’t ashamed of being a studio album, employing the benefits of innovative production techniques and equipment. Many tracks on the album feature Papineau’s voice layered twice, sometimes even three times, and sometimes singing different things. The result is cacophonous. Not only does Papineau use her voice like a wind instrument, but she seems so confident when she sings that sometimes a simple do-duh-do or even a ooh-oommm can carry a song better than any string of words ever could.
The voice is paired with the fretless bass, played by Juan Alderete, who displays the instrument’s oftentimes overlooked versatility. His bass lines and playing techniques make sounds we aren’t usually accustomed to hearing from a bass guitar, and they provide the backbone of what makes a Big Sir song sound like a bouncy club beat (‘Right Action’) or a moody, rock-infused, operatic cantata (‘Our Pleasant Home’).