The Brooklyn-based artist behind this new and naturalistic approach to electrono-pop called Carry the Branches is Sonar Mallory, and they’ve got an absolutely mental backstory. Born into an obscure cult which believed in, in their own words, “impossible physics and a secret world government,” Mallory luckily found a refuge in music from an early age and even before escaping the cult as a teenager, they became an accomplished multi-instrumentalist with the intention of professionally playing violin in a string quartet.
Understandably, it was a long journey for Sonar to assimilate into wider society, and they put music on hold once in New York, focusing on another important career as a psychotherapist. This was likely helpful to them as well in understanding and breaking free of cult mentality and learning their own identity. Music seemed to always be simmering under the surface, however, and when COVID hit, the “obsessive refuge” Mallory once took in it re-surfaced. Working through the pandemic on production, songwriting and creating a sound, Carry the Branches was born.
Mallory just recently announced the release of their first EP, Zombie Telegram, which will be out in full by December and features some of the most unique and innovative sounds and emotions music has seen in recent years. Described by the artist as, “if Sparklehorse covered Elliot Smith,” there are loads of elements at play here. Mallory have the ability to bridge electronica, rock and chamber pop in a way that sounds much more naturalistic and even holistic, hearkening back to the golden years of Bjork and In Rainbows-era Radiohead, but even that doesn’t do it justice.
With the lead single from Zombie Telegram, a poignant nod to their own story called “We’re Not Coming Back,” Carry the Branches introduces the world to Mallory’s sound via an indie pop structure. Said structure, however, is only meant to carry all the innovation contained therein. It sort of begins and ends with Mallory’s vocals and production, both of which hold a sort of ethereal power that really should be called experimental. With a filigree of high-pitched instruments creating ornamentation over the complex and layered sound design in most of the song, it’s a deep, heart-based musical energy that evolves into a cacophony of all the elements coming together in organized chaos at the end of the track. All the elements of the track that just lined the edges are now all jockeying for center stage, a chaos that certainly represents breaking out of the mind control under which Mallory was raised. It’s chilling stuff, and the lyrics are even more visceral.
Our YEDM premiere is the second monthly track from Zombie Telegram, due out on September 4th and called “Green Night.” A little more seated in electronica, this track has a disco house beat which is done on analog drums so it once again nicely straddles the rock and EDM worlds. The track begins as a meditation on self and identity in the lyrics, and the smooth, somehow foresty-feeling music goes along with them to put the listeners into the same contemplative space. This track seems to be about processing trauma while trying to find oneself and also a testament to Mallory’s own trans journey. Their lyrics really show Mallory’s psych chops, speaking many uncomfortable human truths in a way that’s not judgmental and universally relatable while also being highly personal. This is achieved with the extraordinary tone and timbre of their vocals as well; they seem to have at once earthy, celestial and deeply emotional tones, once again breaking into a sort of primal cry of pain and release at the end of the track.
Green Night is a very witchy song and it feels both private and archetypal. As usual, I wrote the lyrics without knowing what the song was about and then tried to understand it afterwards. The song peaks late after a slow build and that last high verse is pretty wild to me. I know what its about in my gut but my head is baffled. It really does feel like an enchantment
Even if you don’t hear the lyrics or understand Mallory’s intended meaning in these first two tracks, the humanity and relatability in both “We’re Not Coming Back” and “Green Night” is nearly impossible to ignore. Sonar Mallory is a being formed by some of the hardest parts of this world but who seems to have transcended it through that pain and control into a form of music said world desperately needs right now. As more of their work is released, it’s likely Carry the Branches will be on a trajectory similar to that of Arca and other queer artists who have been able to share their experience and show, unequivocally, that the trans experience is a human experience and part of a greater social evolution. Per the opening lyrics of “Green Night,” “don’t be afraid, I’m not a man; I wear this skin because I can.”
“Green Night” releases on Spotify on September 4th. Click here to pre-save, and go to Carry the Branches’ main Spotify page or Bandcamp to hear “We’re Not Coming Back” in full and check back for the other tracks to be released each month as well as a collab dance remix of “Green Night.”