Words by Sean Gonzalez, Guest Contributor
It is one in the morning, August of 2015. It is a sunday and a particularly harsh one at that. I decide sleep will not be coming my way anytime soon and leave my apartment with a pair of headphones and the desire to clear my head. I play Doe Paoro’s new record After, deciding on whether or not I wanted to review it before its official release date in late September. Eventually I find myself under a street lamp and being grounded by the soundscape which was presented to me that night. I remember looking at the stars and I was just… there. Everything around me felt irrelevant and my inner conflict that sparked this walk slowly floated away, I was entranced.
“Most artists say that when an audience starts dancing they are enjoying the music, for me it is when the room stands still,” Sonia Kreitzer — voice of Doe Paoro — commented after her Chicago show on February 4th. There was a bit of nervous energy buzzing when she began with ‘Born Whole’, a song off her debut LP Slow To Love. Her vocals are erratic and quickly move from pitch to pitch, showcasing her training in Tibetan Opera singing. “With ‘Born Whole’ I had been in India for four months studying, and I came back and this is the first song I wrote. It is a direct descendant of those studies,” comments Kreitzer. As the song comes to a close and she moves on to ‘Hypotheticals’ the crowd went still. Her cadence here is more balanced, the song’s synthetic feel grabs the audience and instills a soothing spirit within them. The embrace of the music forces the audience to close their eyes and listen; focusing on the vivid sounds that Doe Paoro is crafting right in front of them.
“If you would have asked me when I was 19 what I wanted my life to be like it, it would be the one I am living now,” Kreitzer says in a conversation I had with her before the show. She expressed her vulnerability in those earlier years, continuing, “when I went originally to travel it was because I had given in to the fact my life was not going to be like that. I had failed. I sucked at music and I sucked at being in a healthy relationship.” With these thoughts she traveled to India for four months and in her last month she found a teacher in Tibetan Opera singing. “I never started thinking I was going to use it for music. I was instead like ‘this interests me, this is inherently valuable because learning it is beautiful and it’s amazing to spend time with these teachers’,” and with that it directly influenced Slow To Love’s mystical feel to the songs.
Now that singing style is woven into the music like its own fabric. Her latest release, After, finds the singer channeling the Tibetan Opera influence and infusing it less directly into expansive layers of musical melodies. Taking four years to write, the record taught the New York musician patience. While being finished in June of 2014 it was not officially released until September of 2015. “It was horrible,” Kreitzer said when asked what it was like to sit on the release, “you make something and it’s finished and you know you want to move on to new things. Also you feel like an obligation to your creation. You want to make sure it goes out into the world properly and it is shared.”
Stripped down the songs have melodies written for guitars and pianos, but instead Doe Paoro wanted to tackle a bigger sound. There are waves of ambiance on After thanks to synthesizers that pulse with emotions. “I was really living the life that I wanted to live while I was making After. I lived it for four years, ya know?” Kreitzer explains about making her recently acclaimed LP. “I started in that time honoring the fact that I am a nomadic person, I have a deep meditation practice and I was doing all of those things throughout a lot of the ups and downs of figuring how to get the record into the world,” she continues.
What Doe Paoro offer on After is nothing short of a meditative journey. Beginning with ‘Traveling’ we find Kreitzer buckling up to tackle a metaphorical wall of silence and tear it down with her dominant voice and commanding synth notes. The record was built in layers that unfold themselves in various listening sessions. One could listen to ‘Nostalgia’ twelve times and on the thirteenth time finally hear the airy synth notes barely gliding over the bass heavy beat in the verse. On the back half of the record one can hear Kreitzer’s mind emotionally unwinding on ‘Walking Backwards’ and finding a reflective penance on ‘Waking Up In Nowhere’. She weaves through various soundscapes and succeeds in bringing the listener to thoughtful places.
To record After, Kreitzer teamed up with producers B.J. Burton (The Tallest Man On Earth) and Sean Carey (Bon Iver). “We were physically in Wisconsin, it took nine months to make the record. We started in fall and went all the way to summer. I think having the seasons in there is part of it,” explains Kreitzer. When listening to ‘Growth:Decay’ there is a slight trickle of a river embedded deep in the coating of the music. A listener can feel the dark embrace of ‘Outlines’ and choose to cover themselves in Winter or unleash themselves in the Spring time. Adding the seasons into the sonic palette deepens the relationship between music and time.
This relationship is tested by Doe Paoro. Kreitzer originally wrote around 40 songs but only chose the ten that would stand the test of time, “B.J. talked a lot about that while making the record, timeless vs. viral, or of the moment.” It is close to two years since After was finished and Kreitzer has reached a new level of philosophical peace since writing plenty of these songs. This has not changed how After or even Slow To Love affects the singer; still resonating with each record. “Most of where I go with music is timeless space inside of me; the things that I know can stand the test of time because I believe in them,” she concludes.
By the end of Doe Paoro’s set most of the audience members were being swept off their feet. It was like watching their souls drift away from their body. Eyes closed and lost in reverie, I drifted off with the crowd and let Kreitzer’s embrace take over. I looked up and saw the black ceiling and thought back to the first time I heard Doe Paoro, when I actually listened to Time come to a standstill underneath that streetlight. My sense of self floated away along with everyone else in the room, and we watched in pure, meditative awe.