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Portland pianist Mary Sutton second’s full-length for Kranky delves deeper into her roots as a Cherokee Nation citizen (Saloli, pronounced like “slowly,” is the Cherokee word for “squirrel”). The album is intended to evoke “a day in the life of a bear in a canyon in the Smoky Mountains,” with each track channeling a different emotion or experience in its daily explorations. As with her 2018 debut, The Deep End, the entirety of Canyon was composed and performed live on a Sequential Circuits MultiTrak synthesizer—but this time routed through a delay pedal. This refraction adds a lyrical spatial quality, as though “echoing off canyon walls.” It’s music both gentle and adventurous, curiously rooting through soils and streams, in a sustained state of discovery.
In Cherokee teachings, humans and animals are considered to have no essential difference—originally, all the creatures of the earth lived together in harmony. Canyon captures shades of this Edenic notion across eight elegant pieces, alternately meandering, pensive, playful, and pure. Sutton’s playing, as always, is dexterous and dimensional, mirroring the dazzled senses of its muse.
Her father, the Cherokee painter and flute-maker Jerry Sutton, created the artwork. Its yellow lettering is from the Cherokee Syllabary and spells “Yona”, meaning “bear.”