The city of Perth straddles the wild western coast of Australia – a vibrant and booming metropolis built on top of ancient swamplands. It is here local DIY electronic artist Mei Saraswati gave birth to her latest tactile musical creation, “Hyperdiversity,” which was released on April 2.
The album employs Saraswati’s signature instrumental technique with immersive proficiency – an ample use of sound collage, which has helped distinguish her work from that of her contemporaries. In fact, Saraswati doesn’t just employ sound collage as a technique – it is an intrinsic part of her identity as an artist.
And yes, a lot of what Saraswati samples in this album as well as in her previous works could be defined as world music elements – the sounds of flora, fauna and running water figure prominently. And no, I do not drive a Prius and I haven’t forgotten to water my hypothetical succulents.
But all jokes aside, Saraswati really has gone above and beyond on this album by infusing elements of R&B into the electronic rhythms that blanket the cacophony of naturalistic noise. Her voice, which is soulful and masterfully restrained, is the needle that threads its way through the fabric of diverse musical influences that comprise this album.
Saraswati is mainly focused on providing the listener with the right atmospheric and emotional experience. She is aware of a sense of place and space, and also of the context of history in her songs. Her 2016 EP, “devotions,” utilizes Bahá’í spiritual prayer to imbue her nature samplings with a more acute sense of direction and thematic strength.
There are strong themes that run through “Hyperdiversity” as well, and even though half of the songs on the album are instrumentals, when Saraswati sings, she does so with purpose.
In “Swamp Gospel,” the ambient sounds of wetland life and deep drums give way to a funky electronic bassline that crackles with energy. This song is very representative of Perth, and there is a palpable feeling that the roots of something older lie beneath Saraswati’s smooth electronic synth.
“Secret, sacred places we’ve covered up / Wetland traces, sing that swamp gospel loud,” Saraswati sings in the song’s chorus. This idea of concealment as a form of spiritual confusion and ambiguity drives the lyrical content of “Hyperdiversity.”
The more lighthearted and less funk-driven “Communication” furthers this confusion as well as the disintegration between what is accepted as past and present.
“It takes time / Even though we live in the same post code / Wanna send the messages I give / Down the street where you live,” Saraswati sings over a tight electronic beat accompanied by airy background vocals.
Lyrically, there is a sense of longing for those practices and institutions that are buried or in disuse. Saraswati’s desire to send messages by snail mail is irrational, but the belief that this act will provide emotional or spiritual relevancy supersedes rationality.
On “Bounty Migration Path,” Saraswati ponders the foundation of her modern life.
“What if this house lies across a migration path? / Snakes maybe slithered across the porch / and hibernated, where I lay my head,” she sings, giving a knowing nod to the origins of Perth as a frontier colony.
This concept of nonlinear time, a house inhabited by the ghosts of ancient snakes, is representative of the transitory nature of Saraswati’s spirituality. All things are simultaneously old and new, complex and uniform, rife with and devoid of meaning.
We all have secret, sacred places within ourselves. In “Hyperdiversity,” Saraswati bridges the gap between our spiritually rich past and the spiritually dissonant present by crafting truly immersive songs that distort those boundaries and lend emotional depth to a well-constructed instrumental collage.