Bio: The White Sea is a diaphanous veil, a mystery, gently masking a vast and perhaps enigmatic landscape. It belongs to Morgan Kibby. And she’s not just that pretty voice ... (more)
Bio: The White Sea is a diaphanous veil, a mystery, gently masking a vast and perhaps enigmatic landscape. It belongs to Morgan Kibby. And she’s not just that pretty voice.
That pretty voice was made known on the near unanimously acclaimed Saturdays = Youth album by M83, a dreamy synth-pop collection that played out like a soundtrack for a generation with a John Hughes hangover. The runaway anthem, “Kim & Jessie,” unveiled the gossamer voice, lingering throughout, still cloaked.
That same voice, now revealed, is so much more. It’s that of a writer, lyricist, producer, composer, remixer, classically trained pianist, and ultimately, White Sea.
Borrowing from her near three-year stint writing, singing and performing on stage with M83, Kibby returned to address This Frontier… not just the title of her debut EP, but the artistic universe she endeavors to create.
“While I went on tour with M83, I was exposed to so many new things,” Kibby begins. “When I returned home, I sat down and taught myself Pro Tools, and how to produce. I’ve really spent the last year figuring out what music I’m excited about making.”
Fueled by an intense desire to create and determined to be self-contained, Kibby plunged into the role of producer and engineer, as she completed new material. The result is a five-song indie-pop EP exploding with cinematic crescendos, tinkling chimes, shining harmonies, dramatic bass lines, party beats, tempered synthesizers, all threaded by Kibby’s unmistakable, angelic voice.
“Because it’s an EP and my first solo project, I really felt strongly about not being constrained by the idea of cohesiveness,” she reveals. “The EP ultimately, hopefully, ends up feeling connected, but I didn’t want to limit myself while writing, to start thinking, ‘oh I’m trying to write a dance song or I’m trying to write a ballad.’ When I tried to rationalize, I would lose the initial impetus.”
Anthemic, dancey, and rich with harmonies, This Frontier embodies the multifaceted nature of Kibby’s cosmos, which draws inspiration from disco bass lines, ‘60s spaghetti westerns and the envelope-pushing work of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks.
“The more I started layering vocals, the songs seemed to take on a very cinematic vibe,” Kibby reveals. “It was very visual for me. I kept seeing the canyons, and songs like ‘Cannibal Love’ started to evoke images of the American West.”
The scope of material defies categorization yet it distinctly showcases Kibby’s range, fused in layered textural complexity and cascading vocals. To fully realize her vision, she enlisted the help of friends Jonathan Leahy for bass and guitar, Jonathan Bates (of Big Black Delta and formerly of Mellowdrone) for varied mixes and Ray Suen for string arrangements.
“Mountaineer” begins with stacked vocal harmonies, dreamy and euphoric, continually building into synths that climb, then climax in the chorus, as the evocative harmonies steer. The dancey party anthem “Ladykiller” bumps from start to end, oozing with sexual undertones and strings that would make Donna Summer jealous, while “Overdrawn” is a breezy sugar-coated pop gem that pogos with hand claps and soft, breathy vocals.
The ominous intro to “Cannibal Love” unravels with a menacing guitar lick, into Kibby’s delicate vocals looped, topped with an eerie choral chant. It gradually evolves with guitar and steady drums, until the chorus, when a spaghetti western-like guitar unexpectedly emerges and steadily accompanies her delicate voice and a haunting whistle. The lush and ethereal, “Oljato,” is so immediate, lyrics aren’t needed to convey the emotionally gripping instrumental.
Finding her voice as an artist and producer was a challenge at first, but Kibby welcomed it: “I feel like a lot of the time, I’m inspired by great records but I can't seem to bring that inspiration to the music I write. I really just wanted to find a way to make the music I like to listen to.” Now, over the hurdles and brimming with innumerable skills, she has set out to challenge herself further. “The last couple months I’ve been doing remixes… and now it’s like I have a full toolbox,” she exclaims. Her most recent triumph: a bouncy remix of School of Seven Bells’ “Dust Devil,” that percolates with her signature moody synth sound.
White Sea will take precedence until Kibby rejoins M83 in the studio and on the road, but meanwhile, there’s plenty of sonic waters to cover. “I want to create a universe for listeners. That is my ultimate goal and I’ll probably be chasing that for the rest of my career.” (less)