As Southern Shores, Jamie Townsend and Ben Dalton create sonic oases — patchworks of ephemera culled from all corners of the world.
Beginning with their inaugural EP, Atlantic, for Cascine in 2011, the Toronto-based duo has developed a signature style of deeply layered electronic music evoking faraway locales, out of space and time. A collage of samples and found sound, their songs cohere around soulful melodies delivered with a soft gaze and a playful heart.
Following the release of the Siena (Part I) EP earlier this year, the Shores are now sharing Parts I and II, collected together as the full-length album titled Siena.
Written over the last year in Jamie and Ben’s shared residence — a hundred-year-old home in Parkdale, Toronto — the songs of Siena drift at the pace of life. Flecks of tropicalia and funk fade into the mix, as well as dreamy house, Balearic and downtempo textures. As a collection, it has the feeling of something once lost, now recovered.
“The mood of the record is more of a sunset, rather than midday bliss,” says Jamie. “It’s that subtle melancholy that lies beneath the bright textural exterior.”
If the first half of the record evokes the watercolor hues of the setting sun, then Siena's second half captures the moments just after — when the world is bathed in soft blues, and dusk ushers in the slowness of the coming twilight. Compared to the vibrant rhythms of tracks like "Estrisa" and "Tropea," these later songs soften the tempo and wind down to a more relaxed, introspective pace.
The Shores construct their songs primarily by molding and manipulating samples into melodic structures, using synths and beats as a backbone and adding live guitar elements. “We wanted to discover a more intuitive process of working together,” Jamie explains. “Our goal was to trust ourselves, allowing the samples and ideas to guide the process, and to avoid overworking or overthinking anything.”
The new material on Siena is more freeform and less beholden to traditional song structures. “It’s more of an organic or improvisational sound, and more at peace with itself,” says Jamie. That gut-level ethos is encapsulated by one of the first voices you hear on the record, on album opener “Saes”: “I really, really feel free for the first time. I’m starting to live for the here and now. I’m not scared anymore.”
As heard across the album's advance singles, the Shores excel at infusing their music with an imaginative, global worldview and a distinctly human spirit. With Siena, they capture the essence of escapism — the sense of longing for open waters, a downwind breeze, and a far-off fantasy.