Locally Grown: Gold and Soil
What would you make of a duo that not only wrote and recorded their debut album in a middle-of-nowhere Topanga Canyon yurt, but also called us to chat about it from another yurt — this time in Big Sur? A few things come to mind: hippies, Bon Iver rip-offs, and straight up dreamers (à la John Lennon). Yet, the boyfriend/girlfriend act Gold and Soil, also known under their solo aliases Asura (Ryan York) and Ana Caravelle (Anahita Navab), shouldn’t be summed up so easily.
Gold and Soil belong in the category of ambient, introspective musicians who actively absorb the world around them and funnel it into their art. In their case, it’s soft electronic melodies tinged with synths (and sometimes other instruments, like an African percussion, guitar, piano, cello, etc) but key in it all is Navab’s high, clear vocals. Navab’s background is folk based and York’s powers lie in a deep understanding of electronic production and as a cellist, but fused, their electro-pop style follows that of Purity Ring or (partially due to Navab’s harp) Active Child.
Though the dual project is new, both musicians have made names for themselves with their respective solo work. Navab released a critically acclaimed LP Basic Climb in 2010 and has been compared to Joanna Newsom. Even she makes the reference when listing her influences, but like any good musical endeavor her music adds something new to the mix. As for York, along with also releasing his own solo album, he also honed his talent while contributing string arrangements to Zola Jesus’ 2011 LP, Contatus.
The two initially met when they were both undergrads at UCLA and were immediately drawn towards each other. “Our first date was working on a song together,” Navab admits. They wound up as an integral part of L.A.’s beat scene, often playing together at Low End Theory, and Navab says those first live performances together were formative in their dual musical development. Instead of just making music for fun in private, “We were sharing it with everybody and we realized we were putting on so many shows we had a collection of songs that could be an album,” she says.
Another thing that influences their music is a shared love of academia: both are currently earning their PHDs. Navab, who is studying clinical psychology at UCSB, explains. “One [song] is about a kid I work with in particular who was really difficult. He would always throw temper tantrums, but he’s one of my favorite kids, very creative, and so I decided to write a song from his perspective.” But even if some songs—that particular one became a track on the upcoming album, “Cody's Song”— were borne from specific experiences, as a whole, Gold and Soil are inspired by envisioning the world through a child’s eyes. As York puts it, “[It’s about] being with that part of the world, [in] society but also in escaping it to be, from some perspectives, childish or wild.”
Gold and Soil will release their self-titled album on November 13 via local label Non Projects.