Sound Advice: Ulalume by Tasseomancy
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Sound Advice: Ulalume by Tasseomancy

The album’s darkness and mystery aren’t a surprise, but neither are its whimsical mythologies and imagery

Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.


Toronto’s Tasseomancy weren’t always known as Tasseomancy—before, they were Ghost Bees, and though that group was also made up of twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman, at that time they were living in Halifax (where they went to school and started the burrito delivery service they eventually brought home). On the east coast, they were playing a style of folk much more barren and unsophisticated than the subtle and stirring stuff we hear on their full-length debut, Ulalume. Sharing a name with an Edgar Allan Poe poem, the album’s darkness and mystery aren’t a surprise, but neither are its whimsical mythologies and imagery.
Tasseomancy’s many influences and inspirations include Timber Timbre‘s mastermind Taylor Kirk, so it stands to reason that as producer (along with Timber Timbre mate Simon Trottier), he’d bring the most out of very little—the same sparsity for which he’s known gains its intensity through reservation (what are those Lightmans holding back?) and through restrained layers of sound that, much like Timber Timbre, are so perfectly placed or sustained or manipulated that it could be masterful human precision or, as we prefer to think, some kind of magic. Kirk doesn’t turn a flashlight on dark corners so much as he pushes the Lightmans out to find the path with a dim lantern. You can hear him unmistakably on the first single, “Heavy Sleep” (streaming above), in the eerie warble of “Healthy Hands (Will Mourn You),” and on the pretty “Up You Go, Little Smoke,” a more typically folk-lush song that possesses an old soul.
The Lightman sisters also provide vocals alongside Katie Stelmanis in Austra, which is another influence (in sensibility more than on the music on Ulalume), if you’re looking for an easy one. But it’s what’s between the sisters here that makes it all their own: the chilling vocal interplay in “Ashkelon,” the seeming ease in the challenging “Diana.” There’s deep movement running through Ulalume and its connectedness to earth and sea and air. Perhaps it’s a touch of that spooky Kirk spirit, but more than likely it’s true what they say about twins and the strange bond between them. Here, Tasseomancy have shared part of it with us while keeping most of it hidden under dark.